Rangers stay hot, beat Penguins

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 06, 2012
Brandon Dubinsky had a goal and an assist, Henrik Lundqvist made 37 saves and the surging New York Rangers beat slumping Pittsburgh 3-1 on Friday night. Brad Richards scored his 15th goal of the season for New York and Derek Stepan took advantage a gaffe by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to notch his ninth goal as the Rangers won their fourth straight. New York improved its position atop the Eastern Conference by riding Lundqvist, who has won six straight starts. He held the Penguins in check with a series of flashy glove saves and dug in when Pittsburgh turned the pressure up late. Ben Lovejoy scored his first goal of the season for Pittsburgh and Fleury stopped 18 shots but badly misplayed a clearing attempt in the third period, leading to Stepan's goal. The victory capped an eventful week for New York, which has surged to the top of the Eastern Conference standings over the past month despite the presence of camera crews that documented the build-up to the annual Winter Classic in Philadelphia on Monday. The camera crews left after the Rangers rallied for a 3-2 victory at Citizens Bank Park, but the Rangers have kept on rolling. They vowed to avoid a letdown after playing on perhaps the league's biggest regular-season stage. So far, so good. New York rallied for a 3-2 overtime win against Southeast Division-leading Florida on Thursday then improved to 5-0-1 in the second game of back-to-backs by relying on Lundqvist and taking advantage of sometimes sloppy play by the reeling Penguins. Pittsburgh has dropped three straight games in regulation for the first time this season. The Penguins, who host New Jersey on Saturday, came out firing, dominating the first 18 minutes and taking a 1-0 lead on Lovejoy's first goal since last March. The defenseman jumped into the play and took a pass from Craig Adams to give Pittsburgh some much-needed momentum. It didn't last long. New York, which didn't get into town until well after midnight, finally woke up just before the end of the period when Dubinsky's shot from the corner bounced right off Fleury's pads and onto Richards' stick. Richards pounced on it for one of his easiest goals of the season. The score seemed to deflate Pittsburgh, though not as much as Dubinsky's goal just over 3 minutes into the second. The Penguins were on the power play, but got caught out of position leading to a 3-on-1 break with Callahan feeding Dubinsky for his first short-handed goal of the season and just the third given up all season by Pittsburgh. Lundqvist took over from there. Calmly turning away one of the league's more dynamic offenses, he improved on his 1.92 goals-against average by staying disciplined. The same couldn't be said of Fleury, who got burned after venturing too far away from the net early in the third period. Fleury raced out beyond the left faceoff circle to play a New York clearing attempt then whiffed while trying to pass. The puck ended up on New York's Marian Gaborik's stick. Gaborik frantically threw it at the wide-open net only to have it clang off the post. Stepan didn't miss the rebound to put the Rangers up two. Penguins appeared to get within 3-2 midway through the third period, but referees waved off James Neal's goal because of incidental contact between Lundqvist and Chris Kunitz. New York improved to 5-0-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season and let coach John Tortorella celebrate on the day he earned a coaching spot in next month's All-Star game. It was a nice way to end a tough few days for Tortorella, who was fined $30,000 for derogatory comments about the officiating in the Winter Classic. Notes: Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal left the game with less than 5 minutes remaining following a collision with New York's Mike Rupp, a former Pittsburgh teammate. ... The Penguins fell to 16-12-3 this season when playing without center Sidney Crosby. ... The Rangers are off until Tuesday when they host Phoenix.
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