Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby continued his potent point-scoring run since returning from injury, but the Penguins fell 4-3 to New York on Tuesday, allowing the Rangers to close the gap in the Atlantic division.
James Neal put the Pens ahead 1-0 with his 14th goal of the season in the first period, but the Rangers hit back in the second with strikes from Ryan Callahan, John Mitchell, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik to take control.
“I didn’t feel like they had a lot of zone time or anything like that, they just got a few chances off the rush and power-play goals,” Crosby told reporters. “We made some mistakes and gave them momentum.”
Evgeni Malkin netted his ninth goal of the season with seven seconds left in the second period to bring the Penguins back to 4-2, and Pascal Dupuis pulled the visitors within one at 3 minutes, 39 seconds in the third, but that was as close as they came.
New York (13-5-3) held on for their third consecutive victory, pulling within three points of the Atlantic division-leading Penguins.
Crosby finished with two assists for the Penguins (14-7-4) and now has two goals and nine assists in five games since returning from concussion symptoms that sidelined him for 10 months.
“He’s definitely lethal every time he touches the puck,” New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “You want to keep him away from that slot, that’s where he likes to hide and get his chances. It wasn’t easy.”
New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, coming off a shutout against Philadelphia on Saturday, made 24 saves to continue the Rangers’ dominance at home. New York have won seven in a row on their ice and have the best home record in the NHL at 7-1-1.
Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 26 saves in the loss.
COYOTES 4, BLACKHAWKS 1
In Chicago, Mike Smith made 24 saves as Phoenix recorded a comfortable win over Chicago.
Ray Whitney had a goal and two assists, while Daymond Langkow, Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata also scored as the Coyotes improved to 7-3-1 on the road.
Smith looked set for back-to-back shutouts until Patrick Sharp scored for Chicago with 42.9 seconds left in the game.
CANUCKS 4, BLUE JACKETS 1
In Vancouver, Cory Schneider stopped 47 shots for his fifth straight victory as Vancouver beat Columbus.
Schneider, filling in spectacularly for injured Roberto Luongo, has given up just four goals during his winning streak, including two shutouts. Daniel Sedin, David Booth, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows scored to help the Canucks win their fifth in a row.
Samuel Pahlsson had the only goal for the Blue Jackets, who lost despite outshooting the Canucks 48-34.
BLUES 2, CAPITALS 1
In Washington, Dale Hunter’s NHL coaching career began with a thud as the Capitals struggled again in a loss to St Louis.
T.J. Oshie and Matt D’Agostini scored for the Blues, who won their fourth straight game.
Nicklas Backstrom got the sole goal for the Capitals, whose attack was as ineffective under Hunter as it had been recently under fired coach Bruce Boudreau. Washington was outshot 30-19 by the stingiest defense in the NHL.
PANTHERS 3, HURRICANES 1
In Raleigh, North Carolina, Shawn Matthias scored with 3:19 left to help Florida spoil Kirk Muller’s debut as Carolina coach.
Tomas Fleischmann also scored and Matthias added an empty-netter for the Southeast Division-leading Panthers.
Jeff Skinner scored for last-place Carolina, which lost their fourth straight.