PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Just when the New York Rangers welcomed back one important player, another went down with an injury.
Erik Christensen and Alex Frolov scored 15 seconds apart to spark a four-goal third period, and the Rangers rallied for a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night, their third win in four games and ninth in 13.
New York captain Chris Drury played in only his second game this season due to a broken finger, but teammate Ryan Callahan is expected to be out six weeks after breaking his left hand.
Callahan was injured when he blocked a shot in the first period by Penguins defenceman Kris Letang.
“I’m not going to sit here and pretend. That’s a big loss to us in Callahan,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said of his second-leading scorer, who will be evaluated Thursday in New York. “I felt it right away as a coach on the bench as far as the situations that we use him in.
“We’ll do it the right away. They’ve handled these situations and they had experience and we’ll get through this.”
Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to a career-high 20 games when he assisted on Evgeni Malkin’s first-period goal, but the Penguins lost for the second straight night after winning 12 in a row.
Christensen tied it with 9:50 to play, while New York was on the power play, and Frolov gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead by burying his own rebound at 10:25.
Artem Anisimov and Brian Boyle scored 34 seconds apart less than five minutes later to ice the Rangers’ first win in regulation in Pittsburgh since Jan. 19, 2006—a span of 16 games.
“It’s a great win in a lot of ways,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 27 saves. “I think we won because we stuck to the system. We didn’t start taking chances. We believed we could come back in this game, and once we got the first one, we kept going. It was a great team effort.”
Frolov assisted on Boyle’s goal to give him three points in two games and his first multipoint game since having two goals and two assists against Edmonton on Nov. 14.
The Penguins were 9-0-2 against the Rangers in the past 11 overall, but lost in overtime on Callahan’s goal in the team’s previous meeting this season in Pittsburgh. That was the Penguins’ previous loss before they fell in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, a span of seven straight home wins.
Tortorella had intended to keep Drury’s ice time down after he missed 31 of the first 32 games, but that plan was negated when Drury was forced to fill in for Callahan. Drury was a plus-1 and played on both specialty teams.
“It’s unfortunate, Drury and now Cally,” Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi said. “It’s part of the game, I guess. They’re sacrificing the body for the team. We got the win, but that’s a tough loss in Cally.”
In the previous meeting between the teams on Nov. 29, Callahan fell while tangled up with Crosby at Madison Square Garden. Several Rangers—most notably Brandon Dubinsky—accused Crosby of a slew-foot on the play, which resulted only in an interference penalty against Callahan.
The teams traded verbal barbs through the media over Crosby’s perceived dirty play, but there were no visible acts of retribution aimed at Crosby on Wednesday.
Crosby extended this season’s longest scoring streak when he fed Malkin during a give-and-go with 13 seconds left in the first.
Making his first start since Nov. 27, Pittsburgh backup goalie Brent Johnson was in line for his second shutout of the season until he was beaten by a wrist shot by Christensen.
“There’s no excuses,” Johnson said. “You can’t give up four goals in the third period—it doesn’t matter if you’ve been sitting for a while.”
After Frolov gave the Rangers the lead, Crosby thought he scored the tying goal with 6:19 to play when he got a piece of Malkin’s shot and put it past Lundqvist. The goal was immediately waved off when officials ruled that Pascal Dupuis made incidental contact with Lundqvist. The Penguins protested that Dupuis was pushed into Lundqvist by Rangers defenceman Michal Rozsival.
“It was close. Whether or not it affected the goalie making the save is a decision the referee had to make in a split-second,” Crosby said.”He made the call, but besides that we still could have done a better job in the third, and we paid for it.”
Anisimov scored for the fourth time in nine career games against the Penguins on a spectacular effort with 5:05 left.
NOTES: New York is an NHL-best 12-5 on the road. … The Rangers killed all three Penguins power plays and 56 of the last 63 overall.