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Rangers’ Rick Nash returns to play in back-to-back games

Rick Nash of the New York Rangers attempts

Rick Nash of the New York Rangers attempts a shot against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, March 13, 2016 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Rick Nash had a team-high six shots on goal for the Rangers in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Penguins — his second game back after missing 20 with a bone bruise in his left leg.

“The timing is the hardest thing to find, but the cardio and the legs feel really good,” said Nash, who had a chance to give the Rangers a lead in the third but was stopped on a breakaway by Marc-Andre Fleury.

Nash said playing two games in less than 24 hours after Saturday’s overtime loss in Detroit “is jumping right into the fire, for sure. You want to get that first one out of the way when you come back from a long injury, so why not do it on a back-to-back and get a true test of how you feel?”

Newcomer Eric Staal was on a line with Nash.

“We had enough looks today; I thought we skated well,” Staal said. “You have to believe it’s a matter of time before those start to fall and we’ll get some to the bottom of the net.”

Lundqvist survives scare

There was a scary moment for the Rangers in the third period when former Ranger Carl Hagelin ripped a shot from the left faceoff circle that caught Henrik Lundqvist flush on his facemask.

Lundqvist appeared momentarily stunned, and play was stopped.

“I was fine,” he said later. “It was more that I had to adjust the buckle [on my helmet] there a little bit . . . It was a hard shot. I know he has a high, rising shot, but it didn’t really bother me.”

Blue notes

Penguins star Evgeni Malkin, who suffered an upper-body injury Friday against the Blue Jackets, did not play Sunday and is expected to miss six to eight weeks . . . Coach Alain Vigneault called the slashing penalty on Mats Zuccarello on which he swatted the stick right out of the hands of the Penguins’ Ian Cole “totally unnecessary.” . . . It was the Penguins first visit to Madison Square Garden since the Rangers’ closed them out in overtime in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series last April . . . Chris Kreider of the Rangers and Chris Kunitz of the Penguins fought one second into the third period and were sent off for five minutes apiece . . . The Rangers’ Dan Boyle was minus-4 for the game . . . Sidney Crosby scored an empty-net goal for the Penguins and had a game-high eight shots on goal.

New York Sports