Feb 7, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Rangers left wing Benoit Pouliot (67) scores his second goal of the game against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Rangers won 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins Head Into Olympic Break With Shootout Loss To Rangers


It was bound to end at some point.

Although James Neal‘s tying goal with 2:56 to play got the Pittsburgh Penguins to overtime, they had their nine-win shootout streak stopped by the visiting New York Rangers, who grabbed a 4-3 decision Friday night at Consol Energy Center.

The Penguins, who trailed three times in regulation, hadn’t lost a shootout in exactly two years, but Mats Zuccarello and Brad Richards scored in the final two rounds of the tiebreaker, counteracting a must-have conversion by Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had stopped 12 straight shootout attempts before Zuccarello, a Norwegian Olympian, beat him between the legs in the second round.

Malkin snapped a wrister past New York’s Henrik Lundqvist to keep the Penguins (40-15-3, 83 points) alive for a moment until Richards did likewise to end the game. Benoit Pouliot was the scoring hero for the Rangers (32-24-3, 67 points) in regulation, netting a pair of goals – including a go-ahead power-play strike 9:24 into the third period.

Neal added an assist to his late goal, while seven Penguins recorded at least one point. Fleury made 38 saves in his 48th start of the season, earning a much-needed break over the next couple weeks. The NHL will go on hiatus while dozens of its athletes head to Russia to compete in the Olympic tournament.

New York appeared ready to clinch its sixth consecutive road win until rookie Pens defenseman Olli Maatta pinched into the right corner and fed Neal in front for a one-timer that got by Lundqvist to tie the game at 3.

The 19-year-old Maatta, set to join Penguins teammate Jussi Jokinen on Team Finland in Sochi, put an early stamp on the game by backhanding the rebound of Sidney Crosby‘s shot into the net at 11:43 of the first.

The goal, Maatta’s sixth, was the first of two tallies for the league’s top power-play unit, tying it up after Pouliot scored 64 seconds into the game.

Pittsburgh also owned the NHL’s best penalty killing percentage entering the game (87.8), but the Rangers ended a streak of 27 straight kills on home ice when defenseman Dan Girardi gunned a long-range blast behind Fleury 34 seconds into the middle period.

The Pens used their special teams to get even eight minutes later, as Malkin and Neal dished the puck back and forth before Malkin overpowered Lundqvist with a power-play slap shot from the right circle at 8:29, the Russian Olympian’s 18th goal.

But Pouliot made it two goals in five New York power plays with his 11th of the season midway through the third, taking advantage of a rebound off the end boards. Still, the Rangers couldn’t claim a 60-minute victory despite outshooting Pittsburgh 40-29 in regulation.

BOX SCORE

The Penguins will resume play after the Olympics on Thursday, Feb. 27, when they host Montreal.

Notes: The seven Penguins heading to Sochi – Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Malkin, Jokinen, Maatta, Brooks Oprik and Paul Martin – were honored on the ice before the game…Kris Letang, who was determined to have suffered a minor stroke last week, missed his fifth straight game while Taylor Pyatt sat out his second in a row with a lower-body injury. Chuck Kobasew was a healthy scratch…Pittsburgh has gone 15-1-1 at home since late October.

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Tags: Evgeni Malkin James Neal Olli Maatta Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Pivot

    The Pens tied it up late to get to overtime and the score was close but the Rangers dominated this entire game in terms of Corsi & Fenwick events. Owning a 60+% advantage in both titles. Even strength close (+- 2 goals) the Rangers controlled the play. If the Rangers didn’t put the pens on the PP. This game would have been over in the 2nd period. The NY Rangers are a force in the East. Though the NHL will recognize the Pens & Bruins. It’s the Rangers that are getting scoring from all 4 lines. The line of Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarelo that gave the Pens fits is the 3rd line. Those 3 play together on the 2nd PP unit. The Pens don’t have enough scoring outside of the top 2 lines. The Rangers roll all 4 lines.

    • Matt Gajtka

      Rangers seem like they are feeling good about their new coach and his system. Slow start but I agree they would be a challenging opponent in the second round perhaps.

      • Pivot

        The DThey have the ability to roll 4 lines and are top 3 in the East in puck possession. The East goes through the Pens & Bruins but the Rangers are the 3rd best team in the Conference right now. The Bruins don’t have the 4 line depth they once did, and the loss of Sidenburg is a huge loss. While Chara is getting up there in the years. The Pens have had a full season of Malkin & Crosby for the first time in a while.

  • Pivot

    I don’t understand why the Pens keep going with the same Defense and goaltending. Fleury went to see a sport shrink last summer. He is have a career regular season. Let’s see if he doesn’t go all Luongo on the ice and Volkun is a nice backup but will not make the 2-3 big saves a team needs to go all the way through the playoffs.