Center Brad Richards scored the decisive goal in a shootout to
lift the Rangers to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on
Friday night at the Consol Energy Center.
Richards got the puck past Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to
give the Rangers (32-24-3) their fifth win in their last six games.
The win came one night after a 2-1 home loss to the Edmonton Oilers
ended the Rangers' four-game winning streak.
"We definitely played a lot better than last night," Rangers coach
Alain Vigneault said. "We played with energy, we played with focus
and there was a purpose to our game."
While the Rangers are still 16 points behind the first-place
Penguins (40-15-3) in the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan
Division standings, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist felt it was an
"I don't want to say we played with desperation, but we really
didn't want to go into the break off back-to-back losses," Lundqvist
said. "We've been well lately and we really wanted to win this game.
Whether guys are going to the Olympics or going on vacation, we can
all feel good about this win."
Neither team plays again until Feb. 27.
Left winger Mats Zuccarello also scored for the Rangers in the
shootout. Center Evgeni Malkin was the only one to beat Lundqvist.
"You're surprised to see Marc give up two goals there but Henrik is
almost as good and was good tonight," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma
Penguins left winger James Neal sent the game into overtime by
scoring with 2:56 left in regulation. Neal took a pass in the slot
from rookie defenseman Olli Maatta and beat Lundqvist with a wrist
shot for his 20th goal of the season.
Rangers left winger Benoit Pouliot broke a 2-2 tie with a power-play
goal at 9:24 of the third period. Defenseman Dan Girardi shot wide
of the net and Pouliot corralled the carom just to the left of the
crease and a lifted a shot over Fleury's left shoulder for his 11th
Pouliot scored two goals and Girardi added his fourth for New York.
Maatta scored his sixth and Malkin added his 18th for Pittsburgh
while Neal also had an assist.
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Lundqvist stopped 26 shots and Fleury made 38 saves.
The Penguins had won their last five games against the Rangers at
home, allowing just five goals. They had also won 17 of their
previous 18 home games.
The Penguins were playing just hours after getting the sobering news
that defenseman Kris Letang had been diagnosed with a stroke. The
two-time All-Star became ill Jan. 29 in Phoenix during the Penguins'
last road trip and underwent a battery of tests Wednesday in
Letang will be treated with blood thinners then have his condition
re-evaluated in six weeks. The Penguins are hoping he will be able
to play late in the regular season.
The score was tied at 1 after the first period, at 2 after the
second and at 3 after the third and overtime.
Pouliot opened the scoring 1:04 into the game, then Maatta tied it
at 1 with a power-play goal at 11:43 of the first period.
The Rangers went back on top 2-1 on Girardi's power-play goal 34
seconds into the second period. It came just four seconds after Neal
was called for slashing.
Malkin found the net on a power play at 8:29 of the second, knotting
the score with his fourth goal in the last five games.
NOTES: Penguins LW Taylor Pyatt was scratched for a second straight
game because of a lower-body injury. ... Rangers C Mats Zuccarello
and D Derick Brassard each had an assist to run their point streaks
to six games. ... Rangers LW Rich Nash did not have an assist for an
18th consecutive game but has scored 11 goals in that span. ...
Penguins D Olli Maatta, who is on Finland's roster, will be of three
teenagers that will play in the Olympic tournament in Sochi, Russia,
along with Florida Panthers C Aleksander Barkov (Finland) and Dallas
Stars RW Valeri Nichushkin (Russia). Maatta is 19 and Barkov and
Nichuskin are both 18.
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