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Penguins Beat Rangers, 5-2; Crosby Makes History



NEW YORK — The Pittsburgh Penguins had plenty of reasons to lose this game.

The goalie who had been penciled in to start for them ended up being too ill to play.

One of their third-pairing defensemen also was a late scratch because he was sick.

And, oh yeah, the New York Rangers are pretty good. One of the best teams in the NHL, actually.

Despite all of that, the Penguins (33-30-11) defeated the Rangers, 5-2, at Madison Square Garden Monday night.

Alex Nedeljkovic, a late replacement for goaltender Tristan Jarry, was outstanding, stopping 28 shots. And while his teammates were far from perfect, they supported Nedeljkovic with one of their better overall performances of the season.

Until the second half of the third period, anyway.

Sidney Crosby sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 44.3 seconds left in regulation.

That was his 82nd point, guaranteeing that he would tie Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record of averaging a point per game for 19 seasons.

Defenseman John Ludvig, who left warmups after making a cursory appearance, missed the game because of illness. His place was taken by Ryan Shea, who made his first appearance in the NHL since Dec. 8.

Reilly Smith, who was celebrating his 33rd birthday, was a surprise choice to replace Drew O’Connor at left wing on the Penguins’ No. 1 line, but Mike Sullivan didn’t have much reason to second-guess his decision when that unit generated a goal 18 seconds after the opening faceoff.

Bryan Rust scored it, putting a Sidney Crosby rebound past Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin from below the left hash. Smith got the second assist after picking off a pass by New York defenseman Jacob Trouba.

Rust’s goal was his 25th, two shy of the career-high he set in 2019-20, and extended his scoring streak to five games.

O’Connor nearly added to the Penguins’ lead at 9:26, when he burst down the right side before cutting to the net, but Shesterkin stopped him.

Crosby made it 2-0 at 10:38, deflecting a P.O Joseph shot past Shesterkin from below the right hash for his 36th of the season. Kris Letang also got an assist.

New York challenged that Smith had been offside earlier in the play, but a lengthy video review determined the goal should count.

Their failed challenge meant the Rangers were assessed a delay-of-game minor, but the Penguins’ power play was aborted when Erik Karlsson received a penalty for interference after he pushed a stick that Trouba had dropped out of the Rangers’ zone.

Trouba was not attempting to retrieve his stick, which was on the ice in front of Karlsson, when the penalty was called.

Evgeni Malkin took a slashing minor at 2:02, and Mika Zibanejad appeared to cut the Penguins’ lead in half when he hammered in a slap shot from inside the left circle. The goal was waved off immediately, however, because it was ruled that Rangers winger Chris Kreider had interfered with Nedeljkovic.

New York defenseman Braden Schneider got a minor for interfering with O’Connor at 13:17, but the Rangers were able to kill it. The Penguins did likewise after Karlsson hooked Artemi Panarin at 17:59.

Emil Bemstrom, a healthy scratch for the previous three games, gave the Penguins a 3-0 lead at 9:51, after Jesse Puljujarvi sprung him on a breakaway. The goal was his second since the Penguins acquired him from Columbus and snapped a 15-game goal-less streak.

But as been the case so often this season, the Penguins gave up a goal almost immediately after scoring one, as Kaapo Kakko scored to spoil Nedeljkovic’s shutout bid at 10:42. Nedeljkovic actually caught Kakko’s shot, but his glove ended up over the goal line.

New York was caught with too many men on the ice at 13:58; again, the Penguins could not capitalize.

That proved costly at 16:53, when Rangers forward Jack Roslovic corralled a shot that caromed off the backboards and threw it past Nedeljkovic.

New York replaced Shesterkin with an extra attacker, but Rust scored into the empty net at 17:49 to put the Penguins back up by two. Crosby then closed out the scoring with another empty-netter.

The Pittsburgh Penguins planned to bus to New Jersey immediately after the game. They are scheduled to face the Devils Tuesday at 7:08 p.m. at Prudential Center.

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11 days ago

Pens WTF WTF….your killing me…thanks for the fun game…..F___ it I’m getting drunk

Dan Kingerski
11 days ago
Reply to  Wasnt

Hall of Fame comment.

11 days ago

Bemstrom 2nd goal as a Penguins. Meanwhile, Alex Nylander scored 2 tonight, giving him just 10 in 17 games with Columbus. Just saying…

10 days ago
Reply to  Eric

yeah. I wish he and Kappy were still with the Pens.