Penguins 3, Rangers 2
After starting the season with nine consecutive losses—five in overtime— the Penguins jumped over the New York Islanders into fourth place in the Atlantic Division.
Crosby has three goals and two assists through the first four games of the Penguins’ longest road trip of the season. And it’s no surprise that Pittsburgh is 3-1 with one game left.
“Every game he gets better,” Lemieux said. “That’s amazing that he just turned 18 and he’s our best player night in and night out. It’s incredible.”
Crosby had never been in Manhattan before Sunday, but he looked totally comfortable on the ice.
“It’s an historic place,” said Crosby, who has points in 13 games. “The atmosphere here … it’s always a challenge to play here so it was nice to get one.”
Ziggy Palffy also scored, and Sebastien Caron made 35 saves in his sixth straight start for the Penguins (4-6-5), who rebounded from a 6-3 loss at Boston on Saturday. Lemieux has 61 goals and 71 assists in 68 games against the Rangers. Crosby’s goal brought a wide smile to his face.
“I know he was looking forward to playing here in this building,” the 40-year-old Lemieux said. “For him to get a goal in his first game is special.”
Ryan Hollweg broke up Caron’s shutout bid at 6:51 of the third period with his first NHL goal and Marcel Hossa got the Rangers to 3-2 with 6:24 left. But despite 13 third-period shots and a late power play, the Atlantic leaders had a two-game winning streak snapped. Jaromir Jagr’s 12-game point streak was also ended by his former club.
“It’s tough when you try to pull the rabbit out of the hat at the last minute,” said Kevin Weekes, who made 21 saves. “It was not the start that we would have liked, but the fact that we hung in there and gave a valiant effort says a lot about our team.”
Pittsburgh’s current stars did the big damage.
Crosby took a pass from Ric Jackman as he streaked freely down the slot. He shifted the puck on his stick—moving right and then left—before sending it past Weekes to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead with 1:57 left in the second period.
The goal quieted the fans, who minutes earlier were on their feet cheering when former Rangers captain Mark Messier was shown on the center ice scoreboard.
“Oh yeah, I noticed it,” said Crosby, who was 6 when he watched Messier lead the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup on TV.
Crosby’s latest score left him just 689 goals behind Messier, seventh on the NHL’s career list.
Lemieux is right behind him, and his sixth of the season gave Pittsburgh a rare early lead and moved him within five goals of Messier’s total of 694. The Penguins’ captain-owner took a crisp pass from defenseman Sergei Gonchar and fired it past Weekes to make it 1-0 at 15:20 of the first period.
Pittsburgh scored first for only the third time this season, but second on the trip that ends Wednesday in Atlanta. It was also the Penguins’ second 2-0 lead of the season, both in the last three games.
The other was in a 5-1 win last Thursday at the Islanders when Crosby netted two goals for the first time in the NHL. Pittsburgh has won four of six after the rough start.
Pittsburgh’s lead grew to a season-best 3-0 just 3:42 into the third period when Palffy rifled a shot in from the right circle as teammate Matt Murley jumped in front of Weekes.
Palffy had a chance to stretch the lead further at 5:54 when he was awarded a penalty shot after being pulled down on a short-handed breakaway. But his hard shot was kicked out by Weekes’ right pad.
“That was a big stop and they came back and made a game out of it,” Lemieux said.
Just 57 seconds later, Hollweg took a pass in the slot from Jason Ward and ripped a shot in to make it 3-1.
“We had some chances, but we didn’t play well,” Jagr said. “We couldn’t play the way we wanted to.”
Penguins LW John LeClair is still out indefinitely with broken bones in his face after being struck by a puck Saturday in practice. … Hollweg earned his second career assist on Hossa’s first goal in 11 games. … Jackman returned to the lineup after being scratched for three games. … Pittsburgh was 0-for-7 on the power play. New York went 0-for-4.