PITTSBURGH---On the night that Chris Drury returned after missing 31 games with a twice-broken finger and Ryan Callahan was lost with a broken left hand from a Kris Letang shot early in the first period, the Rangers staged an improbable four-goal rally in a 6:19 span of the third period to shock the Penguins, 4-1.
Playing without their gritty alternate captain, the Blueshirts scored twice in a 15-second stretch in the third to erase a 1-0 lead and capped the comeback when Artem Anisimov skated through four defenders and fired the puck over Brent Johnson’s left shoulder at 14:55 and Brian Boyle beat Johnson at 16:29.
“It’s a great win in a lot of ways, we stuck with the system,” said Henrik Lundqvist who made 27 saves against a red-hot team that had won 12 straight before losing to the Flyers on Wednesday. “We knew we could come back and once we got the first one, we just kept going.”
Trailing 1-0 going into the third and managing just 12 shots, Erik Christensen tied the game at 1 with a perfect top shelf wrister from the left circle on the Rangers third power play of the night at 10:10. Alex Frolov put them ahead 15 seconds later by spinning and backhanding a shot past Johnson from the doorstep. It was Frolov’s first goal in 12 games.
The Penguins appeared to tie the game at 2 when Evgeny Malkin’s shot went past Lundqvist’s right side with 6:19 left as Pascal Dupuis, backed into by Michal Rozsival, fell into the goaltender in the crease. But the score was waved off to boos from the 18,242 in CONSOL Energy Center. “Good call,” said Rozsival. “I wasn’t in the paint. It’s his responsibility to stop. I don’t see why the people were so upset.”
The remarkable victory lifted the Rangers (19-13-1) to 12-5 on the road and gave them their first regulation win in the last dozen against the Penguins. Long-term, however, Callahan's injury, which the Rangers learned about during the first intermission, will be challenging.
“Whoever’s next up is the way you’ve got to play,” said Boyle, who scored his 12th of the season and defended against Sidney Crosby much of the evening. “He does everything, we’re gonna miss him. We’ve dealt with it with Dru. We’ll survive. You see a guy like Cally, you want to play like him. We all have to be like that a little more now that he’s down.”
Callahan, the team's defacto heart-and-soul captain while Drury was recovering and the second leading scorer with 23 points in 31 games, never returned after playing 1:59.
The right wing, who leads all NHL forwards with 40 blocked shots and was second the league in hits, had scored the final two goals in the 7-0 rout of the Capitals on Sunday.
“Overcoming a major injury, I think they need to feel we made a pretty big step tonight,” said coach John Tortorella. “It's a belief. We’re finding ways to win.”
In the first, the Penguins outshot the Rangers 15-6 and took a 1-0 lead with just 12.4 seconds left on period. Crosby faked a slap shot down the middle on the rush, and Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were drawn to him, and froze. Instead, he slipped the puck to his left and Malkin swept to the crease alone from the left side to tuck the puck past Lundqvist. It would be the only mistake he made all night.