If the sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden has its way, Sean Avery
will be a New York Ranger for years to come.
The Garden fans chanted “Re-sign Avery! Re-sign Avery” after the free agent-to-be scored his second goal of the night early in the third period, sparking the Rangers to a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins
on Tuesday night.
Avery has recovered from wrist injuries that curtailed his season and rediscovered his scoring touch — with some help from linemate Jaromir Jagr
. He scored two goals in a game for the third time in 14 and has 10 goals in his last 15 — mostly on setups from Jagr — while providing a spark similar to the one he generated after being acquired last season.
''I know that playing with Jags, I'm going to get a lot of chances, and the ice is going to be open,'' said Avery, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. ''I've just got to get in the right position.”
The fans’ chants to bring him back felt good, too.
''Obviously you feel good any time the home fans chant something like that, for sure.,” he said.
While Avery took care of the scoring, Henrik Lundqvist
kept the Penguins at bay, making 22 stops as the Rangers shook off the effects of back-to-back losses on their trip to Florida and Tampa Bay last week.
Lundqvist earned his 100th career victory. He reached the milestone in 181 games, the fastest of any goaltender in franchise history.
"For me personally to get 100 wins in only my third season, it feels really good,” he said. “But more importantly it was a big win for us after a tough road trip. It was a good win against a really good team."
The Penguins came into the game without Sidney Crosby, who’s sidelined with a sore ankle. But they had been generating plenty of offense anyway — Pittsburgh had scored 14 goals while winning its three previous games. The loss cost the Penguins a chance to pass New Jersey for first place in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. The Rangers are third in the Atlantic with 85 points, four in back of the Penguins and five behind New Jersey, their opponent on Wednesday night in Newark.
''I feel more confident than I did yesterday,'' Jagr said. ''It wouldn't be easy to play New Jersey after losing three straight.''
In contrast to Lundqvist, Ty Conklin wasn’t in top form for the Penguins, allowing five goals on just 30 shots.
''He didn't look sharp,'' Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. ''This time of year your goalie has to be sharp, if you want to win.''
Avery scored from the right circle at 11:07 of the opening period to put the Rangers in front and Ryan Callahan made it 2-0 just 40 seconds later.
But the Penguins quieted the Garden crowd early in the second period by scoring twice in 93 seconds. Jarkko Ruutu scored on a breakaway at 1:38, capitalizing on a bad line change, and Jordan Staal tied it at 3:11 following a bad exchange between Lundqvist and Fedor Tyutin.
Rangers coach Tom Renney immediately called his timeout to settle things down.
''He wasn't happy about giving up two quick goals like that,'' Callahan said. ''The main point was just to calm down, regroup and get back to what we were doing in the first.''
Whatever Renney said worked wonders. The Rangers regained the lead just 44 seconds later when Fredrik Sjostrom stole the puck in the Penguins' zone and scored off a mini-breakaway.
Avery and Martin Straka added goals in the third period while the Rangers’ defense completely stifled the Penguins’ attack.
'We have to learn from this and start playing playoff hockey,'' Staal said. ''We've got to cut back on the mistakes. We got back into the game in the second period but we lost focus, made some bad plays. Next thing you know, it's in the back of the net.''
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.