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Crosby returns, Penguins down Rangers for 10th straight win

Mar 16, 2012 - 3:14 AM
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Thrust into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, Sidney Crosby made his highly-anticipated return for Pittsburgh and recorded an assist as the Penguins earned their 10th consecutive win with a 5-2 triumph over the New York Rangers.

Matt Cooke tallied twice, while Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis also lit the lamp for the Penguins, who are now four points shy of the Rangers for conference supremacy.

"It's a big win and they only get bigger from here," Crosby said. "Happy to get that first one over with and keep going."

Crosby, who's played in just eight contests over the last 14-plus months, totaled 16 minutes of ice time. The Penguins, though, have been just fine without their captain, going 26-13-1 since he last appeared in a game on December 5.

Another key Penguin who made his return was defenseman Kris Letang. He had been sidelined since late February due to a concussion. He had an assist and a game-high plus-five rating.

Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 29 shots in the win.

Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin each had a goal and an assist for New York, which has dropped four of its last six games.

Martin Biron made his second straight start in place of Henrik Lundqvist, who was out with an illness, and allowed five goals on 32 shots.

"We had some struggles on the back end as far as their quickness, and they capitalized. We had some really good scoring chances. We were gaining momentum in the second, at the end of the second, but it doesn't take them too many chances to score some goals and they certainly showed that tonight," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said.

With the game tied at one heading into the middle period, the Penguins netted two quick goals in the early stages.

After James Neal forced Ryan McDonagh to turn the disc over in his own zone, he dished to Malkin lurking in the slot and he put it home at the 1:19 mark. Just over a minute later, Tyler Kennedy found Cooke in the slot from the left circle for a successful chance and a 3-1 Penguins advantage.

The Rangers pulled within 3-2 later in the period on Gaborik's wrister from the slot.

But the Penguins pushed their lead back to two as Crosby got in on the fun in the third. From behind the net, Crosby backhanded a pass to Kunitz in the left circle, and his wrister beat Biron at the 3:01 mark.

Dupuis' wrister a bit later in the frame extended Pittsburgh's advantage to 5-2.

Cooke got the Penguins on the board quickly in the first as he followed his initial shot from the crease and put in the rebound. Hagelin tied the contest after he snapped home a loose puck in front of Fleury at 13:36.

Game Notes

Thursday marked the first time all season that the Rangers gave up five goals...The Penguins were 0-for-4 on the power play while New York didn't capitalize on its lone man advantage.