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New York 4, Pittsburgh 1

11/28/2003

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Don't count linemate Alexei Kovalev among
those surprised by Martin Rucinsky's recent scoring surge.

"I always thought he was a great player," Kovalev said after
Rucinsky had two goals and an assist in the New York Rangers' 4-1
victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night. "A lot of
people say, 'He can't play without good hockey players with him,'
but who can?

"He's got speed and ability, and he's having one of those
seasons."

Rucinsky, a four-time 20-goal scorer with Montreal, hasn't had
more than 16 goals in the last three seasons. But he has eight
points during the Rangers' four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1),
including a four-point game Nov. 23 against Ottawa.

His seven goals and 18 points in 23 games put him on pace to
easily surpass the 16 goals and 30 points he managed in St. Louis
last season.

"We're not a one-man line or a two-man line," Rucinsky said of
playing beside Kovalev and center Bobby Holik, each of whom had two
assists. "If two are working and the third person is not, it's not
going to work for us.

"We work together well. We're kind of building some chemistry
with each other."

After Rucinsky converted a Kovalev pass from behind the net for
his second goal at 3:34 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie,
Eric Lindros and Brian Leetch added goals for New York, which has
lost only once in the last seven games (3-1-3).

New York's Jussi Markkanen made 20 saves to extend his unbeaten
streak to four games (3-0-1) as the Rangers beat the Penguins for
the second time this season.

Kovalev, playing his first game in Pittsburgh since being traded
from the Penguins last February, extended his scoring streak to six
games when he threw a cross-ice pass from the right corner to
Rucinsky. He tapped the puck in at 14:56 of the first period.

Rico Fata, one of the players acquired from the Rangers in the
trade for Kovalev, scored his team-leading eighth goal at 8:17 of
the second period with a slap shot from the top of the right circle
on the power play.

But the Rangers killed off the next four Pittsburgh power plays
while scoring the final three goals of the game.

"We battled hard for 40 minutes," said Pittsburgh's Martin
Straka. "We got some good chances on the power play but we just
couldn't finish them off."

After Rucinsky's second goal, Lindros scored a goal for the
second consecutive game just 3:29 later when he poked the puck past
Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury after Fleury stopped a shot
by Jan Hlavac.

Fleury, the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, turned 19 on Friday
but lost his sixth consecutive decision.

Rucinsky also assisted on Leetch's short-handed goal with 3:45
to play.

"I thought the team played very well, and they played with
composure when Pittsburgh came back and made it 1-1," said New
York coach Glen Sather. "It could have been easy to make mistakes
at that time and start scrambling."

Game notes
The Rangers scratched forward Anson Carter and defensemen
Joel Bouchard and Dale Purinton. Carter, who was slashed on the
right wrist Wednesday against Florida, missed his first game this
season. ... The Penguins scratched LW Ramzi Abid and C Brian
Holzinger. ... The crowd of 15,908 was the Penguins' first in nine
home games to surpass 11,300. ... The Rangers' roster features six
former Penguins: Kovalev, Bouchard, Kasparaitis, Petr Nedved, Dan
Lacouture and Matthew Barnaby. ... New York is in the midst of an
11-game stretch in which it plays nine on the road.