Pittsburgh erased a two-goal deficit with back-to-back short-handed goals by NHL leader Jordan Staal and Colby Armstrong, and forced overtime with defenceman Sergei Gonchar’s goal with six minutes left in regulation. That set the stage for Sidney Crosby to give the Penguins a 4-3 shootout victory over the Rangers on Thursday night.
“We got some big plays, especially in the penalty kills,” Crosby said of the Penguins, who killed three of four power plays and netted two goals of their own.
Crosby won it with just his second shootout goal in 10 tries. The 19-year-old phenom was the last of six shooters and he squeezed a drive between Henrik Lundqvist’s pads.
Lundqvist was sharp for the first two periods, making 18 saves after a shutout in his last outing. But he was touched for three goals on 13 shots in the final frame of regulation in his 19th consecutive start.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves in his second straight strong outing following a benching. He then turned aside Michael Nylander, Jaromir Jagr and Petr Prucha in the shootout. Nylander and Jagr had both scored in regulation for the Rangers, 2-3-2 in their past seven, as they try to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Jagr nearly scored in the shootout, but fell to 0-for-4 this season when Fleury stopped him with his pads. The Rangers captain was roundly criticized for declining to take part in the tiebreaker against New Jersey on Feb. 22 when New York lost.
With injuries to Brendan Shanahan and Martin Straka, Jagr needed to be in the Rangers’ first three shooters
“I would do anything for this team to win,” Jagr said. “I didn’t feel very comfortable doing that … I knew other guys were better than me. Now I had no choice to go. I wanted to go. I knew I was going to go.”
Blair Betts scored his first power-play goal since Oct. 14, 2003, to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead, but Lundqvist – who made 30 saves – couldn’t protect it.
He made a key error when he left the crease to block a dump-in by Pittsburgh. Armstrong got to the loose puck and banked it off Lundqvist.
“Mine was just lucky,” Armstrong said.
Betts appeared to bail out the Rangers after they blew the lead. He pinballed a shot through traffic past Fleury at 4:43, 58 seconds after Armstrong tied it during teammate Evgeni Malkin’s penalty.
Jagr and Nylander netted goals 1:09 apart late in the second to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead that was gone less than four minutes into the third.
New York had led the NHL in fewest short-handed goals allowed with one through 61 games this season, but they have given up two each in two of the past three games. The Rangers squandered a key standings point in the process.
“We cost ourselves one,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. “A couple of mistakes and it was a different ballgame.”
They are 11th in the Eastern Conference, three places and five points below the playoff cutoff with 18 games remaining.
“We can be disappointed,” Renney said. “If we minimize our mistakes, we definitely have a shot to make the playoffs.”
Pittsburgh busted out of an offensive slump in a hurry, and avoided its third loss in four games following a 16-game point streak (14-0-2). The Penguins lost 1-0 to New Jersey on Tuesday and had gone 132 minutes, 50 seconds without a goal.
Crosby failed for the second straight game to reach 200 in his two-season career. It is only the second time this season he has been blanked in consecutive games. He couldn’t avoid it even though he had 40-year-old Gary Roberts on his line. Roberts, acquired Tuesday from Florida before the trade deadline, made his Penguins debut.
“Games are going to be tight,” Crosby said. “We are not going to complain about wins.”
Jagr broke the scoreless deadlock with 2:24 left in the second period, getting some help from Pittsburgh defenceman Rob Scuderi. Jagr’s shot hit Fleury and then Scuderi’s left skate before going in.
Nylander scored his 20th at 18:45.
Staal, only 18, scored his 26th goal and increased his lead with his sixth short-handed score.
Notes: Nylander has four 20-goal seasons in the NHL, including both years with the Rangers. … Betts has goals in two of three games after going 16 without one. … Armstrong has two in five games following a 14-game drought. … Pittsburgh has 11 short-handed goals. … New York lost D Fedor Tyutin to a knee injury. He will be evaluated Friday.