Letang’s OT Goal Wins it for Penguins, 3-2
The Pittsburgh Penguins have to realize that their chances of overtaking the New York Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division are somewhere between minimal and microscopic.
That the gap between the teams in the standings simply is too great, with too few games remaining for the Penguins to close it.
But the Penguins did manage to whittle it down a bit Sunday, beating the Rangers, 3-2, in overtime at PPG Paints Arena.
Kris Letang scored the game-winner at 1:38 of the extra period, driving a slap shot from the high slot past Rangers goalie Jaroslav Halak.
He scored 26 seconds after Artemi Panarin was penalized for tripping Evgeni Malkin.
The Penguins (34-22-10) are six points behind New York, which they will face Thursday and Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
The Penguins also have taken sole possession of the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, moving two points ahead of the New York Islanders.
One negative for the Penguins is that Dmitry Kulikov left the game in the third period because of an unspecified lower-body injury. There was no immediate word on its nature or severity.
The Rangers seemed intent on self-destructing early in the game, as they took three penalties — all obvious, all unnecessary — during the first 5:20 of the first period.
Barclay Goodrow went for tripping Kulikov in New York’s offensive zone at 2:46, while Vincent Trocheck (4:34) and Mika Zibanejad (5:20) picked up high-sticking minors.
Those infractions gave the Penguins a pair of 5-on-3 power plays — the first for 12 seconds, the other for 1:14 — and they capitalized on the latter to take a 1-0 lead.
Rickard Rakell, who ended a 10-game goal-less streak Saturday, scored his second of the weekend at 6:03, as he took a feed from Sidney Crosby and beat Halak from above the right hash.
Evgeni Malkin picked up the second assist on that goal, Rakell’s 23rd.
The Penguins were controlling play until New York’s fourth line manufactured a tying goal at 11:18.
Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry stopped a stuff attempt by Jimmy Vesey at the right post, but Vesey collected the rebound and slid it to Goodrow, who threw a shot past Jarry from a few feet in front of the crease.
The Penguins ran up a 15-6 edge in shots during the first, and would have had a lead if not for some excellent play by Halak.
Halak, a key figure in Montreal’s Round 2 upset of the Penguins in the 2010 playoffs, made 14 saves, with arguably the best coming 8.9 seconds before the intermission, when he denied Jason Zucker after he split the New York defense and charged down the slot.
Zucker didn’t take long to get his revenge, however.
At 1:21 of the second, he took a slap shot from the left point. The puck went through traffic, caromed off Zibanejad and eluded Halak.
Brian Dumoulin got the assist on that goal, Zucker’s 24th of the season and ninth in his past eight games.
New York finally got a power play when Mikael Granlund was sent off for high-sticking Adam Fox at 12:34.
The Penguins were able to kill it, but only because one of the Rangers’ most dangerous goal-scorers, Chris Kreider, somehow missed an open net from the right side of the crease as Granlund was about to return to the ice.
New York got another chance with the man-advantage at 16:01, courtesy of the Penguins’ reaction to a questionable hit by New York defenseman Jacob Trouba.
Trouba flattened Alex Nylander in the neutral zone with what appeared to be a late hit and the Penguins, who presumably haven’t forgotten his head-hunting on Crosby in Game 5 of the playoffs last May, were quick to respond.
Malkin and Zucker went after Trouba, and Malkin was assessed a minor for cross-checking him.
New York, which had scored at least one power-play goal in six of its previous seven games, again was unable to take advantage of having the extra man.
Kreider made the most of an opportunity for redemption as the middle of the third period approached, beating Jarry from the left hash mark at 9:09 to tie the game, 2-2.
Although New York dominated the third period — “We got on our heels a little bit,” Mike Sullivan said — Nylander had a chance to win it for the Penguins during a 2-on-1 break in the final minute of regulation, but Halak got his glove on Nylander’s shot.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a scheduled day off Monday and will face Montreal Tuesday at 7:08 p.m. to close out their five-game homestand.
6 points with 16 games left hardly leaves “microscopic” chances of leaping over them.
An incredibly quick and small amount of research tells me the chance is actually 40%. Rangers have a 55% chance of holding it.
Right on i wish Bonino was not injured he does have an edge we need
Definitely makes us deeper in the right kind of way, gives us more tools to use.
I am with you. I am tired of all the negative crap. Goes for both a chunk of fans and also the media. It’s one thing to temper your expectations, but to have after every game “Pens win, but…”. Getting kind of old. Yeah, like we get it, they are inconsistent, but they are winning more than losing at the moment. So, at the very least, try to be positive about it. This team is in the race for the playoffs, not at the bottom of the standings. A win is a win. GO PENS!!!
I have plenty of criticisms to dish out but part of my irritation is much of the media and fanbase have been like this since probably 2019 without stop, and before the back to backs they were like that for several years too. This is a really hard league to win in and be a good team consistently. LA won two cups and has missed a ton of playoff seasons, same with Chicago and their 3. But then they were terrible. FACT is…Penguins are the winningest team since the 2005 lockout in both the regular season and post season. This… Read more »
Spoiled. I will take this team over rebuilding any day of the week.
That was a big win. Mostly a well played game. Loved seeing the Dragon layin’ the lumber and seeing a well played game with DOC and Nylander in the lineup. Hope they get at least a split against the Rags over the next two.
One of their better games of the year in a lot of ways. Been trending that way for a couple weeks even with some disappointments.
Would have preferred for the 3rd to be a little better but they started getting it back after Rangers scored a goal that they really shouldnt have scored.
Great to beat the Rags!
It’s minimal to microscopic, requiring the Pens to beat the Rangers in regulation the next two matchups. That isn’t being negative. That’s just reality.
Winning losing how about the joy of watching good fundamental hockey on both ends of the ice.
Screw the critics! Great watch, great sport and three great HF super stars! Go Pens!