Klein loses part of his ear, wins game in OT

NEW YORK -- The lasting memory will be the game-winning goal, the overtime goal scored by the guy with the bloody left ear.

That's fine. Kevin Klein deserves it, just as he deserved the Broadway Hat that sat just above that ear, the ear that needed 13 stitches after a first-period high stick.

"I don't know if any of you saw his ear, but he lost a piece of it," New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We sewed it back."

The Rangers sewed plenty back together Monday night, literally and figuratively. Their 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins was hardly perfect -- for the second straight game, the Rangers couldn't hold a two-goal lead -- but it could well prove to be significant.

They needed this one. Their goalie needed this one.

They could hardly afford another bad loss. Neither could he.

Henrik Lundqvist's play so far this season has mirrored his team's play. His four shutouts rank second in the league, but his goals-against average and his save percentage are both the worst of his career.

Last Saturday, even though the Rangers have had a light schedule that sees them play just two games in 12 days, Vigneault chose to start backup Cam Talbot in Detroit.

Not all the goals have been Lundqvist's fault -- Pittsburgh's two lightning-quick, game-tying goals in the third period Monday weren't -- but the Rangers expect and need more from him.

He expects more from himself.

"We haven't been winning enough, and part of that is goaltending," Lundqvist said. "I have to take the responsibility here to play better. We have to play better as a group, but it starts with me. There's been a lot of good games but also games where I have to be better.

"It's not about being great every night but being solid. I've got to keep working on it."

Lundqvist was very good Monday, even with the two late goals. The Rangers weren't great, but their response to the tying goals confirmed they were solid.

"You never want to give up a lead, but I think we played our game," Ryan McDonagh said.

They improved to 12-10-4, which is far from satisfactory in a season they've begun with a home-heavy schedule. It's still good enough to leave the Rangers tied with the Washington Capitals for third place -- and the final guaranteed playoff spot -- in the Metropolitan Division.

To get there, they needed Klein, after first Evgeni Malkin and then Steve Downie scored for the Penguins to tie the game. Klein found an opening and got a shot through and past Marc-Andre Fleury.

In an NHL career that stretches back to 2006, Klein had never scored more than four goals in a season. Now he has six, and he has his Rangers teammates half-jokingly (or maybe not) suggesting to Vigneault that Klein belongs on the power play.

"I think by far he has the best shot on the team, no question," Lundqvist said. "It's not a great thing in practice, but I appreciate it in a game. It hurts if it hits you."

His overtime shot didn't hurt anyone but the Penguins. It helped Lundqvist, and it helped the Rangers.

And in a season that still feels like it could go either way, it could end up being a significant memory, the game-winning goal by the guy with the bloody ear.