With the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins tied at one apiece early in the third period, Matt Cooke laid a vicious elbow to the face of Ryan McDonagh, leading to a game misconduct and five-minute Rangers powerplay. The only problem was that about two minutes into the man advantage, the Chris Kunitz ripped a top-corner wristshot to put the Penguins ahead, 2-1.
Then Matt Niskanen took a four-minute high sticking penalty 1:28 later on Ryan Callahan and the power play finally clicked when it had to. Two power play goals within 11 seconds of each other were a part of a four-goal scoring explosion for the Rangers in the third period as they defeated the East's fourth-best team, 5-2, and won for the fourth time in a row.
While Henrik Lundqvist was able to play in today's game after the brutal collision with Benoit Pouliot, Marc Staal was missing from the lineup with an "undisclosed injury." The Penguins may have outshot the Rangers, 40-27, with a 19-7 advantage in the second period, but the Rangers' defense was relatively sound all day, only allowing shots from the outside and protecting the front of the net. Not enough can be said for Lundqvist's effort today; the Rangers went ahead in the first period on an Artem Anisimov goal to only see it disappear on a defensive coverage breakdown to Jordan Staal, but Lundqvist kept the Rangers in it. The two goals scored against him cannot be blamed on him. It's cliche, but it's performances like these that playoff-bound teams need from their goaltenders, just to keep them afloat until their own goals find the back of the net.
Marian Gaborik slapped in a rebound on the Rangers' first power play goal and Callahan -- after getting cut on the bridge of his nose by Niskanen -- fired home the second one from a very tough angle. After his time in the penalty box expired, McDonagh took a loose puck on a partial breakaway, but was stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury. However, his fellow Wisconsin teammate, Derek Stepan, followed up the rebound and banged home the rebound at 18:45. Brandon Dubinsky scored the empty-net goal.
Anisimov now has 18 goals, Gaborik 22, Callahan 23, Stepan 19 and Dubinsky 21.
The Rangers are now three points behind sixth-place Montreal, who has played one less game. The Blueshirts are four points ahead of Buffalo, who has two games in hand.