After blowing a late lead and coming perilously close to entering the Olympic break on a two-game losing streak, the Rangers recovered to top the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in an emotional shootout win Friday night on the road at Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins erased one-goal deficits on three separate occasions and tied the game late in the third with James Neal’s equalizer with less than three minutes to go. It was the second time in as many nights the Rangers surrendered a critical goal on a defensive breakdown, but they didn’t leave any points on the table this time.
Sticking around: The Olympic roster freeze went into effect Friday at 3 p.m. with virtually no movement throughout the league prior to the deadline. That means pending unrestricted free agents Ryan Callahan and defenseman Dan Girardi are sticking around -- at least for now. Neither player has reached an agreement with the team on a contract extension.
Power surge: Playing with fire against the top-ranked power play in the league, the Rangers paid for a few trips to the penalty box in the first two periods. Rookie defenseman Olli Maatta knotted the score at one in the first period, and the Pens converted again in the second period with Evgeni Malkin’s man-up marker to tie the game at two. Pittsburgh, which entered the game with a 24.9 percent success rate on the power play, has cashed in on 48 of 188 attempts this season. The Rangers matched the Penguins with a pair of power-play goals as well from Girardi and Pouliot. The Rangers went six straight games without a scoring on the man advantage -- albeit they didn’t even have a single opportunity Thursday night -- heading into Friday’s action.
First strike: The Rangers jumped on the Penguins early, scoring just 64 seconds into play. Pouliot finished off Mats Zuccarello’s rebound attempt, beating Marc-Andre Fleury for a 1-0 lead. Zuccarello, the lone NHL’er on the Norwegian national squad to compete in Sochi, Russia, recorded his eighth point in the past six games. The diminutive forward, who was discovered by Rangers GM Glen Sather during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, has two goals and six assists during that span.
Well wishes: The mysterious illness ailing Kris Letang was revealed Friday, when Pittsburgh announced that the Penguins defenseman suffered a stroke last month. Though the situation is not considered to be life threatening -- Letang can treat the condition with blood thinners -- he is expected to be sidelined for six weeks. Scary stuff.
Sochi-bound stars: Metropolitan Division rivals on Friday night, some of the Rangers and Penguins will join forces once they head over to Sochi this weekend. Rick Nash will join superstar Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz on Team Canada, while Rangers Callahan, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh will partner up with American-born defensemen Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin.