PITTSBURGH -- Timing is everything. With a season-high four straight wins and six victories in their past seven games, the Rangers are jelling at the right time.
After beating the Penguins Sunday, 5-2, the seventh-place Rangers are 39-30-4 for 82 points, three points ahead of Buffalo and six point ahead of Carolina.
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In a blatant blind-side head shot with the score tied at 1 in the third period, the Penguins' Matt Cooke elbowed rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh, sending him to the ice. It also sent Cooke to the showers with a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct at 4:36.
"I didn't see him coming at all," McDonagh said. "I had no idea."
Although the Penguins' Chris Kunitz scored a shorthanded goal on the ensuing power play for a 2-1 lead, the Rangers responded with four straight goals.
Henrik Lundqvist, playing with a stiff and sore neck after being run over by Montreal's Benoit Pouliot on Friday, made 19 saves in the second period, and the opening for a comeback came after Cooke's penalty.
Just 3:18 after Cooke went off, Matt Niskanen bloodied Ryan Callahan with a high stick and was tossed for four minutes, triggering a five-on-three and a chance to rally from the 2-1 deficit. Marian Gaborik chipped in a loose puck at the right post at 9:39, and Callahan, still bleeding from the bridge of his nose, scored 11 seconds later on a five-on-four, sending a blazing wrister from the lower right circle past Marc-Andre Fleury's glove for a 3-2 lead.
It was Callahan's 23rd goal, a career high, and 23rd point in 21 games since he returned from a broken hand. "We can't come back after a bad second period and show up with a bad third period," said Callahan, who had two assists. "To a man, we know that."
McDonagh, who later scrapped with Kris Letang, came out of the box, grabbed a pass from Artem Anisimov and sped in on Fleury. His shot was blocked, but former Wisconsin teammate Derek Stepan cashed in for a 4-2 edge at 18:45. Brandon Dubinsky scored an empty-netter with 39.2 seconds left.
In a second period that coach John Tortorella called "brutal," Lundqvist was outstanding. It was 1-1 after 40 minutes on goals from Anisimov (his fifth in nine games) and Jordan Staal. The Pens led 29-14 in shots.
Sunday morning, Lundqvist was unsure about his status. "I wanted to see how it felt with the mask on. It didn't feel great,'' he said. "Once the game starts, you get adrenaline and it doesn't hurt much. To see the puck behind the net, that was the toughest part."
The tough part for Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was watching Cooke's move.
"I don't think you can talk about eliminating head shots from the game, as we have, as an organization," Bylsma said, "and not expect that to be examined . . . Any time you take a penalty like that, you're putting your team in a tough spot. It's an undisciplined play."
Afterward, Rangers general manager Glen Sather told McDonagh: "Don't worry. He should get 10 games."
Now it's up to the league.