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Matt Cooke Penalty Costs Pens the Game: Rangers Win 5-2

A lot can be said about momentum in hockey.  Often times the spark is centered on one particular play or, in today's case, a penalty.

Prior to Matt Cooke connecting his elbow to Ryan McDonagh's chin, both teams were tied up at one apiece.  Granted Chris Kunitz was quick to add a shorthanded goal, but the five-minute power play still provided the Rangers' with plenty of time to turn things around on their own.  Combine that with another four minutes for a Matt Niskanen high stick on Ryan Callahan, and it came as no surprise to see New York shift momentum in their favor with two goals, taking a 3-2 lead.  At that point it all went to hell, as Derek Stepan added another and Brandon Dubinsky closed it out with an empty netter to finish the Pens off.

As if Cooke needs another reason to get under the skin of Rangers fans.  There was of course that hit on Artem Anisimov from two years back that resulted in a two-game suspension.  Now we have to sit and wonder not only how long Cooke will likely serve for this one, but also if his actions will result in him being made an example of under the new head shot rules.

Once again the power-play is a major cause of concern for the Pens, as it was held scoreless on three attempts today.  And while we're on the topic of special teams, the penalty kill was burned on two of three chances today. 

Yet despite all that, the Rangers remain the team in this matchup that is still fighting for a playoff position.  In head-to-head play this regular season, the Penguins finished 2-3-1 against New York.  Perhaps this isn't the last time the two see each other in 2010-11.

If you kept an ice on James Neal today you'd have seen yet another game where his play his not measured on the score sheet.  Sure, it would be validated a bit more, but he put some solid shots on Henrik Lundqvist, delivered some nice hits and even made a tremendous diving play on a bouncing put to set up a prime scoring chance for Kris Letang in the slot.

This game also stands as evidence to the void left behind by Brooks Orpik.  The Rangers had way too many chances in front of Marc-Andre FleuryZbynek Michalek and Paul Martin may be defensive-defensemen, but they are not "tough guys" along the likes of Orpik.  Then again, not many men are.

Pens are back at it again Monday night against the Red Wings at 7 p.m. on Versus.  Two more points would be nice.