The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 8, 2014

Rangers drop Penguins in shootout

PITTSBURGH — Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello scored in a shootout, and the New York Rangers beat Pittsburgh 4-3 on Friday night to hand the Penguins a rare loss in the tiebreaker.

Benoit Pouliot scored twice in regulation for the Rangers, who bounced back from a home loss to Edmonton the night before and won for the fifth time in six games.

The Penguins had won all four of their previous shootouts this season and 14 of their past 15 overall.

Zuccarello, the second New York shooter in the tiebreaker, tucked a backhand under the pads of Marc-Andre Fleury – who had not allowed a shootout goal all season. Evgeni Malkin beat Henrik Lundqvist to extend the game before Richards flipped a shot past Fleury to end it.

Lundqvist made 26 saves, running his winning streak to five games.

James Neal tied it for Pittsburgh with 2:56 left in regulation. It was Neal’s 20th goal of the season and third in three games.

Olli Maatta and Malkin also scored for the Penguins, who lead second-place New York by 16 points in the Metropolitan Division.

The final game day before the Olympic break for both teams began on a somewhat somber note when the Penguins announced that Kris Letang will be out at least six weeks because of a stroke. Letang, who has been put on blood thinners, also was found to have a small hole in his heart.

Without their top defenseman for the fifth straight game, Pittsburgh allowed 41 shots on goal and had a rare weak penalty-killing effort. The Penguins lost for only the second time in their last 18 home games, ending a five-game home winning streak against the Rangers that dated to 2012.

Pouliot gave New York a third-period lead when he capped his first multigoal game in almost a year with10:38 left. Pouliot wristed a rebound of Dan Girardi’s shot up under the crossbar from close range past Fleury for the Rangers’ second power-play goal of the game – the first two goals Pittsburgh’s NHL-best penalty kill allowed at home in a span of 10 games (30 chances).

Girardi also scored on the power play, in the opening minute of the second period.

Pittsburgh won two prior games this week after allowing the opponent to score first in each, and it took the Rangers 64 seconds to take a 1-0 lead Friday. Zuccarello extended his point streak to six games when he earned an assist after Pouliot shoved a puck in that Fleury had pinned between his skate and the right post.

Zuccarello had tried to tuck the puck in after corralling it off a shot by Marc Staal that ricocheted off the boards behind the net.

Maatta answered 11 minutes later with the first of two goals on the night for Pittsburgh’s NHL-leading power play, slamming home a rebound of Sidney Crosby’s shot into an open net for the rookie’s sixth of the season.

Malkin added a power-play goal in the second period, a one-timed slap shot from outside the right circle off a feed from Neal. The goal, Malkin’s 18th of the season, extended his point streak to five games.

That goal tied it 2-all at 8:29 of the second after Girardi had scored during the period’s opening minute. Just 4 seconds after Neal was penalized for slashing, Girardi flipped a wrist shot from the left point off a faceoff win by Derick Brassard. The puck found its way through traffic and past Fleury, extending Brassard’s point streak to six games.

The Rangers improved to 4-2 in shootouts this season. Pittsburgh had won 22 of 25 shootouts dating to Feb. 26, 2011.

Fleury stopped Pouliot on the Rangers’ first attempt, extending the goalie’s streak to 12 unsuccessful shootout tries by opponents this season.

Notes: The Penguins fell to 14-1-1 this season when scoring a power-play goal at home. ... Pittsburgh has scored a power-play goal in three consecutive games for the first time since doing so in six straight from Nov. 27 to Dec. 7. ... The Rangers’ previous win in Pittsburgh was on Jan. 6, 2012.

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