PITTSBURGH — All’s well that ends well. The Pittsburgh Penguins needed at least one point against the New York Rangers clinch third place and an easier Round One matchup with the New York Islanders. They made everyone sweat it out before Jake Guentzel scored his 40th goal of the season and Sidney Crosby scored his 100th point in the final minutes to send the game to overtime. Ryan Strome scored in overtime for a 4-3 New York win at PPG Paints Arena, but it mattered little.
The Penguins earned a point and third place. They will face the New York Islanders and not the Washington Capitals in Round One.
“I didn’t think it was one of our better games as of late. I thought we were loose,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “As a result, we gave up a lot of quality chances.”
The Penguins Achilles heal all season has been shorthanded goals and they gave up their league-worst 15th shortie late in the third period which could have been the fatal blow and cost them third place. It looked that way.
After defenseman Justin Schultz misplayed a bouncing puck at the point, New York attacked. Vlad Namestnikov scored a breakaway goal and a 3-2 New York lead in the final six minutes.
However, the Penguins attacked and with just two minutes remaining, Guentzel (40) powered a rebound through sprawled bodies in the crease. Crosby earned an assist for his 100th point; the first time he’s hit the century mark since 2013-14.
“Obviously exciting. Not how I wanted the third period to go for myself. Just to get that one … a lot of emotion,” Guentzel said before later admitting the game almost got away. “It was kind of shocking but to come back and to get that point I think shows the character of ours.”
Turnovers and defensive gaffes plagued the Penguins throughout the game. The Penguins thought they had the game-winner early in the third period.
The Penguins grind line with Nick Bjugstad and Patric Hornqvist scored what could have been the game winner. First, Bjugstad skated around New York defenseman Ryan Lindgren and crashed the net. Later in the shift, Hornqvist doggedly pursued the puck which prevented New York possession and transition before Bjugstad (14) buried a rebound for a 2-1 lead.
It should have been the game-winning goal, but the Penguins couldn’t avoid mistakes and gave up the tying goal later in the third period.
After Jake Guentzel spun out at center ice, defenseman Kris Letang backed too far into the zone which left New York defenseman Brady Skjei (8)wide open in the slot. The game was again tied despite Penguins domination.
The Penguins also got off to a good start. As New York pushed a little too hard in the offensive zone, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel pounced. Just six minutes into the game, the Penguins earned their first goal with pretty passing around New York which resulted in a two-on-one for Crosby and Guentzel.
Guentzel waited before zipping a pass across the slot for Crosby (35) who buried it with a one-timer.
The Penguins could not again capitalize on significant zone time in the first period and made several mistakes, too. Fourth-liner Garrett Wilson gave up the puck at the red line to the Rangers part-time forward, part-time defenseman Brendan Smith who had a clear path into the Penguins zone. Smith (4) picked the high glove corner on Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
Despite the Penguins domination of the puck and zone time, their mistakes yielded six high-danger scoring chances.
Through two periods, the Penguins had 13 giveaways.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray was very good despite the stat line. He stopped 26 of 30 shots.
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