Penguins win streak hits 10, Crosby gets assist in first game back
Sidney Crosby celebrates with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden tonight.
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NEW YORK -- The Penguins' winning streak is still alive.
So are their hopes of finishing first in the Eastern Conference.
They defeated the New York Rangers, 5-2, at Madison Square Garden tonight for their 10th consecutive victory, matching the longest in the NHL this season.
They also climbed to within four points of the Rangers, on whom they have a game in hand.
They lead the season series, 3-2, and will play New York one more time, April 5 at Consol Energy Center.
Center Sidney Crosby, who had not played since Dec. 5 because of concussion-like symptoms and a soft-tissue injury in his neck, and defenseman Kris Letang, who missed five games with concussion-like symptoms, returned to the Penguins' lineup.
Crosby earned an assist, giving him 13 points in eight games this season.
While the Penguins had their lineup of choice intact for one of the few times this season, New York played without its No. 1 goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, as well as injured forward Ryan Callahan and defenseman Michael Del Zotto.
Crosby stepped onto the ice for the first time with about two minutes gone in the game, and the Penguins had a 1-0 lead when he returned to the bench.
Matt Cooke got his 13th of the season at 2:54, when he shot his own rebound toward the Net York net from the slot. The puck appeared to hit and stick and float over goalie Martin Biron, then strike the crossbar and hit Rangers defenseman Stu Bickel before dropping over the goal line.
Tyler Kennedy got the only assist on Cooke's goal.
New York pulled even at 13:36, when Carl Hagelin capped a scramble in front by throwing a shot past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Evgeni Malkin put the Penguins back on top, 2-1, at 1:19 of the second, after some excellent work by James Neal along the boards.
Neal hounded Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and eventually stole the puck from him, then threw it to Malkin in front. It took two tries, but Malkin eventually tapped it across the goal line for his 39th.
Cooke got his second of the game at 2:31, steering a Kennedy feed past Biron.
Jordan Staal got the second assist, running his career-best scoring streak to nine games. That ties Evgeni Malkin's team-high for the season.
The Rangers got back into the game at 13:32, when Marian Gaborik beat Fleury from the slot to make it 3-2.
Chris Kunitz expanded the Penguins' comfort zone at 3:01 of the third, as he took a pass from Crosby, who was behind the goal line, and beat Biron from the left dot for his 21st.
The goal, which came six seconds after a Penguins power play expired, also netted an assist for Neal.
Pascal Dupuis put the game out of reach at 7:35, when he swatted a Letang rebound past Biron for his 19th.
The Penguins will visit New Jersey Saturday at 1:08 p.m.
First Published March 15, 2012 9:45 pm