Center Sidney Crosby scored with 29.5 seconds remaining in
overtime to give the Penguins a 3-2 victory at Madison Square Garden
that pulled them to within three points of second place in the
Metropolitan Division with seven games remaining.
If the Penguins and Rangers meet in the postseason for the third
straight year, home-ice advantage may not matter anyway; the Rangers
have won four straight playoff games and five of six at the home of
the Penguins, Consol Energy Center, the past two years.
Either way, it doesn't appear to matter too much to Crosby.
"I don't think we're looking at it as closely as that," Crosby said.
"We're just trying to play well (at Madison Square Garden). We've
been fighting for a long time to get in the playoffs so I think we
still have that mentality. We're just going a game at a time. We're
just trying to keep playing well."
The Penguins (42-25-8) have won eight of nine overall and seven of
eight since losing Evgeni Malkin to an upper-body injury two weeks
ago. Malkin is expected to miss 6-to-8 weeks, which includes at
least the first round of the postseason barring a speedy recovery.
With Malkin out, center Nick Bonino has taken his spot on a line
between left winger Carl Hagelin and right winger Phil Kessel, and
that trio was responsible for the tying goal midway through the
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist flubbed a pass behind his net,
which allowed Hagelin to gather the puck in the corner. He fired a
shot toward the net, forcing Lundqvist to make an awkward save as he
scrambled back into the net. Kessel was there to roof the rebound
over a fallen Lundqvist to even the score at 2.
With both teams coming off road wins Saturday, the game stagnated
over the final 30 minutes. There was very little space on the ice
but once the game turned to 3-on-3 late in overtime -- there was
1:59 of 4-on-3 for the Penguins and extended 4-on-4 before a whistle
in the final minute -- Crosby's hand-eye coordination and defenseman
Kris Letang's perfect shot gave the Penguins a much-needed extra
"It was a hard game to play," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "We
had to fight for every inch of ice out there Those types of games,
where you have to fight to get your offense, you don't get any
freebies. I thought our guys played really hard and stayed with it."
Letang was on the ice for the first 3:30 of overtime, then returned
for the winning goal after the Penguins called timeout to get him a
"I was looking at the clock," said Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre
Fleury, who made 25 saves. "I'm sure he felt that one."
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The Rangers (43-24-9) let a pair of one-goal leads slip away; left
winger Eric Staal scored in the first period, only to have that
countered by Penguins center Matt Cullen later in the period, then
scored again early in the second period before Kessel erased that
The Rangers had their three-game winning streak and snapped and have
lost to the Penguins three straight times.
"I feel good about the way we played," said Lundqvist, who turned
aside 29 shots. "It was a good game and there's a big possibility
that this is the team we are going to face very soon. It's a pretty
tight matchup, but we'll see what's going to happen moving forward
here. We still have some big games left."
"We're not thinking that far ahead," Rangers defenseman Ryan
McDonagh said. "Our focus is trying to get points here."
Home ice has mattered in the regular season, as the Rangers' 25-8-4
mark at MSG is the second-best home record in the league while their
18-16-5 record away from here has them in the middle of the pack.
Some players may not want to admit they are looking at the standings
with two weeks to go but the location of a potential Game 7 could be
the difference in a potential Penguins-Rangers series.
"It's big for the standings," Fleury said. "You definitely need
those points. They've had our number in the playoffs the past few
NOTES: Penguins LW Chris Kunitz was a game-time decision due to an
upper-body injury he sustained Saturday, but he was in the starting
lineup. ... Penguins D Olli Maatta (lower body) missed his second
consecutive game and is listed as week-to-week. .... Rangers LW
Oscar Lindberg was a healthy scratch for an eighth consecutive game.
... Rangers D Dylan McIlrath (knee) missed his 10th game in a row.
Coach Alain Vigneault said he hopes to have McIlrath back before
next weekend, but there is no guarantee the defenseman will be in
the lineup when healthy.
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