The Penguins squandered a two-goal lead and a solid two-period effort by going for a free skate in the third period. The rebuilding New York Rangers found their legs in the final period, and Rangers rookie goalie Alexandar Georgiev stopped Evgeni Malkin‘s penalty shot in the last 10 seconds. Mika Zibanejad beat Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith for a 4-3 Rangers overtime win at Madison Square Garden.
Georgiev, 22, was the difference in the first and second periods. In total, he stopped 36 of 39 shots on goal, including Malkin’s penalty shot in the waning moments.
Rangers power forward Chris Kreider had four points (1g, 3a). Midway through the third period, Kreider netted the Rangers first goal of the game when DeSmith gave up a juicy rebound. It was a power-play goal because Patric Hornqvist took a bad slashing penalty while chasing the play.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t sugarcoat his view of the game, “We didn’t play hard enough. We got outplayed in the third period. Our penalty kill didn’t get it done. Our power play didn’t get it done,” he said. “And that’s what happens.”
The Penguins dominated the first several minutes and the Rangers could not keep up. So, the Rangers tried to deflate the pace and get deep into their counter-attack game. The Penguins responded with stretch passes to open the neutral zone.
Tom Kuhnhackl hit the post early in the first period, and the Penguins maintained a distinct offensive advantage with the long passes past the Rangers defenders. Eliciting a seemingly endless string of oh’s and ahh’s from NBCsn guest color commentator Susan Sarandon‘s, the Penguins peppered Georgiev with 14 shots in the first period but did not score.
The Penguins simplified their game in the second period to immediate results.
Bryan Rust‘s aggressive forecheck initiated a sequence which ended in a lit lamp (see more about the play on the Pens Chalkboard in PHN’s Member Section). After Rust (11) extended the play by creating a turnover, he finished it with a turning wrist shot.
Just under one minute later, Riley Sheahan and the Penguins fourth line did the dirty work in the low zone. Rowney and grinder Carter Rowney cycled low then went to the net. Sheahan (10) deflected Kris Letang‘s point shot.
In the third period, the Rangers mounted a furious challenge. The Penguins, confident and in control, became loose and sloppy while the puck seemed to follow the Blue Shirts.
“I think we got cocky. We didn’t manage it and we got careless. We totally ruined it. Got too confident; didn’t respect them enough,” said Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.
With just over five minutes remaining, Jesper Fast tied the game. Fast, who was robbed by DeSmith on the previous shift, took advantage of a chaotic shift by the Penguins fourth line. Fast (11) deflected Marc Staal‘s shot when he was uncovered in the near-slot.
With four minutes remaining, Carl Hagelin (9) briefly gave the Penguins the lead with a wraparound goal. The Penguins, however, could not hold the lead.
One minute later, the Penguins penalty kill unit stood flat-footed as Kreider raced into the offensive zone past Kris Letang. Zibanejad (21) went to the post and neatly steered Kreider’s pass into the net.
The Penguins had chances in overtime but could not beat Georgiev. The Penguins lost in overtime to a Metro Division opponent for the first time this season (6-1).
Analysis and Grades
Penguins in the first and second period: B+
The Penguins owned the game. They took the wind from the Rangers and dominated the puck. Evgeni Malkin couldn’t crack the score sheet but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Malkin created zone pressure, seemingly at will.
Penguins in the third period: F
They failed to generate any energy–ANY energy–in the third period. The puck was seemingly radioactive because the Penguins didn’t seem to want it.
Conor Sheary: D+
The momentum Sheary gained last week was erased by a third period benching. He was behind the play, chasing the puck and not good. Sheary was dropped to the fourth line, which was being centered by Carter Rowney.
Sheary must find his game. Get confident in it. And produce. Or, Sheary may be watching the playoffs with a plate of press box nachos.
Penguins Coaching Staff: D
The coaching staff threw a couple Hail Marys. They put Riley Sheahan on Crosby’s wing, moved Rowney to fourth line center, and Sheary to fourth line right wing.
None of it worked. Read it back–none of it looks good, even on paper. Worse, Sheary was ice cold when he was dropped onto the fourth line and put on the ice late in the game. Predictably, the line peformed poorly and the Rangers scored.
When a game is going sideways, a grinding shift by the fourth line can steady the ship. Kuhnhackl-Rowney-Sheary wasn’t the best option.
The Penguins also kept Phil Kessel with Derick Brassard despite not much 5v5 offensive generation.
Casey DeSmith: B-
DeSmith made plenty of big saves. He showed good athleticism and anticipation. He robbed Kreider and Fast a couple of times, each.
However, he also gave up more than his share of big rebounds including the one Kreider buried. DeSmith will be fine if the Penguins protect him. However, he won’t be a goalie who steals a game. Or, a series.
Sidney Crosby: C-
Crosby is getting perilously close to appearing on a milk carton. The superstar has not blitzed the score sheet like his counterparts. Crosby had two shots on goal but has not stood out.
It’s about that time for 87 to make a grand entrance.
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