PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins have been stellar at home this season and unbeatable in shootouts for two years.
The New York Rangers brushed all that aside and played well enough to head into the Olympic break on a winning note.
“We deserved this win with the way that we played the whole game,” said New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped two of three shots he faced in the shootout. “I don’t know if it was desperation, but we understood how important this game was. We have a long break here and you definitely want to end it the right way.”
The Penguins had won all four of their previous shootouts this season and 14 of the past 15 overall. Their most recent loss was two years ago to the day against Montreal.
Zuccarello, the second New York shooter in the tiebreaker, tucked a backhand under the pads of Fleury - who had not allowed a shootout goal all season. Evgeni Malkin beat Lundqvist to extend the game before Richards flipped a shot past Fleury to end it.
Lundqvist made 26 saves, running his winning streak to five games.
“We played a real solid game,” Richards said. “We played hard. They’re going to get goals sometimes, that stuff happens, but we gave ourselves a chance to win.”
James Neal tied it for Pittsburgh with 2:56 left in regulation. It was Neal’s 20th goal of the season and third in three games.
The final game day before the Olympic break for both teams began on a somewhat somber note when the Penguins announced that Kris Letang will be out at least six weeks because of a stroke. Letang, who has been put on blood thinners, also was found to have a small hole in his heart.
“No one expects to hear something like that,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who like the rest of his teammates was informed Friday morning about Letang’s condition. “It’s not something you typically hear about a guy who takes as good care as he does of himself. It was a surprise, but from what we heard, he’s well taken care of and has got it under control.”
Without their top defenseman for the fifth straight game, Pittsburgh allowed 41 shots on goal and had a rare weak penalty-killing effort. The Penguins lost for only the second time in their last 18 home games, ending a five-game home winning streak against the Rangers that dated to 2012.