(PHN) — The Pittsburgh Penguins (10-6-2) were without Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Patric Hornqvist Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Things looked bleak after the first 20 minutes as the New York Rangers (8-6-2) led 2-0, but the Penguins had New York right where they wanted them. The Penguins have rallied from multi-goal deficits in each of their last four games and did so again Tuesday night but this time it was not enough. New York forward Kaapa Kakko who was the 2019 second overall draft pick had a pair of goals including the game-winner and New York won 3-2 in OT.
The Penguins dominated the second period and Penguins snapped an 0-for-29 power-play drought. The game was also the fourth time in five games the Penguins went to overtime or the shootout. The Penguins are 2-1-2 in those five games.
“It’s the same problem in the last three games. We’ve had so much, but we need to be better,” Evgeni Malkin said.
Just over one minute into the second period, the Penguins began their comeback. Evgeni Malkin is now the Penguins primary offensive weapon and top center until Crosby returns. Malkin zipped a cross-ice pass to defenseman Justin Schultz who was alone along the mid-wall. Schultz (2) charged toward the net and beat New York goalie Alexandar Georgiev from point-blank range.
The temperatures in Western Pennsylvania plummeted Tuesday but were still not as cold as the Penguins power play. The team did little with a pair of chances in the first period and their scoreless streak reached 29 power plays, but it didn’t reach 30.
Midway through the second period, Jared McCann (6) ended the Penguins cold-spell when he whipped a top-shelf wrist shot past Georgiev from the right-wing circle.
Without Crosby in the middle of their lineup, the Penguins looked lost in the first period. Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz was a spectator when 2019 second overall pick Kaapo Kakko raced past him for a 100-foot breakaway. Kakko (5) deked Penguins goalie Matt Murray and the Penguins had a richly deserved deficit, 1-0.
Late in the first period, even the Penguins energy line with Brandon Tanev, Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese yielded a goal. After good puck movement by the New York Rangers, the Penguins lost defensive zone coverage but earned a deeper deficit as former Harvard defenseman Adam Fox was uncovered in the slot. Fox (3) snapped the puck past Murray and the Penguins trailed 2-0.
It became the fourth straight game in which the Penguins spotted their opponent the first two goals, at least. And the game was another example of Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan shuffling the lines for the third period. Sullivan flipped rookie Sam Lafferty from Nick Bjugstad’s line to Jared McCann’s right-wing, and usual top-line left winger Jake Guentzel played the right side with Bjugstad.
“As I told our guys, lesson learned, we’ve got to have a better start no matter who is in our lineup. So there’s no excuse there, we all have to be better,” Sullivan said.
In the first 10 minutes of the period, the Penguins outshot New York 11-3 and Lafferty hit the post with just over six minutes left in the game. Murray made a couple of diving saves late in the third period and Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin took a tripping penalty with four minutes remaining to add drama to the finish.
Murray stopped 24 of 27 shots and Georgiev made 30 saves on 32 shots.