Crosby had a goal and three assists to close within three points of becoming the youngest player to have a 100-point season in the NHL, and the Pittsburgh Penguins further stalled the Rangers' bid to win their first division title since 1994 with a 5-3 victory Thursday night.
"He's playing well and he's hungry," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said of Crosby, who is surging with 17 points in seven games.
The Rangers should have had plenty of motivation - they stayed three points ahead of the Flyers, who lost 4-1 to New Jersey, in an Atlantic Division race that could be decided when the teams play Saturday in Philadelphia.
But until they tried to rally from a 4-1 deficit in the third period with two quick scores, the Rangers didn't look like a team desperate to wrap up the division as they lost their third in a row.
Maybe that's why coach Tom Renney held a team meeting after the game.
"It's time to circle the wagons and explain to everyone we must be better," Renney said. "I'm disappointed in what we have chosen to do here in the last few games and I don't like that. There's a lot at stake here."
Equally disappointed was NHL scoring leader Jaromir Jagr, who got his team-record 54th goal midway through the first but didn't do much else.
"We've had such a great year and we don't want to give it away," Jagr said. "Why? It just happened. We're not happy with the way we played. We have to play better in the playoffs and we have two games to go to get us there."
The Penguins, last in the NHL overall standings, had won a league-low 20 games and only 10 at home before rookie Colby Armstrong had two goals and an assist and Sergei Gonchar continued his strong late-season play with a goal and an assist.
Armstrong also set up Crosby's 38th goal to put the Penguins ahead 2-1 early in the second. Gonchar scored his 11th on a power play in the second and assisted on Michel Ouellet's 16th goal as the Penguins avoided their first four-game losing streak to the Rangers since 1997.
Crosby had two or more points for the eighth time in 10 games and, with three games remaining, must average one per game to join Hall of Fame forward Dale Hawerchuk as the only 18-year-olds to score 100 points in an NHL season. He also would become the seventh rookie, including Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, with 100 in a season.
"But, to me, if I had 97 points or 93 after tonight, it's not a big difference," Crosby said. "It would be nice to get that, but we'll see what happens. I don't think my mindset will change after tonight."
Hawerchuk had 103 points for the Winnipeg Jets in the 1982-83 season, when he was 100 days older than Crosby is now. Crosby was the youngest to reach 90 points and now could become the youngest to 100.
"He doesn't like to talk about it," said Armstrong, who is Crosby's road roommate. "He wants to focus on playing. But it would be a great accomplishment for an 18-year-old kid - and, with all the things we've been through this season, it's great we still have something to shoot for."
Jagr's goal represented his league-high 122nd point and came midway through the first to put the Rangers up 1-0. Jagr executed an exceptional inside-out move to fool Marc-Andre Fleury while skating in from the top of the right circle and beating the goalie with a backhander. Fleury made 21 saves.
After that, the Penguins scored four consecutive goals.
"You can't underestimate anyone," Rangers goalie Kevin Weekes said. "There's never a good time for a game like this but tonight was a worse time than most."
Weekes started his sixth game in a row for injured rookie Henrik Lundqvist (hip flexor).
Gonchar made it 3-1 later in the period with the first of consecutive power-play goals for Pittsburgh, and Armstrong later scored his 14th and 15th of the season, with Crosby assisting on each.
Notes: Crosby finished the season series, won by the Rangers 5-3, with five goals and four assists. Jagr had seven goals and four assists. ... Crosby confirmed he will play for Canada in the world championships May 5-21 in Latvia. Crosby has said for weeks he expected to play. ... Gonchar has five points in two games and 15 points in his last 10 games.
|Jaromir Jagr (54) ASST: Petr Prucha (17), Michael Nylander (56)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Michel Ouellet (16) ASST: Sergei Gonchar (46)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Sidney Crosby (38) ASST: Colby Armstrong (20), Andy Hilbert (12)|
2 - 1 PIT
|PPG - Sergei Gonchar (11) ASST: Ryan Whitney (28), Sidney Crosby (57)|
3 - 1 PIT
|PPG - Colby Armstrong (14) ASST: Andy Hilbert (13), Sidney Crosby (58)|
4 - 1 PIT
|Petr Sykora (23) ASST: Jason Ward (17), Sandis Ozolinsh (14)|
4 - 2 PIT
|PPG - Marcel Hossa (9) ASST: Fedor Tyutin (19), Michal Rozsival (24)|
4 - 3 PIT
|Colby Armstrong (15) ASST: Sidney Crosby (59), Ryan Whitney (29)|
5 - 3 PIT
|Michal Rozsival Hi-sticking against Sidney Crosby|
|Andy Hilbert Hooking against Petr Sykora|
|Sandis Ozolinsh Hooking against Ryan Malone|
|Blair Betts Holding against Sidney Crosby|
|Jaromir Jagr Hi-sticking against Colby Armstrong|
|Jed Ortmeyer Interference against Ryan Whitney|
|Ryan Malone Tripping against Jaromir Jagr|