Penguins Room: ‘We Need Points More’; Letang Likes These Games
The Pittsburgh Penguins seemed to have a bit more urgency than the New York Rangers for much of their game Sunday at PPG Paints Arena.
And after the Penguins’ pulled out a 3-2 victory on Kris Letang’s power-play goal at 1:38 of overtime, Tristan Jarry offered a pretty good explanation for that.
“We need the points a lot more than they do, so I think we were just a little more desperate tonight,” he said. “Hopefully, that continues throughout the week.”
The victory lifted the Penguins to within six points of the Rangers, who are third in the Metropolitan Division, and who the Penguins will face again Thursday and Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers, it should be noted, controlled play for much of the third period, launching 12 of their 29 shots at Jarry during those 20 minutes.
“You knew at some point they were going to push,” he said.
The Penguins have a 2-0 lead in the season series, thanks to a pair of 3-2 victories. Jarry seems to anticipate that the games in Manhattan later this week will be as intense and competitive as the two here were.
“Every time we play against them, it’s always exciting,” he said. “They have a good team. We have a good team. So every time we play, it’s always competitive and it always comes right down to the end.”
There was some nastiness in this game. Some hard hits. A few frayed tempers. The occasional cheap shot.
Which is to say, it was pretty much a standard-issue game between the Penguins and Rangers.
“It’s one of those games,” Kris Letang said. “It’s so emotional. Sometimes it gets chippy, but you have to keep your head in it. … They’re a fun game to play. There’s a lot of energy in the building. It’s a rival. We lost to them in the playoffs last year. Usually, that’s the type of game you want to play in.”
Maintaining their focus was particularly true after Chris Kreider tied the game for New York as the middle of the third period approached, capping a sequence that began when Rangers center Vincent Trocheck knocked Evgeni Malkin to the ice from behind at the far end of the ice.
The Penguins were quite unhappy that Trocheck wasn’t penalized — “I thought it was a penalty, but obviously the referees didn’t,” Mike Sullivan said. — but didn’t lose their composure.
“It’s not like they went ahead (when Kreider made it 2-2),” Letang said. “It’s still a tight game and you have to keep competing. … You have to turn the page and just move on.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins did, and Letang made sure they left the arena with two points by scoring the game-winner at 1:38 of overtime to end the first of their three games against the Rangers this week.
But even though New York is directly ahead of the Penguins in the Metro standings, Letang said he and his teammates hadn’t necessarily been thinking much about those games until they actually were preparing for the first of them.
“Lately, we’ve been just looking into the game we were playing that night,” he said. “You know, focusing on our game. … We have to grab every point, so our focus (Saturday) was on the Flyers and we didn’t look ahead of that. It was important to grab those two points.
“It doesn’t matter where teams are in the standings. We need to climb and we need to rack points up, so that’s how we approach it.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins had control of most of the first two periods, but New York mounted that strong push during the third.
The Rangers outshot the Penguins, 12-8, then and got the goal from Kreider that ultimately forced overtime.
“They pushed,” Jason Zucker said. “They’re a heck of a team. You’re never going to eliminate all of their chances. You have to do your best to defend, and I thought we did that pretty well.”
Zucker did pretty well for himself at the other end of the ice, too.
He accounted for eight of the Penguins’ 35 shots and scored his ninth goal in the past eight games.
That was his 24th of the season, but he declined to play along with a lighthearted question about where he planned to put the Rocket Richard Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s leading goal-scorer.
“I’m far away from that,” he said. “Far away.”
Rickard Rakell, who had been goal-less in 10 games before Saturday, opened the scoring for the second day in a row.
It seemed for a time that he might not be around to witness the end of the game, however, as he adjourned to the locker room during the third period after blocking a shot.
He returned a few minutes later, though, and played with no apparent problem.
“It’s fine,” Rakell said. “Just a little breather, and then I was good to go again.”
That was fortunate for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were trying to fend off New York’s late-game surge and already were without defenseman Dmitry Kulikov after he got an unspecified lower-body injury.
That was a real challenge, but the Penguins met it.
“They’re trying to get back in the hockey game and trying to get us rattled, maybe, but we knew what kind of game they were playing,” he said. “They’re playing a hard game, and we matched them pretty good.”