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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Henrik Lundqvist stops 50 shots, but Rangers fall in OT

NEW YORK – Henrik Lundqvist proved to Sidney Crosby and the Penguins why he, too, has an Olympic gold medal. And that he won’t shy away from chippy play.

But despite his brilliant play, the Rangers still lost, 5-4, in overtime as they gave up a season high 55 shots – they were outshot 19-1 in the third period and held without a shot in overtime – and Lundqvist made a career high 50 saves. The Rangers, playing without leading scorer Marian Gaborik (groin) for the third straight game, took a season-low 16 shots.

Evgeni Malkin scored the winner at 3:42 of overtime, trickling a shot past Lundqvist, who led Sweden to the gold in 2006 and engaged in a game-long skirmish with Crosby, the Canadian hero for his overtime golden goal against Team USA this year.

The Rangers (29-27-8) had a three-winning streak snapped and lost for the fifth time in six games to the Penguins (38-22-4).

Among the better of Lundqvist’s saves came when he smothered Malkin’s deflection in the slot at 6:30 of the third period and the Rangers maintaining a one-goal lead. Midway through overtime he gloved Malkin’s blast with the Penguins on a power play and Chris Drury having lost his stick.

Alex Goligoski had tied the game at 4-4 at 11:59 of the third on a sharp-angle shot from the left that deflected in off defenseman Marc Staal’s skate.

The Rangers got their only shot in the third period by Olli Jokinen at 15:23.

It was the first game back at the Garden since the Olympics and the participants were honored during the first period, with Crosby booed loudly.

The expected animosity toward the Penguins captain only grew after an incident with Lundqvist at 4:10 of the first period. Crosby slid into the boards after contact with Staal, who was called for interference.

Lundqvist skated behind his net to say something to Crosby after the apparent dive and Crosby responded by shoving his stick into Lundqvist’s chest, drawing a cross-checking penalty and prompting Brandon Dubinsky to attack Crosby.

Their battle continued at 3:12 of the third period after Lundqvist gloved a shot. Crosby skated by the crease and tapped Lundqvist’s pads and the goalie missed a swipe at Crosby with his stick. Lundqvist also took a light swing at Crosby as he skated past the crease on an offsides at 8:12 of the third period.

The Penguins took 11 of the game’s first 13 shots but the first period ended in a 2-2 tie after Drury’s power play goal at 14:39. Drury battled for the puck at the crease after Michael Del Zotto’s shot was blocked and was able to slip a backhander past Marc-Andre Fleury’s right pad after going to his knees.

Fleury was pulled at 12:49 of the second period after allowing four goals on 12 shots. Brandon Dubinsky gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead when his power play blast from the left faceoff circle hit off the far post and rebounded in off Fleury’s back.

Mike Rupp brought the Penguins within 4-3 at 14:23 off an odd-man rush with Crosby.

Drury said before the game he wasn’t thinking much about seeing Crosby again so soon after the Olympics. But he is a strong advocate of the NHL’s continued participation in the Games.

“I don’t see how you couldn’t after that,” Drury said.

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