Eric Staal had his most productive game as a Ranger, scoring twice Sunday night, but Sidney Crosby scored on a deflection with 29.5 seconds left in overtime to give the surging Pittsburgh Penguins a 3-2 win over the Blueshirts at Madison Square Garden.
Crosby’s tip, which hit Mats Zuccarello in front before bouncing past Henrik Lundqvist for his 32nd goal, ended the Rangers’ winning streak at three games and tightened the Metropolitan Division standings.
“The last three overtimes, that’s how we’ve been beat,” said Lundqvist, who made 29 saves. “Sometimes they throw it around up top and you get a deflection like that, but overall it was a good game. I felt good about the way we played. There’s a good possibility that this is the team we’re going to face very soon. It’s a pretty tight matchup, but we’ll see what’s going to happen. We still have some big games left that we need to focus on.”
The Rangers (43-24-9, 95 points) still are three points ahead of the Penguins for second place in the division. The Penguins, who have beaten the Rangers three times in four games this season, are 42-25-8 for 92 points and have a game in hand. The Blueshirts have six games remaining. The second- and third-place finishers in the division will meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in April.
Staal’s goals created two leads, but the Penguins answered both times.
From the left wall, Kevin Hayes lifted a soft lead pass to Staal, who had beaten defenseman Trevor Daley to the crease. He swept the puck one-handed past Marc-Andre Fleury at 4:19 of the first period for his second goal in 14 games as a Ranger. Matt Cullen tied it with a fine doorstep tip of Derrick Pouliot’s high wrister from the point that bounced down and past Lundqvist at 15:59.
The Penguins had outscored opponents 91-58 in second periods, so the Rangers were fortunate to come out tied 2-2.
The second goal from Staal, who moved from center to left wing for the second straight game, came on a one-timer from the lower right circle at 2:07.
“It would have been nice to have those [goals] help with a win, but good things [happened] on the line and we have to keep building on that,” said Staal, who had four shots on goal, one attempt blocked and three misses. “I think moving Haysie into the middle, he’s a little more comfortable and seems to be around the puck a little more. It’s been a little bit of an offensive struggle for me, but I’m starting to feel better.”
Lundqvist flipped a backhanded clearing attempt into the corner that was intercepted by Carl Hagelin, whose quick, sharp-angle shot was blocked by the retreating goaltender. But Phil Kessel scored on the rebound to make it 2-2 at 8:36.
That line, with Nick Bonino, gave the Rangers fits with their speed, as Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh were beaten on rushes. Bonino and Kessel both had five-point games in Saturday’s 7-2 win over Detroit.
At the start of overtime, the Rangers killed Brassard’s carryover high-sticking penalty.
“I was thinking something good was going to happen for us,” McDonagh said. “It wasn’t the case, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. We come up with one [point], but we were shooting for two.”