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Pens Points: Meltdown in Manhattan

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Pens squander third period lead in overtime loss to lowly Rangers. Bryan Rust returns to lineup; Matt Murray close. Former teammates expect Brassard to produce when stakes are high. Gonchar continues to work his magic on the Penguins’ defense. Still work to do before Pens can think about Stanley.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

For two periods against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night the Penguins looked like the team we have been used to since the calendar hit 2018. Then in the third period they looked like a team that forgot how to play the game altogether. Blowing a 2-0 third period lead, the Penguins could only capture a single point in the game after dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to the lowly Rangers. [Pensburgh]

Luckily, the Pens will have a chance to get the bad taste out of their mouths almost immediately as they head to Montreal to face the Canadiens later this evening. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 PM and will be broadcast locally on AT&T Sports Network and nationally on NBCSN.

Prepare for tonight’s game with Thursday’s Pens Points...

Only 11 games remain in the 2017-2018 season for the Penguins but there are still a few business matters that need attended to before the schedule concludes. Most importantly the team must qualify for the playoffs to have a shot at a third straight Stanley Cup championship. [Trib Live]

Since coming over from the Senators in a trade last month, Derick Brassard has struggled to fully integrate himself in the Penguins’ lineup. His former teammates in New York don’t expect his slump to last very long once the stakes become even higher. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

After winning a second Stanley Cup with a patchwork defense last season, the Penguins promoted Sergei Gonchar to a full time coaching position. Gonchar’s magic touch has proven invaluable once again as this season’s D-corps has played a huge part in the team’s second half turnaround. [NBC Sports]

With the NCAA Tournament kicking off this week, the folks at ESPN took it upon themselves to decide which NHL team carries the title of “Duke of the NHL” as the league’s most hated team. It was a close race but the Penguins edged out the Chicago Blackhawks for the title of most hated. Fittingly enough, Duke opens their tournament this afternoon in Pittsburgh. [ESPN]

Following a two game absence, Bryan Rust returned to the lineup this evening against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. His return provides a spark to the lineup and some additional depth scoring that is all too valuable this time of year. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

With Rust back in the fold it means the Penguins had to open up a roster spot. Newly acquired Josh Jooris made his debut with the Penguins in Rust’s absence but his services are no longer needed at this time and he has been sent back to the AHL. [Penguins]

On top of Rust’s return to the lineup it appears goaltender Matt Murray may be making a comeback in the near future. Murray returned to full practice and took shots for the first time since going down with a concussion last week. [Trib Live]

If you follow the Penguins on social media you have seen how they have become one of the best in the game in terms of fan engagement. The social team was rewarded for their excellence by the NHL during a ceremony in Las Vegas. [Penguins]

News and notes from around the NHL...

With the current playoff format, over 50% of NHL teams qualify for the playoffs each season. According to a report, general managers across the league appear to be in favor in expanding the playoff field to include even more teams if the format is to be re-worked in the future. [CBS Sports]

A solid ticket drive put Seattle on the fast track to winning an NHL franchise in the near future. While the bid is still being reviewed, there is a certain buzz around a possible Seattle team that not even Las Vegas generated in the run up to the Golden Knights franchise being awarded. [USA Today]