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NHL Roundup : Rangers Blow Lead and Wind Up in Cellar

December 21, 1987|DAN HAFNER

The New York Rangers hoped to move into playoff contention in back-to-back games over the weekend with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Instead, a defensive collapse has dropped the Rangers deeper into the cellar in the Patrick Division.

They lost a tough, 4-3 game Saturday night at Pittsburgh, then, on Sunday in New York blew a 3-0 lead and were overwhelmed, 8-4.

A sweep by the Rangers would have put them just one point behind the Penguins, who currently are in fourth place, the final playoff spot. Now, the Rangers are nine points behind the Penguins.

Randy Cunneyworth, who scored twice Saturday night, and Mario Lemieux led the Penguins' comeback from the early deficit Sunday night. Both had two goals and two assists.

The Rangers had their three-goal lead before the game was eight minutes old. Moreover, they had forced the Penguins to remove veteran goalie Gilles Meloche. Meloche made 43 saves in the 4-3 victory, but three of eight shots eluded him in this one.

It was Pat Riggin, the backup goalie, to the rescue. Riggin stopped 40 shots in the last 52 minutes, giving up only a power-play goal to Walt Poddubny late in the second period.

Poddubny's goal tied the score, 4-4, but it lasted only two minutes before Jock Callander deflected a shot from the point past John Vanbiesbrouck into the net. From then on, the Penguins were in charge.

Meloche had started seven games in a row since Riggin lost Dec. 2 to the New York Islanders, 7-1.

"I needed a good performance," Riggin said. "The heat was on."

Quebec 4, Detroit 2--With the Washington Capitals, Gaetan Duchesne was known as a player who scored the big goals.

It was not until his 30th game with the Nordiques that Duchesne finally showed Quebec what he can do in the clutch.

With two minutes left at Quebec, Duchesne scored his eighth goal of the season to break a 2-2 tie. Peter Stastny completed the scoring with a shot into an empty net with five seconds left.

Washington 1, St. Louis 1--Lou Franceschetti has never been known as a scoring machine, but it was unusual for him to go 29 games without scoring a goal.

With less than three minutes remaining at Landover, Md., Franceschetti tipped in a shot by Larry Murphy to get his first goal of the season and give the Capitals a hard-earned tie.

Winnipeg 4, New Jersey 1--Laurie Boschman and Ray Neufeld scored second-period power-play goals at Winnipeg to help the Jets end a five-game winless streak.

Neufeld's 10th goal made it 2-0 Jets. Five minutes later, Dale Hawerchuk, playing in his 400th consecutive game, scored a short-handed goal that assured the Jets of victory.

Boston 4, Chicago 2--Rick Middleton scored the tie-breaking goal on a rebound midway through the final period at Chicago to climax the Bruins' comeback from a 2-0 deficit.

Vancouver 3, Hartford 3--Barry Pederson scored his second goal of the game with his team short-handed and 8:38 left in regulation at Vancouver to earn a tie for the Canucks.

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