The New York Rangers were lying in wait for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who played their third game in four days. It was also the Penguins’ second lackluster performance in three days as New York scored three goals in the first four minutes, and the Penguins never really mounted a challenge.
Chris Kreider (44) scored his second goal of the game on a Penguins power play midway through the second period and ended any suspense. On Friday, New York beat the Penguins 5-1 at Madison Square Garden.
Kasperi Kapanen fired a wrister from the slot for a power-play goal five minutes into the third period to avoid a shutout. Later, scorers credited Jeff Carter (15) with the goal. Late in the third period, Andrew Copp scored his first goal for the Rangers, after being acquired at the NHL trade deadline on Monday.
The Rangers trail the Penguins by one point for second place in the Metro Division and have one game in hand. The teams will play again on Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins played without Evgeni Malkin, a scratch due to a non-Covid illness. Based on the morning skate, head coach Mike Sullivan would pair Malkin with newly acquired Rickard Rakell, but that union had to wait. Jeff Carter slotted as the second-line center. Defenseman Mark Friedman played sparingly, but at forward because the Penguins currently only carry 12 forwards.
The Malkin illness was a harbinger of a bad moon rising.
The New York Rangers burned the Penguins early in the first period. And burned them. And burned them again, all in the first four minutes.
Just two minutes into the game, 2020 first-overall draft pick Alexi Lafreniere (14) blew past Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to create a two-on-one and then finish the odd-man rush.
Four minutes into the game, a Penguins three-on-one became another Rangers counter-attack goal. Chris Kreider (43) got behind Ruhwedel for a breakaway goal.
And 18 seconds after Kreider scored, the Rangers scored again.
Rangers center Mika Zibanejad won a loose puck in the corner, and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin lost the passing lane and slipped into the high slot. Newly acquired Rangers winger Frank Vatrano (12) was uncovered near the net and quickly buried the open chance.
Three goals in just over four minutes. Head coach Mike Sullivan called timeout.
Despite a four-minute power play, the Penguins had only five shots in the first period.
The second period wasn’t much better for the Penguins. The Rangers had three odd-man rushes on a Penguins power play. On the third, Kreider (44) ripped a one-timer from the right-wing circle for a 4-0 Rangers lead.
Tristan Jarry got a seat, though bore little fault. Casey DeSmith relieved him.
After three saves, including a pair of outstanding stops on Grade A scoring chances, DeSmith was injured when Dumoulin backed into him. DeSmith’s head made hard contact with Dumoulin’s back, then DeSmith’s head hit the post.
After a few minutes, Jarry was back in the net.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had just 13 shots over the first two periods.
DeSmith made three saves. Jarry stopped 17 of 21 in the first 40 minutes. He made a few brilliant saves in the third period when the game opened up. Jarry made 25 saves, overall. Vezina trophy hopeful Igor Shesterkin had an easy night. He stopped all 13 shots through two periods, and 21 of 22.