By: Casey Shea

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins faced a tough test with the New York Rangers in town Tuesday night and passed with flying colors.

Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist and Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves as the Penguins shutout the Rangers 2-0.

Fleury’s third shutout of the season pulled him into a tie with Tom Barrasso for the franchise lead with 22.

After a forgettable performance against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, the Penguins came out with a purpose and put the Rangers on their heels early.

Pittsburgh was buzzing in the offensive zone for extended periods of time in the first period, but could not get the puck behind Henrik Lundqvist.

The Penguins outshot the Rangers 11-6 in the period despite killing off a delay of game penalty on Ben Lovejoy.

However, it would not take long for the Penguins to solve Lundqvist in the second period.

Kris Letang sent Evgeni Malkin in on a breakaway with a long pass from his defensive zone. Malkin closed in on goal from a wide angle, crossed the goalmouth and lifted a backhander over a sprawling Lundqvist to put the Penguins up 1-0 just 1:05 into the period.

About 10 minutes later, the Penguins capitalized on their first power play opportunity of the contest.

The Penguins were able to get in the zone and set up. Eventually, the puck came to Steve Sullivan at the point.

He let a slap shot fly, which found its way through traffic and into the back of the net, putting the Penguins up 2-0.

Malkin’s assist on the goal was the 300th of his NHL career and gave him his 73rd point of the season. He now leads the NHL scoring race by three points over Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos.

From there, Fleury went to work and came up with two great glove saves on Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan.

The win was especially big for the Penguins because of how the playoff picture is shaping up. Entering Tuesday night’s action, the Penguins were sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

New York was sitting atop the conference and the Atlantic Division with a 10-point lead over the Penguins.

Pittsburgh was tied with the Flyers at 71 points and trailed the New Jersey Devils by one point.

Unfortunately, both the Flyers and Devils won in overtime so the Penguins only gained ground on the Rangers.

Pittsburgh will now prepare for two winnable games this weekend against Tampa Bay and Columbus.

The Lightning have already begun selling assets as Steve Downie and Dominic Moore have already been traded ahead of Monday’s deadline.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Vincent Lecavalier would be out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.

As for Columbus, rumors are swirling about the availability of high-priced forward Rick Nash. It remains to be seen if the Blue Jackets will ship him out before the deadline or wait until the NHL Draft. Of course, they could always hold onto him, but time will tell.

Both of the games this weekend are at 1 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center.

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