NEW YORK – It’s one thing to give up a hat trick to Sidney Crosby – but Mike Rupp?
Never before in an NHL season had Rupp scored more than six goals, yet he netted three on Monday night to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers and a sweep of the home-and-home series.
Crosby chipped in two goals and an assist just two days after his hat trick and two assists carried the Penguins to an 8-3 win against New York on Saturday in Pittsburgh.
“He scored kind of every which way you could,” Crosby said of Rupp, who has a career-best eight goals this season. “He was a presence all night.”
Well, most of it. About 5 1/2 minutes before Rupp scored his second goal to snap a 2-2 tie in the third period, he was helped off the ice. Rupp appeared to injure his left knee when he was shoved from behind into the boards by defenceman Dan Girardi and banged his leg.
His first goal gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead in the second period and his second made it 3-2 with 8:46 remaining. That one came on an end-to-end rush up left wing. Rupp’s first NHL hat trick was sealed with an empty-net goal with 1:40 remaining.
“I just relaxed,” Rupp said. “Usually I’m not going to throw that puck down without a two-goal lead.”
Rupp said his leg felt better after he walked on it, but went to have it checked out after the game when it tightened.
This was far from his biggest hockey moment. Rupp scored twice for New Jersey in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup final, including the winning tally, but this certainly cracked his personal list.
“It feels good that it comes in a win,” said Rupp, who has 35 goals in 363 NHL games. “Nothing is worse than when a guy has an opportunity to get a hat trick and the team loses.”
Pittsburgh improved to 3-0 this season against the Rangers. Crosby netted his 16th and 17th goals and has 16 points in the past 10 games.
“He has the mindset where he’s going to shoot the puck more, and as a result you’re seeing him get those opportunities,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Crosby made it 4-2 with 4:09 left, and Jordan Staal had two assists for the Penguins, who had dropped eight straight to New York on the road since March 19, 2007. Pittsburgh has won six in a row against the Rangers, dating to last season. Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves.
The Penguins had gone 2-5 on the road after a 7-0 start away from Pittsburgh.
Marian Gaborik scored both Rangers goals to push his NHL-leading total to 21, but New York dropped its third straight. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 28 shots.
“We did some good things,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “That is the way it’s going right now. We make a mistake, it is going in our net.
“It is discouraging.”
The Rangers don’t play again until Saturday at Buffalo, and they will take Tuesday off from practice.
“It’s very frustrating. I think we played a very good game,” Gaborik said. “We didn’t give them much. This game doesn’t compare to the one we played there.
“We just have to regroup now. We have four days without games and we really need to try to get away a little bit.”
Both teams took a one-goal lead in the second period and lost it as the game headed to the third tied 2-2.
Gaborik started the scoring at 3:12 when he deflected a pass from Vinny Prospal into Fleury and then put the puck past him with a second whack.
In just his 25th game with New York, Gaborik reached the 20-goal mark for the sixth time in his nine NHL seasons. Every time Gaborik has hit that milestone, he has netted at least 30.
Before this one could be announced to the Madison Square Garden crowd, Crosby struck to tie it. Crosby, who has the most faceoff wins in the league this season, won the draw at centre ice after Gaborik’s goal.
Penguins defenceman Sergei Gonchar moved the puck to Bill Guerin, who found Crosby streaking into the New York zone. Gliding with speed, Crosby shifted the puck from backhand to forehand and beat Lundqvist up high at 3:23 – 11 seconds after Gaborik put the Rangers ahead.
Rupp pushed Pittsburgh into the lead 4:10 later. Staal won a faceoff in the Rangers’ end and got the puck to Rupp in front. He was stopped on his first backhanded try but scored on his second at 7:33.
Notes: Penguins LW Matt Cooke served the first half of his two-game suspension, delivered by the NHL after his hit to the head of Rangers C Artem Anisimov on Saturday. … Gaborik has five two-goal games this season.