The New York Rangers haven’t owned the most points in the NHL at this juncture in a season in 16 years.
It’s been a lot longer since they’ve won this consistently in Pittsburgh.
Marian Gaborik tries to continue his impressive scoring surge Friday night as the streaking Rangers look for their first five-game road winning streak against the Penguins in 38 years.
New York (25-9-4) has 54 points and is atop the NHL standings on this date for the first time since 1996.
The Rangers have ascended to that status by winning eight of nine as Gaborik has provided a spark with eight goals. The star right wing kept them rolling when he found the net with 1:31 left in overtime to secure a 3-2 win over Florida on Thursday.
“We have won different ways this year, and even though it was a tie game we stuck with it and didn’t panic,” Gaborik said. “We just kept going, and that’s how we got to this point so far this season.”
Gaborik is among the league leaders with 23 goals, one more than he had in 62 games last season.
He has three goals and four assists in the past six meetings with the Penguins (21-13-4) as New York has gone 4-1-1. That includes a goal and an assist in a four-goal second period en route to a 4-3 home victory Nov. 29.
The Rangers have been rather comfortable in Pittsburgh, too. They’ve won four visits in a row for their longest such streak there since a five-game run from 1973-74.
Ryan Callahan has been another reason behind New York’s success against the Atlantic Division rivals, producing five goals and four assists in the last four overall meetings.
Like Gaborik, the Rangers captain had two points against Pittsburgh in November. Callahan, who had a goal Thursday, has seven points during a six-game scoring streak.
Lundqvist is among the NHL’s leaders with a 1.92 goals-against average, and he has a 1.20 GAA during a personal five-game winning streak. That includes a clutch performance in Monday’s 3-2 win over Philadelphia in the Winter Classic, as he made 34 saves with one coming on a penalty shot with 19.6 seconds left.
Lundqvist has a 1.72 GAA during the Rangers’ four-game winning streak in Pittsburgh.
“They have been on a roll even besides the Winter Classic,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik told the team’s official website. “They are playing really well. Lundqvist played really well for them. I think under (coach John) Tortorella, they just play a real good team game. It’s not real flashy, but it’s definitely effective.”
While the Rangers have surged to the top of the league, the Penguins are trying to avoid matching their longest slide of the season, three games from Oct. 13-17.
The last two losses have come against division foes, as Pittsburgh fell 3-1 at New Jersey on Saturday after losing 4-2 to Philadelphia at home two days earlier.
The Penguins host the Devils on Saturday before concluding this three-game homestand against Ottawa on Tuesday.
“Obviously every game is big, but we were a little bit ahead games-wise,” center Jordan Staal said. “The Rangers game is obviously a big one as well as New Jersey; all these division rivalries.”
Evgeni Malkin, the team leader with 43 points, had a nine-game scoring streak in which he totaled six goals and 13 assists halted Saturday.
The All-Star center has 12 goals and 10 assists in 19 home meetings with the Rangers.