The race for the Metro Division title has become a gallop among thoroughbreds as the 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins continue to chase the 2018 champion Washington Capitals. Against an inferior opponent, the Penguins had lapses against the New York Rangers Monday night but asserted themselves with rebound goals and a shorthanded goal. Teddy Blueger (5, 6) scored one of each as the Penguins beat the New York Rangers 5-2 at Madison Square Garden.
The Penguins earned seven of the possible eight points on their four-game road trip which began with an overtime loss in Carolina. The win pulled the Penguins within one point of Washington atop the Metro Division.
The Penguins comeback and five unanswered goals began immediately after the Rangers claimed a 2-0 lead later in the first period.
“Our assessment of the start was probably the same as yours. It wasn’t our best,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. “We knew it. The players knew it. And to their credit, they responded the right way in the last 40 minutes.”
Just 26 seconds after falling behind by two, the Penguins third line finally took advantage of weeks of superior work and converted a rebound chance. After cycling low, Nick Bjugstad (12) collected the garbage goal in front of the net.
“That line was good in the first period. It was a huge goal, it kept the game within reach,” Sullivan said.
Then the Penguins tied the game one minute into the second period with a power-play goal. Justin Schultz (2) stepped into the high slot and unloaded a shot past New York goalie Alexandar Georgiev.
The Penguins goals kept coming in the second period despite some sloppy play. New York left 42-year-old Matt Cullen alone as the Penguins fourth line cycled the puck low. From near the goal line, Cullen (6) sniped the top corner over Georgiev.
The Penguins third goal of the second period and the fourth unanswered goal came via Teddy Blueger’s speed and penalty killing. As the Penguins killed off Patric Hornqvist’s high-sticking penalty midway through the period, Bleuger outraced New York point men for the puck at center ice and into the New York zone with teammate Bryan Rust.
Rust deflected Blueger’s pass wide of the net, but Blueger (5) quickly flicked the rebound into the net.
For the Penguins which lead the league in shorthanded goals allowed (14), shorthanded goals are much nicer when scored for you than against.
In the middle of the third period, Blueger scored the Penguins fifth unanswered tally when all three linemates touched the puck. Phil Kessel raced through center ice and fed the late trailer Jared McCann but Georgiev failed to glove McCann’s long wrist shot and Blueger (6) tapped in the rebound.
It was all over including the shouting.
New York threw pucks to the net in the first period but had only eight shots in the second period. Murray made 33 saves. Georgiev made 30 saves.
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