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Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Penguins 4, Rangers 3 (SO)

By Mike Hume

Recap | Box score | Photos

WHAT IT MEANS: In front of a packed house that included New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia, the Rangers started strong but faded late, losing to the injury-plagued Penguins in a shootout after jumping out to a 2-0 lead. The loss evens the season series at two games apiece, with both Penguins wins coming at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers record falls to 29-20-4.

WORKING OVERTIME: After dominating much of the third period (they outshot the Pens 11-3) and earning all of the best scoring chances in that frame, the Rangers continued to outwork their opponents in OT but couldn't find the net, leaving the Blueshirts in a shootout. In their six shootouts this season, the Rangers had posted a very solid 5-1 mark with Mats Zuccarello scoring on each of his previous shootout attempts. MZA was stopped Tuesday, and so were the Rangers, with the Pens' Dustin Jeffrey accounting for the lone goal.

WHERE'D THAT LEAD GO? Up 2-0 and looking strong early in the second period, the Rangers conceded a power play goal to Jeffrey at the 5:30 mark and another when a bouncing puck caromed off several players rushing to the net and snuck past Henrik Lundqvist, with Pittsburgh’s Michael Rupp getting credit for the goal. With 5:48 remaining in the period, a low burning slapper from Zbynek Michalek was redirected by Chris Kunitz past Lundqvist and suddenly the Rangers faced a one-goal deficit entering the third period.

BROTHERLY LOVELESS: After playing alongside his brother Eric in Sunday’s All-Star game, Marc Staal squared off against Jordan Staal Tuesday. Alongside now-healthy D partner Dan Girardi, Marc matched up against his brother’s line to start the game, wasting little time before throwing a shoulder into his younger bro in the corner of the Rangers’ zone. That was just the start of the fireworks though. After Jordan got clipped by an elbow from Brandon Prust with 4:33 left in the second period, Staal retaliated with a punch square into Prust’s face, earning the younger Staal a 5-minute match penalty and an early shower, while giving the Rangers a spark they desperately needed to get back in the game.

HELLO AGAIN: Brandon Dubinsky gave the Blueshirts a pleasant surprise this afternoon when his X-rays showed the stress fracture in his foot had healed, and he rejoined the team Tuesday. Also freshly returned to the lineup, Ryan Callahan provided a nice gift of his own when he knotted the score at 3 in the final minute of the second period. And man, did the Rangers need it.

Prior to Callahan’s goal the Blueshirts had squandered eight-plus minutes of power play time without a goal and looked particularly brutal during the five minutes following Jordan Staal’s banishment.

WHOA-LSKI: Ever since coming to New York Wojtek Wolski has produced, regardless of his playing partners. Tuesday, on a line with grinders Brian Boyle and Prust, Wolski helped stake the Rangers to a 1-0 lead with a primary assist when Prust tapped in the rebound of the winger’s wrister from the slot. Wolski now has 3 goals and 5 assists since coming to the Rangers from the Phoenix Coyotes nine games ago. (For anyone wondering, Alexander Frolov contributed 7 goals and 9 assists in 43 games before going down with a season-ending injury.) With about four minutes remaining in the first period and matched with Derek Stepan and Callahan, Wolski absolutely dogged the puck, trapping the Pens in their zone for a solid 45 seconds and ultimately earning a delay of game penalty when an exasperated Brooks Orpik backhanded the puck over the boards in a clearing attempt.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Rangers welcome in the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, Feb. 3. The once-dismal Devs have rebounded from an atrocious start to the season, winning seven of their last nine, including Ws over the Penguins, Flyers and a pair against the Southeast-leading Lightning.

More to come from the locker room.