It was a rematch for second place in the Metro Division. Last Friday, the New York Rangers boat raced the Pittsburgh Penguins out of Madiso Square Garden by scoring a few goals in the first few minutes en route to a 5-1 win. The Penguins won the initial meeting on Feb. 26 in a goalie duel, 1-0.
On Tuesday night, the Penguins played rope-a-dope for 30 minutes and led 1-0 despite being outshot by a 2-1 margin. However, a pair of New York goals late in the second period and an early third period power-play goal were just enough.
Sidney Crosby (25) blasted a power-play slaps shot to pull the Pittsburgh Penguins to within 3-2 midway through the third period. But that was the end and the New York Rangers won 3-2 at PPG Paints Arena. New York has won two of the three meetings this season and are now one point ahead of the Penguins for second place in the Metro Division.
The Penguins’ furious comeback late in the third, included several heroic saves by skaters covering the cage. Evan Rodrigues hit the post in the final minute on what would gave been the tying goal.
The Penguins were outshot in the first period (9-5), but the territory battle may have benefitted them slightly. More importantly, the scoreboard did.
After some nice puck work at the top of the zone, Brian Boyle and Radim Zohorna went to the net. One of only two Penguins without a point in the 11-2 win over Detroit on Sunday, Brian Dumoulin wristed the puck towards the net. Boyle (9) deflected the shot past New York goalie Igor Shesterkin.
However, New York scored a pair of second-period goals and limited the Penguins to only five more shots.
Later in the second period, the Penguins suffered something akin to a defensive zone meltdown. Brian Dumoulin failed on a couple of chances to clear the zone or begin a breakout. Danton Heinen had a similar opportunity but his pass to nowhere was intercepted.
Dumoulin’s backhand clearing attempted fluttered high into the air but settled with New York center Mika Zibanejad and winger Frank Vatrano in the slot. Vatrano (15) wheeled around and in the same motion whipped the puck past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry.
Late in the second, New York took advantage of a Penguins line change with a four-wide counter-attack. Defenseman Braden Schneider, 20, was the late trailer and had time to autograph the puck and lick clean the bowl of poutine. Schneider (2) picked the top blocker corner on Jarry.
Bryan Rust and Evan Rodrigues “led” the Penguins with two shots each after two periods.
The Penguins third period didn’t begin very well. Officials dished a roughing penalty to defenseman Mike Matheson at the end of the second for the obligatory bear hug and separation of an agitator from Sidney Crosby.
“I don’t really know what I did… respectfully, I disagree with the call,” said Matheson
On the resulting power play to begin the third, Chris Kreider (45) was in position for a carom off the back wall and shoveled it over Jarry’s pad for a 3-1 Rangers lead.
The Penguins had a pair of third period power plays but didn’t do much with it.
In the third period, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan juggled his lines. Bryan Rust rejoined Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on the top line. Kasperi Kapanen elevated to play with Malkin and Rickard Rakell, and Evan Rodrigues switched to third-line duty with Jeff Carter.
A later third period push after the line shuffles closed the Rangers shot advantage.
As fans filed out in drives, the Penguins final flurry of shots and chances in the final two minutes didn’t find the back of the net. They also dodged several empty net chances, as Evgeni Malkin and Rickard Rakell made saves in the crease.
Jarry stopped 23 of 26. Shesterkin stopped 22 of 24.