In the immediate aftermath of the 35th game of the season, the Rangers espoused positivity. They pointed to their resiliency. They pointed to the fact they took the Eastern Conference’s premier team to the overtime and then the shootout.
What they didn’t talk about was leaving The Garden with two points.
“At this point we need to grasp any point we can,” Dan Girardi said after the Rangers’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Penguins Wednesday night. The Rangers fell to 16-17-2, and have lost five of their first six games of their franchise record nine-game homestand.
“It would be nice to get a lead at home and play with the lead. That’s the perfect scenario. But [however] we have to we’ll get the points and hopefully get a couple wins here to finish off our homestand.”
As they did in Sunday’s 4-3 shootout win over Calgary, the Rangers authored a third period comeback Wednesday. Mats Zuccarello [7:17 remaining] and Derick Brassard [1:46 left] scored goals to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 3-3 tie.
Neither team was able to score in the five-minute overtime session — the Rangers had a 4-3 power play for two minutes after Chris Kunitz was called for goaltender interference 14 seconds in. Kunitz collided with Henrik Lundqvist [29 saves], who was immediately checked on by trainer Jim Ramsay before staying in the game, and Brandon Sutter scored the only goal in a five round shootout.
“It’s a huge third period for us after what happened,” Brad Richards said.
What happened was Sutter and Pascal Dupuis scored goals in a 1:01 span of the third period to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead.
“You can’t judge your team on shootout wins and losses sometimes,” Richards said. “It’s great when you win them, and when you lose them you’ve to kind of move past it and realize the good things you did to get to that point.”
The Metropolitan Division rivals entered the third period tied, 1-1. Kunitz opened the scoring 12:44 into the second when he shoveled a power play goal under Lundqvist a split-second before being cross-checked by Michael Del Zotto.
Carl Hagelin equalized 3:09 later. Sprung by passes from Brad Richards and John Moore, Hagelin outraced Simon Despres before slipping the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury [29 saves].
Both teams were without regulars. Pittsburgh entered the game with 10 players injured, including Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik. The Penguins were also without the services of Derek Engelland and James Neal, both of whom were serving suspensions. The Rangers did not have Marc Staal [concussion] and Ryan Callahan [sprained MCL], and Alain Vigneault decided to scratch defenseman Dylan McIlrath and left wing Taylor Pyatt.
Callahan’s injury cost the captain of the Rangers an opportunity to make an impression on Penguins GM Ray Shero, who is serving as the assistant GM for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey team.
Callahan was on the silver-medal winning 2010 team, and was one of five players named to the U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey Team’s leadership council along with Dustin Brown, David Backes, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise when USA Hockey held its Olympic Orientation Camp in August at the Capitals training facility in Arlington, Va.
“We know Ryan Callahan,” Shero told Metro New York during the first intermission. “We know his body of work in the National Hockey League. We love the way he plays. He was part of that leadership group David Poile and Dan Bylsma named this summer, the five guys. But I think it’s important as to knowing the extent of the injury and how long he could be out. What we hear from the Rangers that he’s a guy who will be back in four-to-six weeks. We do expect him [to return], hopefully sometime in January, giving him plenty of time.
“We’ll have to see how he does when he comes back, if he’s going to be 100 percent. Again, with Ryan, it goes to his body of work and what we’ve seen so far because we like the player, his character and leadership and we certainly like he played in 2010.”