The Pittsburgh Penguins (44-26-11) control some of their own destiny and playoff scenarios as they face the New York Rangers (31-36-13) at PPG Paints Arena, tonight. The Penguins easily squashed New York last week but the young New York forwards didn’t quit Friday night when they pushed the Columbus Blue Jackets to a shootout. It doesn’t figure to be an easy game for the Penguins because of the Rangers competitiveness and because the Penguins have had difficulty with bad teams.
The Penguins have a slight lead in the all-time series: 151-141-23. However, the teams will be on opposite sides of the fence as the postseason begins.
The Penguins have officially clinched a playoff spot after a win on Thursday but cannot relax, yet. A win paired with an Islanders loss in regulation can vault the Penguins into second place in the Metro Division. A regulation Penguins loss coupled with a Carolina win would put the Penguins in the unenviable position of meeting the Washington Capitals in Round One.
You can check out the possible matchup and seeding scenarios in this PHN article.
It will not be surprising if some of the Rangers players have made golf reservations already. After their elimination from playoff contention about a month ago, their play has not improved. The Rangers are 3-7 in their last ten games and hold a horrible road record at 13-22-5.
Despite an early deficit Thursday, the Penguins blitzed the Detroit Red Wings in a 4-1 win. Detroit forward Matt Puempel (1) scored a power-play goal seven and half minutes into the game, but the Penguins struck for two before the period closed. Jake Guentzel (39) one-timed a pass from Olli Maatta who skated around the Detroit defense to tie the game, 1-1. Later in the first period, Phil Kessel (26, 27) scored his first of two goals as he buried a rebound on the power play and won the fans in attendance a free Big Mac. Kessel’s goal filled bellies and stacked his special sauce point total to 80 for the year.
The first period was all Penguins as they shut down Detroit. The second period was a track meet, but the Penguins were the only team to score a goal despite Detroits chances. Kessel collected his second of the game on an all too familiar set play off the faceoff. Evgeni Malkin won the faceoff straight back to the stick of Kessel, who laced a shot under the blocker to extend the lead to two. Sidney Crosby (34) broke his goal scoring slump with a third period power play goal. Crosby slammed home a rebound after Kessel hit the post just six minutes left in the game.
Matt Murray started his 10th consecutive game and posted another great performance. Murray stopped 33 of 34 shots. Jimmy Howard started for Detroit and made 43 saves in the loss.
New York put a scare into Columbus could not prevent them from clinching the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Chris Krieder (28) opened the scoring but the Rangers and Pavel Buchnevich tied the game with just over six seconds remaining, but New York lost in a shootout 3-2. Artemi Panarin scored the only goal in the shootout to punch Columbus’ ticket to the playoffs. Alexandar Georgiev started for New York and made 39 saves.
Brian Dumoulin (Day-to-day, skating)
Chad Ruhwedel (Long term, skating)
Zach Aston Reese (Longer Term, skating)
Filip Chytil (Day-to-day)
Jesper Fast (Shoulder)
Libor Hajek (Upper Body)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||23.7%, 4th NHL||77.4%, 27th NHL|
|New York Islanders||18.8%, 21st NHL||83.7%, 6th NHL|
Penguins -290 Over/Under 6, -15
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jared McCann||Jeff Carter||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jason Zucker||Frederick Gaudreau||Evan Rodrigues|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brandon Tanev|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Mike Matheson||Cody Ceci|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|