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Blueger notches shorty in first career two-goal performance, as Penguins win 5-2 over Rangers

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It started off a little iffy, but the Penguins came back with a vengeance. Blueger scored two goals in the same game for first time ever as an NHLer.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame

There weren’t that many newsworthy events happening before puck drop at Madison Square Garden, other than what we learned about Kris Letang’s upper-body injury status earlier today. The Rangers are already eliminated from the 2019 playoffs, but are still a Metro foe, so the expectation for Pittsburgh tonight was to make sure they left the Big Apple with a couple points.

Here were the Penguins’ line combinations and defensive pairs:

And the starting lineup for the Rangers:

1st Period

Despite the Penguins’ early dominance in possession and controlling play in the Rangers’ defensive zone, NYR was the first to strike on the scoreboard. Brendan Lemieux took advantage of Pittsburgh’s inability to get back on defense and sniped one past Matt Murray to take a 1-0 lead 10 minutes into the opening frame.

After Marcus Pettersson was nailed with a hooking minor with about six minutes left, New York’s rag tag group of power play guys connected on a one-timer, with Vinni Lettieri getting the credit to go up two scores.

Nick Bjugstad wasn’t a fan of being down a deuce this early, so he immediately got that one back after burying a rebound try to cut the Penguins’ deficit in half.

2nd Period

Early in the period, Brady Skjei whacked Sidney Crosby in the face and sat for high-sticking. On the ensuing power play sequence, the Captain went to work behind the Rangers’ net and fed a beautiful pass to Justin Schultz who launched a heat-seeking missile past Alexandar Georgiev to tie the game 2-2.

Due to the Pens’ fourth line entering the zone and putting on a hard forecheck to re-gain possession, Garrett Wilson found Matt Cullen down low who then threw Georgiev a sneaky head fake and sniped one short-side to give his team its first lead of the game 3-2.

As Jared McCann skated behind the Rangers’ net to try to collect a loose puck, he got hit with an extremely high hit (and possible elbow) from DeAngelo. It went uncalled. Though it was a scary moment, McCann seemed to be okay. Mike Sullivan chewed the referee’s ear off afterwards. Rightly so.

After a couple of back-to-back penalties on the Penguins, Teddy Blueger and Bryan Rust linked up to create chaos on a short-handed 2-on-1 try and eventually hit twine with the extra effort, growing the Penguins’ lead to 4-2.

3rd Period

There wasn’t much action in the final frame until the eighth minute in, when Blueger slammed home a rebound to get his second goal of the game (first two-goal game of his NHL career) and give the Penguins a 5-2 lead. The Rangers challenged it for being offside, but the call on the ice was confirmed after seeing Blueger drag his toe across the blue line during the review.

Some Thoughts

  • This team plays so differently without Letang on the ice, and with his status being “day-to-day,” let’s hope it doesn’t turn into a three-week absence like last time. It’s my guess that Letang decided to sit today to take full advantage of the Penguins’ upcoming three days off, as their next tilt isn’t scheduled until Friday night. That should give him ample time to work towards recovery. I wouldn't be surprised if he joins the team when they take on the Predators.
  • Schultz was given the bulk of Letang’s minutes, and even though he seemed to have some pep in his step early on, the duo of him and Jack Johnson didn’t look spectacular and were on the ice during that Lemieux tally. That changed in the second period when he sent a rocket past Georgiev and fixed his backcheck.
  • Evergreen mention of the McCann/Bjugstad trade being extremely good.
  • The Rangers, in their current youthful state, didn’t have much of a chance against the Penguins’ veteran club — despite their injuries to star players. I mean... Cullen scored a goal tonight. The rebuild is strong in Midtown Manhattan.
  • Just like his father Claude did in his era, his son Brendan Lemieux did a spectacular flop to draw a penalty on Jack Johnson and get the entire Pittsburgh fanbase to sour on him. He’s going to be a pest for many years to come.
  • If you ask me, it’s so much nicer to watch this team score short-handed goals rather than have it happen to them. Thanks, Teddy. He played great tonight by the way. He’s so, so fast.
  • Matt Murray was brilliant again. He stopped 33 of the Rags’ 35 shots for a .943 save percentage.