NEW YORK – Marc-Andre Fleury stopped only eight of 12 shots, but was let off the hook by his high-scoring teammates. Henrik Lundqvist made a career-best 50 saves and had only a hard-luck loss to show for it.
Jordan Staal scored a power-play goal 3:42 into overtime on the 55th shot for the Penguins, who outlasted Lundqvist and the Rangers 5-4 on Thursday night. Staal also had a goal in the first period.
“It felt good,” Lundqvist said of his save total, “but I don’t feel good letting in five goals.”
Evgeni Malkin, who earlier in the overtime advantage struck a goal post and was robbed by Lundqvist’s outstretched glove, finally got a puck past the goalie when his drive from the left circle bounced in off Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky and Staal. It was the third Penguins goal that went in off a New York player.
“There were some bad bounces,” Lundqvist said.
Pittsburgh held the Rangers to 16 shots overall and only one after the second period. The Penguins went 5-1 against their Atlantic Division rivals this season, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Defenceman Wade Redden’s hooking penalty 1:45 into overtime set up the winner.
“We did some really good things. We deserved that one,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “We felt like it was only a matter of time before we were back into it.
“All the games the rest of the way are going to be intense like that, especially in divisional games.”
Backup goalie Brent Johnson earned the victory, despite facing only four shots in place of Fleury. He made 26 saves in a win over Buffalo on Tuesday, the Penguins’ first game after the Olympic break.
It was the fewest saves by a winning NHL goalie since Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick also stopped four against Dallas on March 5, 2009, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“It’s a great win but honestly, all I had to do was make a couple of saves and the guys took it from there,” Johnson said.
Fleury saw his first action since Feb. 14, despite being on Canada’s Olympic team. He was pulled with 7:11 left in the second period after Dubinsky’s shot hit the post and then caromed in off Fleury’s back to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead.
Chris Drury, Artem Anisimov, defenceman Michal Rozsival and Dubinsky scored for New York. Rozsival’s first goal in 38 games gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead they couldn’t hold. The missed second point could prove troublesome for New York, which is below the Eastern Conference’s playoff cutoff.
“We’ll take the point and learn from it,” Drury said.
Lundqvist was victimized by Alex Goligoski’s bad-angle shot that hit Rangers defenceman Marc Staal’s skate with 8:01 left in regulation and tied the game. Chris Kunitz and Mike Rupp also scored for Pittsburgh.
New York was outshot 19-1 in the third period, and didn’t record a third-period shot on Johnson until Olli Jokinen’s drive with 4:36 remaining. Lundqvist faced more shots in every period than Fleury saw in the game. He made 13 saves in the first and 15 more in the second.
Fleury’s rough night started early when a seemingly simple shot by Anisimov from the left circle beat his glove 2:17 in. His teammates appeared to sense it was a bad goal. Sergei Gonchar, Malkin, and Pascal Dupuis all skated back to tap his pads in support.
The Penguins wiped away that deficit on goals by Kunitz and Staal 3:55 apart that pushed Pittsburgh in front 2-1 at 9:58. Kunitz’s goal came during the first half of a 5-on-3 power play.
Pittsburgh gained the initial advantage when Marc Staal was whistled for interference on Crosby. Lundqvist jawed at the Penguins captain behind the net and then received a cross-check to the chest from Crosby. Dubinsky rushed in to deal with Crosby to create a big scrum.
“I didn’t like the fact he came over,” Crosby said of Lundqvist. “I thought it wasn’t right. I got a cross check in the ribs that didn’t feel too good. The last thing I expected was him standing over me. I let him know how I feel.”
Lundqvist and Crosby also exchanged jabs after Lundqvist made a save in the third. Crosby gave Lundqvist a slight slash, and Lundqvist returned the shot with his stick.
Crosby, who scored the gold-medal winning goal for Canada on Sunday, was met with derisive chants, calls of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” and boos throughout.
Rozsival’s slashing penalty created the two-man advantage that Kunitz capitalized on at 6:03 of the first that tied it at 1. The Rangers killed off the rest of the power play, but fell behind on Jordan Staal’s goal at 9:58 that went in off New York forward Brian Boyle. A video review upheld Staal’s 17th goal.
Drury got that back with 5:21 left in the first. He scored a power-play goal from his knees while his back was to the net.
NOTES: The Rangers were without leading scorer Marian Gaborik, believed to have a groin injury sustained during the Olympics. … RW Bill Guerin and recently acquired LW Alex Ponikarovsky (visa issues) were scratched by Pittsburgh. … Rozsival’s other goal this season was scored on Nov. 28 at Pittsburgh. … Lundqvist stopped 45 shots in a 1-0 shootout loss to New Jersey on Jan. 12.