Penguins stage comeback, beat Rangers, 4-2
Penguins forward Chris Conner celebrates his first period goal with teammates Sidney Crosby, rear, and Pascal Dupuis during last night's game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Penguins won, 4-2.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes a glove save against as Rangers forward Sean Avery moves in.
Penguins forward Chris Conner celebrates his second goal of the game in the third period.
Penguins forward Chris Conner his second goal of the game with teammate Sidney Crosby.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury watches the puck enter the goal during the second period.
Penguins forward Jordan Staal plays the puck in front of his brother, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Penguins forward Sidney Crosby.
Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar battles for the puck against Rangers defensemen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal.
Penguins forward Sidney Crosby and Rangers forward Artem Anisimov battle for control of the puck.
Rangers forward Artem Anisimov celebrates his second goal of the game with teammates Michael Del Zotto and Enver Lisin in the third period.
Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy dives for the puck against Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and forward Sidney Crosby defend the net against Rangers forward Ryan Callahan.
Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar is checked along the boards by Rangers forward Donald Brashear.
Penguins forawrd Chris Conner celebrates his first period goal at with teammates Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis as Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi skates away.
Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist defend the net against Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin during the third period.
Penguins forward Ruslan Fedotenko skates past Rangers forwards Ryan Callahan and Vaclav Prospal during the third period.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Sergei Gonchar defend the net against Rangers forward Artem Anisimov during the second period.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist watches the puck as Penguins Chris Conner celebrates a goal during the first period.
Rangers forward Brian Boyle has the puck poked away by Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury as defenseman Jay McKee gives chase.
Rangers forward Ryan Callahan controls the puck in front of Penguins forward Sidney Crosby.
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NEW YORK -- Chris Conner would have been happy to settle for a bit less.
To take a dozen or so solid shifts, make a few good defensive plays, maybe show a little creativity in the offensive zone
And maybe -- just maybe -- to pick up a point, if things really broke his way.
Well, whether this was how he planned it or not, Conner became the star of the Penguins' 4-2 victory Monday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, scoring two goals just hours after being recalled from their American Hockey League team in Wilkes-Barre.
Conner was summoned from the Baby Penguins because Bill Guerin, who usually mans the right side on Sidney Crosby's line, was unable to play because of an undisclosed injury.
Conner not only took Guerin's spot in the lineup, but slipped into his place on Crosby's line and did his best to give management reason to at least reconsider any plans it had to ship him back to the AHL at the earliest opportunity.
For while Conner isn't a threat to bump Guerin out of his spot alongside Crosby, he reinforced the idea that he's capable of contributing at this level.
"He worked really hard, and got some good results," Crosby said.
The victory was the Penguins' third in their past four games and raised their record to 33-20-1. They trail first-place New Jersey by two points in the Atlantic Division, although the Devils have four games in hand.
The Penguins, already playing without Guerin, fellow forward Max Talbot and defenseman Alex Goligoski because of injuries, lost right winger Eric Godard early in the first period.
He hobbled off the ice with an unspecified injury after his only shift. There was no immediate word on the nature or severity of his problem.
While Conner deflected much of the credit for his performance to the guys who played with him -- "I got some good bounces there, and played with some great players" -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma noted that while Conner was in Dallas, he occasionally played alongside Mike Modano, so he has some experience at working with elite linemates.
And it was evident early that Conner was comfortable in such a role, as he took a feed from Crosby and beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist from just inside the left dot at 2:47 of the opening period on the Penguins' first shot of the game.
That lead held up until 13:04 of the second period, when Artem Anisimov beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from near the left hash. The goal was Anisimov's first in 18 games, and the first for the Rangers in a span of 156 minutes, 32 seconds.
The game, though, actually turned in the Penguins' favor when Anisimov gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 9:15 of the third.
Fleury, who made 28 saves in his first start in five games, actually put the puck into the net on that goal. Anisimov's shot got past Fleury by the left post, but didn't make it across the goal line until Fleury nudged it with his skate.
"I was on my post, and they kept poking at my feet," Fleury said. "You can't hold your feet [still when that happens.]"
That could have been a significant setback for the Penguins, but instead proved to be an inspiration.
New York winger Marian Gaborik was sent off for slashing 15 seconds after Anisimov scored, and just 16 seconds later, Evgeni Malkin pounded a slap shot past Lundqvist from the top of the right circle to tie the score.
Precisely one minute later, Conner flipped in a Crosby rebound from the bottom of the left circle for what proved to be the winner.
"That [second Anisimov goal] could have been something that deflated us a bit, and it didn't," Crosby said. "We came out hard."
Pascal Dupuis added an empty-net goal with 39.8 seconds left in regulation, but the game actually had been put away when the Penguins seized control after falling behind, 2-1.
"Nobody got down," Fleury said. "Everybody kept going."
Nobody more than Conner, who earned recognition as the game's No. 1 star and manufactured a memory that hadn't fully sunk in a few minutes after the game ended.
"I don't know if it ever will," he said. "But it was fun."
First Published January 26, 2010 12:00 am