New York at Pittsburgh

Hot Fleury, Crosby line lead Pens past Rangers, into first


PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin skated off the ice with a nasty gash on his left cheek, a souvenir from a game that was better suited for May than for March. For the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are close to full strength for the first time in weeks, the playoffs already seem to have arrived.

Sidney Crosby set up goals by Marian Hossa and Malkin and the Penguins, on the verge of clinching their division, moved into first place in the Eastern Conference by beating the penalty-prone New York Rangers 3-1 on Sunday.

The Rangers, missing an opportunity to move into fifth place in the conference, controlled much of the play during the final two periods but couldn't score in the final 56 minutes as goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 of 27 shots.

The Penguins, closing out an unbeaten March at home and winning their 10th in 13 games, moved ahead of idle Montreal 99-98 in the conference race with three games remaining for each team. The Penguins need to win only once in their final three games to clinch their first division title in 10 years, and can do so as early as their rematch with the Rangers in Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

"I can't wait for about 10 days, to start this thing (the playoffs)," said Max Talbot, who scored in the final minute. "It's good that it's all (division) games like this until the end of the season. Every little play can change the game and that's playoff hockey, and that's what we're in right now."

One more victory gives the Penguins 101 points, a total that only one division rival, New Jersey, could match. However, the Devils can't surpass the Penguins in victories -- the first tiebreaker -- unless Pittsburgh loses its final three and New Jersey wins its last four. The Penguins won the season series from New Jersey 4-3-1.

"We control our own destiny to win the conference," Ryan Whitney said. "If we can win out, we finish first in the conference and that's been our goal all year."

Malkin, second in the league in scoring with 104 points, left briefly after being cut on the left cheek by Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky's skate with 6 minutes remaining in the second period, but returned for the third period.

"I saw that big cut, and that's really scary -- it's really close to his eye," Crosby said. "But he came back and got away with only some stitches."

"He didn't do it intentional," Malkin said. "He said it was an accident and he was sorry about that."

Pittsburgh was 1-for-8 on the power play, but Rangers coach Tom Renney said all those penalties were disruptive during only the third regulation loss in 21 games for his team. However, the Rangers have five overtime losses during that stretch.

"What we don't want to do is have the power play suck the life out of you," Renney said.

Dubinsky scored on a power-play goal set up by Jaromir Jagr with 3:03 gone. Hossa, finally playing a full game on Crosby's line, tied it midway through the first with his 29th goal. Crosby used a spin move to create an opening along the goal line to pass to Pascal Dupuis, who fed the puck to Hossa.

Hossa, acquired from Atlanta in a trading deadline deal to strengthen Crosby's line, couldn't get on the ice with Crosby for weeks due to Hossa's knee injury and Crosby's ankle sprain. Even when they finally played together Thursday against the Islanders, Hossa missed part of the game with a head and neck injury.

"Yeah, it's been kind of tough," Crosby said. "But we're going to continue to get better, I think. The chemistry's there, we've just got to make sure we take advantage of our chances."

With Pittsburgh on a 5-on-3 power play, Malkin scored his 46th late in the first to make it 2-1 on a 40-foot slap shot off Sergei Gonchar's pass. Malkin trails Washington's Alex Ovechkin 109-104 in the scoring race.

"The story of the game to me was penalties," the Rangers' Brendan Shanahan said. "Half of our offensive forwards kill penalties, the other sit on the bench and get cold. Either way you have half the team tired, the other half cold."

After that, the Penguins turned the game over to Fleury, who is 13-1 in his last 14 decisions despite sitting out nearly three months with a badly sprained ankle.

"Every puck seems to be hitting him," Whitney said. "He's really carrying us right now."

There was a slight possibility this was the 421st and last game in Pittsburgh for the 36-year-old Jagr, who won the Stanley Cup during his first two NHL seasons with the Penguins in 1990-91 and 1991-92. While Jagr is all but certain to become a free agent, he has downplayed reports he might not play in the NHL next season if it's not with the Rangers or that he might return to Russia, where he played during the NHL lockout season in 2004-05.

Notes: The Penguins are 7-0 at home this month. ... Pittsburgh's final two games are against Philadelphia. ... Malkin has four goals in his last two home games against the Rangers. ... Pittsburgh is 9-0-2 at home since Feb. 13.

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
Sidney Crosby watches Evgeni Malkin's shot slip past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.  (Getty Images)
Sidney Crosby watches Evgeni Malkin's shot slip past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. (Getty Images)
NY Rangers (40-27-11)1001
Pittsburgh  (46-26-7) «2013
Three Stars
E. Malkin

Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
S. Crosby

Goals: 0
Assist(s): 2
M. Fleury

Saves: 26
Save Pct.: .963

Related Video

Scoring Summary
03:03Power Play - Brandon Dubinsky (14), Slap Shot. Assist: Jaromir Jagr, Christian Backman
10:21Marian Hossa (29), Slap Shot. Assist: Pascal Dupuis, Sidney Crosby
17:56Power Play - Evgeni Malkin (46), Slap Shot. Assist: Sergei Gonchar, Sidney Crosby
19:13Maxime Talbot (11), Slap Shot. Assist: Jordan Staal, Rob Scuderi
Penalty Summary
01:16Gill, 2 min, Hooking
11:05Prucha, 2 min, Roughing
16:10Tyutin, 2 min, Hooking
17:28Sjostrom, 2 min, Slashing
40.0Hossa, 2 min, Hooking
05:49Kennedy, 2 min, Holding
14:07Jagr, 2 min, Hooking
14:07Letang, 5 min, Fighting
14:07Staal, 5 min, Fighting
18:11Rozsival, 2 min, Interference
04:14Gomez, 2 min, High-Sticking
10:48Straka, 2 min, Tripping
14:54Letang, 2 min, Cross-Checking
19:29Mara, 2 min, Holding
Shots On Goal
New York711927
Henrik Lundqvist60:00173
Marc-Andre Fleury59:53261
Power Play Conversions
Power Play
NY Rangers1-for-2
Game Information
Attendance - 17020
Referees - Wes McCauley, Brad Watson
Linesmen - Jean Morin, Dan Schachte
Other Games
Bos 1 Final
Buf 2
Nash 0 Final
Det 1
Pho 1 Final
SJ 3
Colu 4 Final
Chi 5
Dal 2 Final
Ana 3
Cal 2 Final
Van 6
Colo 2 Final
Min 3