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Penguins vs. Rangers Recap: Wide open hockey benefits Pittburgh in big win

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The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins play a pretty wide-open game, trading scoring chances and showcasing a lot of speed. The Pens prove to have a little more of both tonight in what ends up being a 7-2 blowout win.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame

The Penguins flip right wingers on their top two lines and Chad Ruhwedel makes his Pittsburgh debut.

1st period

The Penguins earn a 4 minute power play early when Carl Hagelin gets high-sticked, but fail to score until there's 24 seconds left in the power play when Sidney Crosby deflects an Ian Cole point shot into the net.

The Pens keep up the better of the play but the Rangers make one of their few shots count, with Matt Puempel pumping a shot on the rush right past the ear of Matt Murray for a goal. Not a great goal for Murray to give up here, considering Pittsburgh had been the game's better team.

(Can't find any GIFs of the Rangers on the internet Sad!)

Shots 22-10 in favor of Pittsburgh, but unfortunately the score is tied after 20.

2nd period

The Pens come out and take the lead right back, Phil Kessel pulls a McCrosby (term invented by Ryan Whitney for a zone exit + zone entry + a scoring chance generated) and Chris Kunitz makes a nice pass over to Evgeni Malkin. Malkin's one time shot beats Antti Raanta back from the way he slid. 2-1 Pens.

Pittsburgh gets another PP, but it's NYR who gets the first great scoring chance, Michael Grabner feeds Derek Stepan for a shot that Murray makes a tough save on...Good thing, the puck goes back down the ice and Kessel patiently skates the offensive zone and flicks a shot into the net that Nick Holden tries, but ^juuust^ fails to keep from going over the goal-line. 3-1.

Game turns into a track meet, chances at both ends. Grabner gets a breakaway, Murray keeps the puck in front of him...At the other end, Raanta robs Bryan Rust with a great glove save.

Shots in the 2nd period 14-8 NYR, shots 30-24 overall in favor of the Pens. More importantly, goals 2-0 in the period for the Pens and 3-1 in the game after 40.

3rd period

The Rangers come out flying in the 3rd with a clean and all-too-easy rush that the Pens offer little-to-no resistance on. The result is a 3on2 and a pass through Kessel to Grabner with Dumoulin in no position to support. Grabner's free release ends up with a nice shot and goal blocker side on Murray. 3-2.

However, the Penguins come back strong immediately. Justin Schultz puts a shot to the net with Patric Hornqvist in front and Ryan McDonaugh backing into his own goalie and causing some chaos. Puck goes in the net to re-establish a 2 goal Pittsburgh lead at 4-2.

Pittsburgh keeps rolling, McDonaugh fails to clear a puck but Crosby collects it. Rust goes to the net with his stick on the ice (good idea) and Sid puts an easy one for him to drive the score to 5-2.

The Pens keep it going, on a 2nd unit PP goal scoring on a rush. All 5 players touched the puck, capped off by Hornqvist tapping in a Nick Bonino shot to stretch the lead to 6-2.

In the dying seconds of the game, Brady Skjei makes a bad mistake behind the net and Rust jumps on him. Bonino gets the puck right in front and dekes Raanta backhand. Hey, it's a contract year gotta make hay while the sun shines.

Some Thoughts:

  • A couple puck mishandles in the first period for Derrick Pouliot (one in the defensive zone that resulted in a good chance for Jimmy Vesey that Murray saved, one in the offensive zone that lost the blue-line after an extended shift). Add on a tripping penalty in the 2nd period. He's still a guy without much playing time this season but his mistakes are glaring and frequent, so hopefully he can round into better form with more playing time, before he doesn't get the opportunity for time any longer.
  • Conversely in his Pens debut, Ruhwedel was confident enough to sneak in to the offensive zone, take a nice centering pass from Phil Kessel and get a shot on goal from a dangerous area. Wasn't the best of shots, but hey, gotta start somewhere and a nice first impression to make.
  • The Pens were aided by the early 3+ minute power play, but shots were 17-5 through the first 15 minutes of the game. Felt like the whole game was being played virtually exclusively inside of the Rangers defensive zone, which made it unfortunate to come out even.
  • Nice wrinkle in coaching by putting Crosby out for a rare PK shift in the second period when the Pens earned an equally rare offensive-zone faceoff from an icing call. Nice little way to maybe generate a little offense with Sid being good at hockey and faceoffs. Didn't work this time, but a nice try.
  • Quietly, the Penguins new first pair of Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin had a good game together. Seemed to compliment each other well and made smart decisions with the puck, With the Letang and Daley injuries, it goes without saying that the team desperately needs solid performances out of Maatta and Dumo, and they got 'em tonight.
  • The offensive switch worked too. Rust netted a goal with Sid in the 3rd (and could have easily had another in the 2nd off a Sid generated chance) and Kunitz/Hornqvist were buzzing and helping create chances with Malkin as well. We'll see how long the lightning stays in the bottle, but it's good for tonight.
  • Game gets a little chippy in the 2nd, Chris Kreider runs into a goalie (as he's wont to do) and on the ensuing power play, a Ranger blatantly trips Kessel. No call, which isn't unexpected as the Pens were up 2 goals and 2 PP calls and on one right then. Then a Ranger takes out Patric Hornqvist so Crosby gets frustrated and knees Grabner.

  • As it often is, special teams performances were the difference in the game. Pittsburgh was 3/5 on PP, 3/3 on PK, Rangers 0/3 on PP, 2/5 on PK. That's 3 goals and pretty much the difference in how the game unfolds.

  • Nice bounce-back for Murray after a weak goal against at the end of the 1st to shake it off and stop the next 14 shots he faced in the second period.

  • Pens big stars all shined bright too: Malkin 1g+2. Crosby and Kessel each 1g+1a,...And Schultz too! (Well, he's certainly playing like a star this month). Tough to beat Pittsburgh on a night like that with the big boys all showing up on the scoresheet multiple times.

Pittsburgh skates away with this one fairly easily and ought to feel good about themselves. Now two more games to get through before a quick Christmas break, and next up is the red-hot Blue Jackets on Thursday night.