For two straight games, the Rangers didn't score a goal. Last night, Artem Anisimov had two, his first points in 18 games, and the Rangers held a one-goal lead over the Penguins midway through the third period.
The lead, however, was gone in a flash as the Penguins scored twice in a minute and went on to a 4-2 victory. Chris Conner, who was summoned from the AHL yesterday to replace the injured Bill Guerin, netted the game-winner, his second goal of the game and his NHL career.
With Marian Gaborik in the penalty box for slashing, Evgeni Malkin tied the score at 2 on the power play at 9:46, just 31 seconds after Anisimov had given the Rangers the lead on a blast from the right point that hit Chris Drury.
Then, after Henrik Lundqvist sticked Sidney Crosby's shot off a rush away to the right, Conner fired the puck past Lundqvist from the left side for the 3-2 lead. Pascal Dupuis sealed the Rangers' third consecutive loss with an empty-netter.
"This one was painful," Lundqvist said. "We get the penalty, they get a lucky goal on a deflection off our player. We've had a bunch of these games this year. It could be a different story if we manage to win these games."
The 1-1 game could have changed at the beginning of the third, but the Rangers went scoreless for six minutes of power-play time. At the 20-second mark, Jordan Staal was sent off for four minutes for high-sticking Vinny Prospal, and with 10 seconds left on that penalty, the Rangers drew another.
"We get one early there, it's a different game," Brandon Dubinsky said.
After Ryan Callahan caught up with Matt Cooke on a shorthanded breakaway and prevented a shot, Cooke roughed Callahan near the bench. Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury smothered two high shots from his knees in that sequence.
"When we do get set up, it just seems we miss a pass, and we've got to be better at retrieving pucks," Michael Del Zotto said.
After missing four games because of a broken ring finger, Fleury stopped 28 shots as the Penguins (33-20-1) took their seventh straight against the sinking Rangers (24-22-7), inducing four this season. They have outscored the Rangers 20-9 in those four games.
"Artie scored a big [second] goal and we had to respond after that," said Dubinsky, who was on a line with Prospal and Gaborik. "We had to make sure we did our job, and we didn't."
After two successive shutouts, Anisimov had ended a team scoreless streak of 156:32 when his wrister from the high slot zipped past Fleury's glove at 13:04 of the second. Pens defenseman Mark Eaton, harried by Chris Higgins, turned the puck over and Anisimov charged in. Conner had scored at 2:47 of the first on a cross-ice feed from Crosby.
The rally ruined the first multigoal game for the 21-year-old Anisimov, who poked a loose puck between Fleury's skates at 9:15 of the third. Fleury accidentally tapped it in with the skate blade.
"I was watching it from behind the net,"Anisimov said.