Rapid Reaction: Penguins 4, Rangers 1

Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: Evgeni Malkin tallied twice in a three-goal third period as the Penguins recorded their fourth straight win and first over the Rangers this season. Malkin, who has seven goals in his last four games, led Pittsburgh past the up-and-down Blueshirts 4-1. The 29-12-4 Rangers, who entered Thursday's game leading the Eastern Conference by three points, have dropped three of their last five games and face a tough task ahead -- they head to Boston to play the Stanley Cup champion Bruins on Saturday.

Key Play: A bad pinch by defenseman Marc Staal led to a Penguins 3-on-1 rush, allowing former Islander Richard Park to beat Henrik Lundqvist short-side for a 2-1 Penguins lead at 2:23 of the third.

Two Goals for Geno: With Pittsburgh leading 2-1 in the third, Malkin added an insurance goal for the Penguins at 7:10 of the third. Malkin made a swift move to fake out Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who dove on the ice in a shot-blocking attempt, before lifting an effortless backhander to take a 3-1 Penguins lead. Malkin notched his second of the night -- an empty-netter -- with 1:40 to play in regulation.

Rookie equalizer: Rookie winger Carl Hagelin tied the game in the second, beating Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury five-hole at 10:06. Marian Gaborik made a nifty backhanded cross-ice flip pass to find a streaking Hagelin along the left wing and record his third assist in as many games.

Kunitz knocks one in:Penguins alternate captain Chris Kunitz buried a rebound on the rush for a 1-0 Pittsburgh lead 3:16 into play shortly after Ruslan Fedotenko whiffed on a gimme goal at the other end.

Slow to shoot: The Rangers were held without a shot on goal until almost midway through the first period when Marc Staal’s redirect of Brad Richards’ shot was stopped by Fleury. Despite a flurry after their initial attempt, the Rangers were still outshot 14-8 in the first.

Stu provides a spark: Defenseman Stu Bickel ignited the Rangers with his pounding of Penguins heavyweight Eric Tangradi at 8:56. Bickel, who suffered facial injuries with Islanders tough guy Micheal Haley in December, earned his fourth fighting major of the season.

Shortening the bench: After his first-period throwdown against Tangradi, Bickel saw limited ice time once coach John Tortorella shortened the bench on defense. Bickel played only two shifts in the second period as the Rangers played primarily with five defenseman.

Up Next: Rangers at Bruins, Saturday at 1 p.m.