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Markkanen leads NY with 40 saves

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- There were too many former Pittsburgh players
wearing the Rangers' blue shirts for New York to let up against the
bottom-dwelling Penguins.

Mark Messier set up the Rangers' first two goals and Jussi Markkanen withstood a penalty shot and a sizable Pittsburgh shots
advantage to lead New York past the Penguins 4-1 Saturday.

"If it hadn't been for Jussi, then we probably could have lost
the game," Rangers coach Glen Sather said of Markkanen, who
stopped 40 shots. "He played very well, stopped a couple of
breakaways, stopped a penalty shot. He was real sharp."

Two excellent passes by Messier created goals by former Penguins
forwards Dan LaCouture in the first period and Petr Nedved in the
second to help the Rangers close a 3-1 road trip that began with
victories in Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Bobby Holik had a goal and an assist in the final 5½ minutes
after Pittsburgh had cut it to 2-1.

"Pittsburgh plays hard, and we knew they would come back,"
LaCouture said. "We wanted to get back (to a multiple-goal lead)
as quickly as we could."

The Rangers have won three straight in Pittsburgh dating to last
season, the first time that's happened since they won their final
game there in the 1983-84 season and their first two in the 1984-85
season.

New York sent a not-so-subtle message in the opening minute that
it wouldn't be distracted by the Penguins' unimposing 9-22-5-3
record when Eric Lindros leveled defenseman Dan Focht with a hard but
clean check into the boards. Focht left with an apparent
concussion.

Not only did the Penguins not respond to Lindros' physical play,
they appeared to back off. Less than a minute later, LaCouture
scored only his second goal of the season off Messier's on-the-tape pass
with 1:50 gone.

Alexei Kovalev, another of the five former Penguins who played
for New York, cut across the middle and fed Messier in the right
circle, and Messier found LaCouture driving to the net.

"I got a great pass," LaCouture said.

Pittsburgh, losing its third afternoon game in four days, had a
chance to get back in it when the Rangers -- the NHL's
most-penalized team -- spent most of the second half of the period
killing three penalties.

But the Penguins didn't come close to getting the puck past
Markkanen during that stretch. The Rangers' backup also kept the
Rangers up 1-0 midway through the second, cleanly stopping Eric Meloche's penalty shot awarded when Boris Mironov pulled down
Meloche on a short-handed breakaway.

"He's on top of the puck right now," Holik said of Markkanen,
who had two of the Rangers' three victories on the road trip.
"When you're on top of it, the rebounds don't lay there in front
of you and get (knocked) in ... he's pushing it to the corners or
out."

On the first penalty shot by a Penguins player at home since
Martin Straka scored against St. Louis on Jan. 19, 2000, Markkanen
immediately came out of the net to challenge Meloche. Rather than
putting on a move to go around the goalie, he shot directly into
the pads.

"Alexei gave me a heads-up and said he might go to the 5-hole
and that's why I covered there," said Markkanen, who improved to
7-4-1.

Meloche didn't intend to try to go between the goalie's pads.

"The ice wasn't very good and I played a different shot than I
wanted to," Meloche said. "I wanted to go under him and get it
behind him. But the puck started to bounce on me and I just felt if
he went back any further, I could go it through the 5-hole."

Meloche, playing his fourth game since being called up from the
minors, did make it 2-1 with 6½ minutes remaining when he took Tom Kostopoulos' up-ice pass to beat Markkanen while skating down the
slot. Markkanen turned aside the other 40 shots he faced as
Pittsburgh led 41-27 in shots.

The Penguins also couldn't get the puck past Markkanen despite
having a 5-on-3 advantage for two minutes early in the third
period.

Bobby Holik's heads-up play restored the Rangers' two-goal lead
just over a minute after Meloche's goal as he stole the puck off
Caron's stick as the goalie tried to play the puck behind the net
and fed Jed Ortmeyer in front of the abandoned net for his second
of the season. Holik also scored an empty-net goal with 10 seconds
remaining.

Game notes
Penguins D Dick Tarnstrom (flu) missed the game. ... Pittsburgh has the worst intraconference record in the Eastern Conference, 5-17-5-2. ... Kovalev doesn't have a power play goal
after scoring 11 last season with the Penguins and Rangers. ... The
Rangers are 3-0 against the Penguins this season.