Rangers' Neal Pionk (44) is helped off the ice after...

Rangers' Neal Pionk (44) is helped off the ice after a collision with Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. Credit: AP/Gene J. Puskar

PITTSBURGH — Rangers defenseman Neal Pionk apparently is OK after taking a stick in the eye from the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby in the final minute of the second period Sunday. He skated off with 12.3 seconds left in the period and did not return. After the Penguins’ 6-5 win, coach David Quinn said Pionk was held out for “precautionary reasons.’’

Crosby was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking. The Rangers did not score on the four-minute power play, and the Penguins scored the next three goals for a 6-3 lead.

The Rangers dressed seven defensemen for the fourth straight game. After Pionk got hurt, defenseman Brendan Smith, who had been playing left wing on the fourth line, dropped back on defense. Smith did the same thing Friday in Buffalo after Brady Skjei left midway through the second period with a right knee injury.

Skjei, who the Rangers have said is day-to-day, was replaced by defenseman Freddie Claesson, who made his return from a right shoulder dislocation suffered Jan. 12. Claesson played 17:30 and had two shots on goal, four hits and an even plus/minus rating.

Right wing Jesper Fast was scratched because of the flu and replaced by rookie Filip Chytil, who was a healthy scratch in Buffalo. Chytil had two shots.

Quinn: Ref apologized

Quinn said referee Francois St. Laurent approached him after the second period and apologized for his work in the first two periods.

“They did come over after the second, he came over to me and said, ‘Listen, I had a bad first two periods . . . I made bad calls. I’ll be better in the third,’ ’’ Quinn said. “So I’ve got a lot of respect for that. Listen, we’re all human; we all make mistakes. They’re not going out there trying to make mistakes. That’s why I try to control my emotions. I know it’s a quick game and these guys have hard jobs. And overall, they do a really good job. So I give them a lot of credit for saying that.’’

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