NEW YORK - When Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan met with reporters in the bowels of Madison Square Garden Sunday morning, he was emphatic that it would take a complete team effort to replace Evgeni Malkin's production.
The coach's words proved prescient.
Eleven players recorded at least one point in the Penguins' 5-3 win over the New York Rangers on Sunday afternoon in New York.
"Sometimes you get lucky bounces," Cullen said. "You will take every one.
Sheary, Crosby and Tom Kuhnhackl each recorded two points in the win.
"I was really proud of the way the guys battled," Cullen said. "That's a big response for us."
Pittsburgh now has 80 points, and passed Detroit for the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot. The Red Wings hosted Toronto later Sunday night.
"The standings are so close," said Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 24 saves. "The division is so close."
Despite getting goals from Brassard, Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh, New York fell to 39-23-7. Even with the regulation loss, the Rangers maintained their three-point lead over the idle New York Islanders for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
"We need to get the points," Dan Girardi said.
Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves, but he would want back Cullen's behind-the-net bank shot which broke a 3-3 tie.
Pittsburgh never trailed in the game.
The teams went into the first intermission tied at 1-1, even though New York had the better of play for much of the period. The Rangers outshot Pittsburgh 19-13 in the opening 20 minutes. But it was the Penguins who got on the board first as Hornqvist's side-of-the-net bank shot caromed off of Lundqvist to open the scoring at 11:56.
New York drew even six minutes and 10 seconds later as Kreider tapped Derek Stepan's cross-ice feed past Fleury for his 16th of the season. Kreider's goal was the culmination of a sequence which began with Chris Kunitz missing Crosby with a goal-mouth pass that could have given the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
Whereas New York was the better team in the first period, it was the Penguins who dominated the final two. Pittsburgh outshot the Rangers 10-2 in the second period, and outscored their rivals 2-1 in the stanza.
The Penguins and Rangers traded goals in a span of one minute and twenty nine seconds in the second. Sheary gave the Penguins their second lead of the game by redirecting Justin Schultz's shot from the right point at 7:30, but Brassard's power play goal at 8:59 tied the game 2-2.
Sheary's second of the period put the Penguins ahead 3-2 with 4:05 left in the period. The 23-year old collected a pass from Kuhnhackl and broke in on Lundqvist uncontested.
New York tied the game for the third time on McDonagh's wraparound 5:04 into the third.
Crosby's empty netter with 34.7 seconds left ended the scoring.
"There's definitely some concern with how we played in the second and third after a real strong first period," Alain Vigneault said. "After the first period we didn't do much on the ice.
Despite having a 19-13 advantage in shots on goal in the first, the Rangers finished the game being outshot 33-27.
"We didn't have that killer instinct," Girardi said.
NOTES: Sunday's matinee was the second of three meetings between the Metropolitan Division rivals in March. The Penguins topped the Rangers 4-1 in Pittsburgh on March 3. The teams will finish the regular-season series on March 27 at Madison Square Garden. New York did beat Pittsburgh 3-0 at Consol Energy Center on Feb. 10. ... Rangers associate coach Scott Arniel announced prior to the game that C Derick Brassard would return to the lineup. Brassard missed Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit with the flu. ... Brassard replaced LW Tanner Glass, who sustained an upper-body injury in the loss to the Red Wings. ... Rangers D Dylan McIlrath missed his third straight game with a knee injury. ... Pittsburgh did not have C Evgeni Malkin, who is out 6-to-8 weeks with an upper-body injury. ... Pittsburgh scratched G Jeff Zatkoff, D Derrick Pouliot and C Scott Wilson. ... Prior to the game there was a moment of silence for Bill Gadsby, who died Thursday. Gadsby played for the Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks in his career.