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Recap: Rangers score early and often, blow out Pens 8-4

The Pens can’t keep the puck out of the net right now, falling 8-4 to the Rangers

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports


The Penguins welcome back Tristan Jarry from injury and give him the start. Radim Zohorna also gets a sweater for the night as Anthony Angello shuffles out of the lineup.

First period

It’s a nightmare start for Jarry and the Pens, who give up three goals in the first 9:58 of the game all on somewhat weird or unfortunate events.

The Rangers strike first just 1:35 into the game. Colin Blackwell is trying to center the puck but the puck takes a wonky deflection off Mike Matheson and goes directly into the net. Just a tough bounce, but it’s 1-0 NYR all the same.

Then, something rarely seen is a bad sequence by Sidney Crosby. His cross-ice pass is weak and gets intercepted and Crosby has to drop to cover for the defense. Crosby gets walked by Pavel Buchnevich (understandable) and Jarry makes the save on Buchnevich but leaves a rebound. The Pens backcheck too much and aren’t in position. But Mika Zibanejad is going to accept the gift and slams home the rebound. 2-0.

The trifecta of the early disaster is completed when rookie Radim Zohorna takes a hooking penalty behind the Rangers net (oh no, buddy, what is you doin???)...The Rangers convert quickly on the first power play of the game with Artemi Panarin whipping a shot from the left side in to make it 3-0 just 9:58 in.

Pittsburgh is way out of sorts and needs to regroup, so Mike Sullivan wisely puts the breaks on this with a timeout and some instruction for his team.

The strategy works, Crosby draws a penalty on the next shift and now it’s the Pens who strike early on their power play. Crosby wins the draw cleanly back for Kris Letang, Letang feeds Jared McCann and McCann unleashes his shot. It might skip off a Ranger or two but it has enough power on the shot to stay on target and beat Igor Shesterkin to get the Pens on the board and make it a 3-1 game.

The Pens settle in for the next 7 or 8 minutes and control play, but again take a penalty and again NYR sets up and Panarin makes a great pass across the ice for Ryan Strome. Jarry has traffic in his face and leaves a lot open on the short side. Strome finds that space. 4-1 with 17 seconds left in the period.

Shots on goal in the first are 19-11 in favor of Pittsburgh, but goals are a way different story.

Second period

Jarry gets the hook after the first period and it will be Casey DeSmith to see the rest of the game out.

McCann draws a penalty early, the Pens get some zone time and looks at the net but don’t score.

Evan Rodrigues gets a breakaway and hits the crossbar without scoring and then the Rangers score not too long after. Alexis Lafreniere shows some nice hands to get around DeSmith and puts the puck to the net and scrambling John Marino and Marcus Pettersson can’t keep from going in. 5-1.

Just 16 seconds later, the Pens get that one back. Colton Sceviour on the rush dishes for Matheson who skates down the wing (looking mighty winger-ish...) and shoots hard far-side that might have deflected off a Ranger stick but hits the top corner. The frenetic pace of this game continues and it is 5-2.

Shots in the second are 13-7 Pittsburgh, but they can’t get any closer on the scoreboard from where the period started.

Third period

Early in the period Jake Guentzel goals to the box for holding and the Rangers make it 3/3 on the night on the PP when Jacob Trouba shoots from the point and deflects off Letang and/or Kaapo Kakko and past DeSmith. 6-2.

The Pens keep hanging around, Guentzel gets a nice pass from Matheson and rifles a shot past Shesterkin to make it 6-3 and then Marino draws a penalty to send the Pens to a power play.

But late in the power play, Matheson is pressured and gives up the puck. Adam Fox jumps up in the play and buries a centering pass. 7-3.

19 seconds later the Rangers score on the rush, because, hey why not? Filip Chytil draws in the defense and makes a nice pass for a wide open Pavel Buchnevich to score on. 8-3.

As the game ambles on, Zohorna does well to shrug off a few checks and holds and hits Brian Dumoulin with a nice pass for Dumoulin to tuck in his first goal of the season to make it 8-4.

Some thoughts

  • Well, on the bright side, McCann was skating like he was shot out of a cannon, dangerous with the puck and probably the Pens’ best player on the ice visibly by a mile early on.
  • Goals in three straight games for Guentzel too.
  • The good and the bad with Matheson was on overdrive in this game. The first goal, bad break going off him. Then Matheson scores a goal of his own and sets up one for Guentzel for two nice plays. And follows that up by a bad defensive play that gift wraps a goal against. Never a dull moment with Matheson out there, but it would be a lot better for the Pens if he was quieter in his own end, and lately he’s been anything but.
  • This game looked like one the Pens played about 12 of early in the season. They weren’t bad, but they were bad in spots. And the puck ended up in the net behind them for one reason or another. They couldn’t stay out of the box in the first, and the Rangers made them pay twice. The Pens got a ton of chances and shots but couldn’t score. On the other side, they were fishing out the puck because the Rangers didn’t miss.
  • Jarry only gave up two 5v5 goals, one a pure bad bounce and a breakdown from a bad Crosby pass. What can ya do? Jarry wasn’t necessarily bad, maybe he would have preferred to play a goal or two a little better, but that’s easy to say with the benefit of replays and seeing what happened.
  • One thing I did like to see in the first, down 3-1 but showing life, rookie Alexis Lafreniere got a little uppity in front of the net and Matheson got in his face and showed some emotion and jostled a bit. Seems like this year you don’t see a lot of fight or intensity from the Pens after the whistle, they could use a little vinegar. Both players went to the box for the extra circulars, which is fine, gotta stand up for yourself and not get walked over. Stuff like that is why the Pens have had been involved in so many big comebacks this year, they’re down but never stop. Doesn’t always work, but you have to have the first step.
  • Similarly, nice to see Zach Aston-Reese push on Jacob Trouba, even willing to drop his gloves before getting separated. Went to the box for it, but down 8-3 you need players to still be invested and care.
  • Can’t imagine Zohorna’s offensive zone penalty bodes well for upcoming opportunities to play NHL games. Nice redemption at the end of the game with an assist though.
  • Lots of open ice and space in this game for both teams. Needless to say, a game where the Pens miss players like Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen (who has 3G+4A in six games vs NYR this season).
  • After giving up seven goals last game to Boston, the Pens give up eight to NYR. How to stop the bleeding? Staying out of the box would help, the PK was 0/3 tonight. From Feb 1 - March 31st the Pens were getting like .940% 5v5 goaltending. That doesn’t last forever, as seen by giving up 8 goals on 25 shots tonight. Hopefully the ebb will soon flow (or the other way around). But that’s ups and downs of a season.

The good thing for the Pens is this one is over, everyone presumably made it out in one piece nm Marino got hurt in the third period, and the other players are one day closer to getting back. The past few games have been unsettling, but luckily for Pittsburgh their red hot March has them well above the fray. We thought it would be a grind earlier, but now is when that grind has actually set in. One more game with the Rangers, and a Pittsburgh win secures 5/8 wins on the season series if they can get there and move this season along.