PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Sidney Crosby was the headliner heading into Thursday night’s pivotal Atlantic Division showdown between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. Kris Letang was merely the opening act.
However, it was Letang that was the most impressive in his return from injury Thursday night at New York in a 5-2 Penguins win. Letang was on the ice for all five of Pittsburgh’s goals, recording an assist in 24 minutes, 22 seconds of ice time.
Crosby had an assist as well and was a plus-3 on the night, registering 16 minutes of ice time.
“I felt pretty good,” Crosby said, according to the team’s official website. “There is still some rust there and that will take time. I felt a little more comfortable as the game went on. To get into a game like that, a big situation with the intensity, I was happy to get that first one over with and keep going.
“I felt like (16 minutes) was a pretty good amount. That’s something that will be a progression and we’ll see how it goes.”
The Penguins inched two points closer to the Rangers, who have a game in hand on the Penguins, in the standings. Pittsburgh still sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 91 points. New York is in first place with 95 points.
The Penguins have now won 10 games in a row. The winning streak has helped close the gap with New York, which is just 5-4-1 over that span.
Matt Cooke gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead not three minutes into the first period when his shot popped up and over Rangers goaltender Martin Biron. Carl Hagelin tied the game up at the 13:36 mark, potting the puck past a sprawled out Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Penguins came out on a tear to start the second period. Evgeni Malkin scored his 39th goal of the year just over a minute in, and Cooke scored his second of the game and 14th of the season for a 3-1 lead just 2 minutes, 31 seconds in.
New York slowly shifted momentum as the period wore on and Marian Gaborik scored to climb to within 3-2 at the 14:32 mark of play.
The third period started off much like the second, as Chris Kunitz scored just three minutes in for a 4-2 lead and all the momentum.
“(Kunitz) made a great shot. I was able to generate a little bit and our power play did some good things,” Crosby said. “You always want to build when you miss this much time. You look at those things and try to build off of them.”
This time, the Rangers weren’t able to climb back into the game. Pascal Dupuis added an insurance goal for the Pens with 12 minutes, 25 seconds to play.
Fleury stopped 29 of New York’s 31 shots on the night for his 38th win of the season. He’s two wins shy of his career high of 40, which he set in the 2006-07 season.
The Penguins are in the midst of a crucial three-game road trip. They are at New Jersey Saturday at 1 p.m. and then play at Philadelphia Sunday at 12:30 p.m.