Penguins drop 2nd in a row
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NEW YORK -- The Penguins have lost two games in a row and four of their past five.
They have slipped below .500 for the first time since mid-October.
Their eye-dropper offense continues to create goals with a gestation period of anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.
But for all that has gone wrong with their season -- up to and including a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden last night -- the Penguins (6-7-1) remain in a remarkably competitive position in the Atlantic Division, just three points removed from first place.
- Game: Penguins vs. Flyers, 7 p.m.
- Where: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia.
- TV: FSN Pittsburgh.
"Nobody's running away with it, which is good," winger Mark Recchi said. "We're in the pack right now, and we've got to figure it out."
The Penguins shouldn't expect to maintain visual contact with the top of the Atlantic unless they rediscover how to generate goals with some sort of regularity. They've gotten two or fewer in six of their seven regulation losses.
"If you can get three goals, chances are you're going to win," Recchi said. "Especially, if we play the right way defensively."
That would not have been enough last night as New York -- which also has been offensively challenged for most of 2007-08 -- ran up its second-highest goal total of the season. The Rangers put four of 39 shots behind Marc-Andre Fleury, who had backed up Dany Sabourin in four of the previous five games.
Right winger Colby Armstrong, a healthy scratch for the previous three, also went back on active duty and was a physical presence all evening. He was credited with seven hits, tying teammate Brooks Orpik for the most on either team.
"I tried to get myself involved, play with that edge a little more," Armstrong said.
The Penguins were without defenseman Ryan Whitney (groin) for the fourth game in a row.
Rangers winger Sean Avery, who ended up as the game's No. 1 star, left his fingerprints all over the first period, although not necessarily because of any particular playing ability he flashed.
New York took a 1-0 lead at 7:35 when Avery missed the net with a shot from the right side, but Scott Gomez collected the carom off the backboards and threw it past a lunging Fleury, who was caught out of position after moving out of the crease to challenge Avery.
The Penguins pulled even on Sergei Gonchar's goal at 11:31, as he hammered a shot past New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist from the right point for his third of the season.
Sidney Crosby picked up an assist, extending his career-best scoring streak to 15 games.
Avery, perhaps hockey's most accomplished antagonist, seized the spotlight again at 16:32, when he goaded Penguins winger Gary Roberts into taking a high-sticking and roughing minor.
"We took a few bad penalties," coach Michel Therrien said.
During the first of Roberts' penalties, Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival was unchecked at the left side of the crease and swiped in a feed from Gomez to put New York in front to stay.
The Rangers finished the period with a 22-6 edge in shots, the final 10 of those coming while Roberts was in the penalty box.
Crosby questioned the accuracy of the stats but not the domination they reflected.
"I don't know if it was 22, but they definitely took it to us there," he said.
The Rangers got another chance with the extra man when Maxime Talbot was sent off for slashing at 9:33 of the second, and Avery capitalized just seven seconds later, lashing a slap shot over Fleury's glove from above the right dot.
New York could have put the game out of reach when it got a two-man advantage for 77 seconds late in the period but failed to exploit that opportunity.
The reprieve was short-lived for the Penguins, though, as Brandon Dubinsky shoveled a backhander past Fleury from the inner edge of the right circle at 2:48 of the third.
Recchi pulled the Penguins back within two during a power play at 4:22, when he put a shot from the right side of the crease off the inside of Lundqvist's right pad and into the net.
That ended his 14-game run without a goal, but wasn't enough to have an impact on the outcome.
"It's always nice to score," Recchi said. "But it's never any consolation when you lose."
NOTES -- Forwards Tyler Kennedy and Jarkko Ruutu were the Penguins' healthy scratches. ... Prospect John Curry made 36 saves in the 3-2 U.S victory against Germany in the Deutschland Cup tournament in Hanover, Germany. ... Fans donated 3,793 pounds of food Wednesday to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
First Published November 9, 2007 12:00 am