NEW YORK, N.Y. – Sidney Crosby was held to one assist by New York but then fired back at the angry Rangers after the Pittsburgh Penguins stretched their winning streak to seven.
Crosby helped set up Kris Letang’s second-period goal that doubled Pittsburgh’s lead and sent the Penguins to a 3-1 victory Monday night. The Penguins’ captain then defended himself against charges from Brandon Dubinsky that he is a dirty player.
With five minutes left in the first period, Crosby and Rangers forward Ryan Callahan got tangled up near centre ice, and Callahan fell. Callahan was called for interference, and Crosby went unpunished for what appeared to be a slew foot.
“That’s just a dirty play. That’s just the type of guy he is. He tried to get away with all that type of nonsense,” Dubinsky told MSG Network.
Crosby, who extended his point streak to 13 games, got red in the face when told about Dubinsky’s comments.
“How many penalty minutes do I have this year if I’m that dirty?” said Crosby, who has 15, including a tripping penalty Monday. “I mean, please. Show me all those dirty plays. It’s a battle and he falls. I think Dubie has done his fair share of things out there that are questionable. I guess he’s talking again. I’m not surprised.
“He’s holding me going up ice. I’m trying to push him off. Is it that calculated? I’m trying to get to the net. I’m not worried about that kind of thing. If I tripped him, I tripped him, but am I a dirty hockey player? Come on. I think Dubie is smarter than that.”
Dubinsky was more reserved after the game.
“He did it again and he got called for it,” Dubinsky said of Crosby’s third-period penalty. “We’ve got to keep him honest and play him hard between the whistles, not focus too much on one person. I don’t think he was the difference. We beat ourselves. They got goals from a couple of their other lines that hurt us.”
Callahan also believed it was a penalty and yelled at the officials as he went to the box.
“Absolutely. I thought he kicked my feet out from underneath me. I’m not sure what the refs saw,” he said.
The Penguins, 9-0-1 in their past 10, haven’t lost since falling to the Rangers at home in overtime on Nov. 15. Their previous loss in regulation was Nov. 11 against Boston. It is the Penguins’ longest winning streak since another seven-game run from Oct. 8-23, 2009.
Maxime Talbot scored in the first, and goals by Letang and Chris Conner in the second made it 3-0. Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 25 saves to earn his ninth win.
Fleury has played in every game of the Penguins’ streak except for their previous victory on Saturday, when Brent Johnson beat Calgary behind Crosby’s hat trick.
Crosby, the leader in votes for the upcoming all-star game, has 12 goals and 14 assists during his point streak. He leads the NHL with 41 points.
“The team has been playing well, and it’s been going in,” Crosby said. “I don’t think you can ever really explain those things. You just try to do the right thing and hope you get rewarded.”
Marian Gaborik returned from a one-game absence, despite still feeling the effects of the flu, and scored in the second period to cut the Rangers’ deficit to 3-1 with his fifth goal. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 24 shots while making his fourth straight start.
The Rangers earned a rare victory over the Penguins in the only other meeting this season, despite not having a single power play. But Pittsburgh re-established its dominance over New York in the rematch, improving to 18-5-8 since the start of the 2006-07 season.
Despite confetti that fell onto the ice late in the game, there was little for Rangers fans at Madison Square Garden to celebrate.
New York had won four of five overall before Monday, including back-to-back wins over Florida and Nashville on its just-completed road trip. The Rangers, 5-7-1 at home, went 0-for-3 on the power play including two chances in the third.
The Penguins started doing damage 5:10 in, less than a minute after Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz recorded the game’s first shot.
New York’s Ruslan Fedotenko dropped the puck at his skates in his zone, but it got away to Talbot, who skated in front of the net and beat Lundqvist from in close to make it 1-0. The Rangers held an 8-6 shots advantage through one period, but their control didn’t last.
The Penguins jumped out to a 13-3 shots edge in the second period and broke open the game when Letang and Conner connected 1:15 apart to build the lead to 3-0 late in the frame.
Letang took a beautiful backhand pass from Crosby that went from the right circle to the left for a one-timer that got past Lundqvist at 12:01. Conner received the puck from Tyler Kennedy in the slot and zipped in a shot at 13:16.
“Other than that six minutes in the second, I thought we played a pretty solid game,” Callahan said.
NOTES: Crosby has 20 goals and 31 assists in 26 games against the Rangers. … Lundqvist has won just two of his past 10 decisions vs. Pittsburgh. … The Penguins were 3-0 in New York last season. … Pascal Dupuis had two assists.