NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers performance Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins was a microcosm of their season.
"Up and down," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "Yeah."
The Rangers, plagued by their inconsistent ways, gave away a two-goal lead for the second consecutive game, but rallied to beat the Penguins 4-3 in overtime on Kevin Klein's second overtime goal of the season.
Klein scored 3:45 into overtime on a slap shot through traffic from a few steps inside the blue line. He also scored in overtime against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 21. Klein has a career-high six goals this season, including three game-winners.
"I'm getting a lot of heat because I'm not using him on the power play," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said jokingly of Klein. "I'm taking a lot of heat from inside the dressing room. No, you know what, [Klein] has done a good job of finding the open lane, finding the open spot. That's the second time he's come up real big for us in overtime. Good for him."
Klein didn't miss a shift after getting struck in the left ear by Penguins forward Zach Sill's high stick late in the first period. Klein, who was bloodied, said he received at least a dozen stitches to repair the damage to his ear.
"I don't know if anybody saw his ear there, but he lost a piece of it and they sewed it back," Vigneault said. "Say what you want about hockey players, but they're tough [guys]."
The Penguins toughed it out themselves to get a point despite playing without four of their top-six forwards (Chris Kunitz, Patric Hornqvist, Beau Bennett and Pascal Dupuis) and two of their top-four defenseman (Kris Letang and Olli Maatta).
Malkin scored from the slot off a feed from Brandon Sutter at 15:17 of the third period and Downie scored later to tie the game.
Staal swung and missed in an attempt to clear the bouncing puck out of the high slot before it came to Downie, who beat New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a slap shot from the right hash marks.
"I think we were buzzing all [third] period," Downie said. "We came out and I think we controlled the pace of the third and we got the bounces we deserved. We played well and I thought it was a good comeback."
It was a tough night for Penguins rookie defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who was on the ice for three goals and had giveaways that directly led to goals by Nash and Hayes that put the Rangers up 2-1 and 3-1, respectively.
Dumoulin was in the lineup because Maatta was in Pittsburgh getting an undisclosed injury re-evaluated.
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo returned to the Penguins lineup after serving a two-game suspension.
"Certainly with the [defense] pairs there is a little bit of a learning curve there when you're trying to play with a new partner and you're trying to read off him under heavy forechecking pressure,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "But I thought we escaped our zone pretty well for having all new pairs except for [Rob] Scuderi and [Simon] Despres."
The Rangers gave away a two-goal lead Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings before losing 3-2 in regulation. They felt they let the Penguins back into the game Monday by sitting back too much after Hayes scored at 12:58 of the third period to put them up by two goals.
"That's not the way we want to play in the third," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. "I think we were giving them too much room. We kind of changed our style of play. We sat back instead of playing like we did in the first and second, in their face. We backed up, gave them room, and you give guys like that room they're going to make plays. It's a couple tough ones, but we didn't really get discouraged. It's big for us to get that win after giving up two, giving up the lead."
Klein echoed Girardi, saying the Rangers remained upbeat on the bench after Downie scored.
"Our bench just turned to each other and said, 'Let's keep going,' and we did," Klein said. "We were battling."
The Rangers have been battling to stay above water all season. They beat the Penguins 5-0 at the Garden on Nov. 11, but followed that up with a 4-4-2 record before Pittsburgh returned to New York on Monday.
New York won four of five games during that stretch, including shutout wins against the Montreal Canadiens (5-0) and the Philadelphia Flyers (2-0 and 3-0), but they also lost three times to the Tampa Bay Lightning and blew the lead in Detroit.
The Rangers gave away a third-period lead against the Colorado Avalanche before losing in a shootout on Nov. 13. They had a 2-1 lead after the first period against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Nov. 15 and lost that one 3-2 in a shootout.
"The last few weeks the way we want to play has been more consistent, we've been in a lot more games and been able to win a few, but there are stretches of games where we have a breakdown and it ends up costing us," Staal said. "That's happened to us all year long. You're never going to play a perfect game and teams are good, they're going to make their chances, but we have to learn to win games. We won [Monday night], which is a big step. Good teams find a way to win and we've got to continue to try to do that."
The Rangers won't have another chance to prove it until Saturday, when they start a four-game road trip against the Vancouver Canucks.
"I think the guys should be feeling better about themselves," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. "Ultimately it's an ugly two points, but those are sometimes the ones that are most important down the stretch."