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Rangers take fourth in a row with four-goal third

by Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH -- Matt Cooke's aggressiveness can give the Pittsburgh Penguins just the touch of physical play they need to complement their talented scorers and kill off penalties. Sometimes however, Cooke's edge can backfire -- like it did Sunday, When Cooke drew a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct after his elbow clipped New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the head during the third period.

The penalty, as Penguins coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged, swung the game. Whether it helps swing the Eastern Conference race, only the next three-plus weeks will tell.

Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik scored power-play goals midway through the third period to rally the streaking Rangers from a one-goal deficit to a one-goal lead in a span of 11 seconds, and they went on to beat the Penguins 5-2.

In winning a fourth consecutive game for the first time in two seasons, the Rangers -- scoring four times in the third period -- went 3-0 in Pittsburgh this season. This time, they did it by taking advantage of extended penalties given to Cooke and Matt Niskanen.

The Rangers picked up two valuable points that gave them 82 and left them six points ahead of ninth-place Carolina in the Eastern Conference race. They are four points clear of Buffalo, which plays later Sunday against Nashville.

Pittsburgh scored short-handed during Cooke's penalty when Chris Kunitz beat two Rangers to the puck in the neutral zone before wristing a shot past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at 6:26 of the third. It was the Penguins' 11th short-handed goal, but it wasn't enough.

"It was a big momentum shift for us, but it just kind of went downhill from there," Jordan Staal said.

Niskanen created more power play time by drawing a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Callahan in the face and drawing blood 3:18 into Cooke's penalty, creating a 5-on-3 advantage lasting 1:42.

Gaborik went on to score his 22nd -- and fifth in five games -- with seconds remaining in the two-man advantage at 9:28. Callahan gave New York the lead by scoring at 9:39 from a bad angle along the goal line on a slap shot off Mats Zuccarello's rebound.

Gaborik scored despite seeing his ice time cut in the third by coach John Tortorella, who was displeased with how he was playing.

Callahan, by contrast, was strong throughout, getting his seventh goal in six games to give him a career-high 23 goals.

"My nose was a little sore, but it feels all better once you get the lead like that," Callahan said.

While Niskanen's infraction appeared to be unintentional, Bylsma said Cooke's was undisciplined.

"Any time you're taking a penalty like that, you're putting the team in tough spot," Bylsma said.

Cooke drew a four-game punishment last month for a hit from behind against Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin.

"I don't think you can talk about eliminating head shots in the game and not expect that to be examined," Bylsma said. "The league will look at that and treat it as such."

Last season, Cooke's hard hit on Marc Savard of Boston in early March caused Savard to miss the rest of the regular season and much of the playoffs with a concussion. Savard currently is sidelined with another concussion.

McDonagh isn't certain if Cooke targeted his head.

"I didn't see him coming. It hurt, that's for sure," said McDonagh, who was examined by a doctor before being allowed to return to the game. "I didn't see him coming at all and (he) just  got my head, just got rocked.

"I would hope it wasn't his intent. It's a tight game and I'm sure he's not trying to give his team a five-minute penalty. He's probably just trying to finish his check. He just caught me wrong."

The Rangers went to score twice more, Derek Stepan at 18:45 just after the Rangers killed off McDonagh's roughing penalty and Dubinsky into an empty net off Callahan's pass with 40 seconds remaining.

"It was pretty easy to be able to get down on ourselves and hang our heads after letting up a goal on the power play like that," Callahan said. "But to our credit we showed a lot of character by coming back and getting chances and eventually taking the lead."

The Rangers, who have scored 32 goals while going 6-0-1 in their last seven games, made it 1-0 when Artem Anisimov got open in front of the net and beat Marc-Andre Fleury from in close off Callahan's pass from the right corner 11:20 into the game.
Pittsburgh, coming off consecutive 5-1 wins over Edmonton and Ottawa, tied it 4 1/2 minutes later as Staal got loose on a breakaway set up by two long passes from Ben Lovejoy and James Neal.

Winners of four of their last five, the Penguins had plenty of chances to build on the lead while outshooting the Rangers 29-14 over the first two periods and 40-27 overall. But they couldn't convert on three power play chances as Henrik Lundqvist made 38 saves.

Lundqvist played despite having a stiff neck caused when Montreal's Benoit Pouliot ran over him late in the Rangers' 6-3 victory on Friday night, but the Rangers were without standout defenseman Marc Staal -- Jordan's brother -- due to an undisclosed injury.

"It didn't feel great but I wanted to play," Lundqvist said. "It's fun to play now and you want to be out there to help the team."

New York hadn't won four in a row since Dec. 17-23, 2009.

The Penguins, fourth in the Eastern Conference race but only a point ahead of idle Tampa Bay, play Monday night at Central Division leader Detroit.
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