NEW YORK — The Pittsburgh Penguins have four points atop the Atlantic Division. The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers have none at the bottom.
No, it isn’t too early to keep an eye on the standings in this lockout-induced, 48-game sprint to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
James Neal scored twice, linemate Evgeni Malkin had three assists, and the Penguins chased reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist from the net in the second period of a 6-3 victory over the Rangers in New York’s home opener on Sunday night.
The Penguins went into Philadelphia and New York on back-to-back days to open the short season and came out with two wins.
“You don’t want to get behind the eight-ball and all of a sudden be chasing teams," Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun said. “In this season, somebody who you are chasing is always going to be playing somebody you might be chasing, too. You might not be able to gain any ground, so you don’t want to be in that position."
Neal, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Niskanen scored in the first period, and Malkin set up Pascal Dupuis in the second to push Pittsburgh’s lead to 4-1 and drive Lundqvist to the bench.
The Penguins, building off a 3-1 win at Philadelphia on Saturday, are 2-0 and haven’t even played a home game.
And they did it without any goals from captain Sidney Crosby or Malkin.
“That’s great, but hopefully we don’t have to make too much of a habit of that," said Crosby, who had an assist for his first point of the season. “It shows the depth we have and the way we play."
In other games on Sunday:
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Thomas Vanek scored twice and added three assists in leading Buffalo over Philadelphia. Defenseman Tyler Myers scored the go-ahead goal with 5:03 left after the Sabres overcame a 2-1 second-period deficit.
CALGARY, Alberta — Patrick Marleau scored a pair of goals to lead San Jose over Calgary in the season opener for both teams. Martin Havlat and defenseman Dan Boyle also scored for the Sharks during a three-goal second period.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Zach Parise scored his first goal with Minnesota and Josh Harding stopped all 24 shots he faced in his first start since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and Minnesota beat Dallas.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Ales Hemsky scored in the third period to tie the game and added the shootout winner and Edmonton defeated Vancouver.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dave Bolland had two goals and an assist, Marian Hossa scored twice against the team that knocked him out of last year’s playoffs and Chicago held off Phoenix.