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Pens/Rangers Recap: Comeback effort falls short for Pens in loss

The Pens make it interesting at the end, but can’t dig out of a hole against the Rangers

NHL: MAR 29 Rangers at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Meeting for the second time in three weeks, the Penguins and Rangers faced off in what could be a playoff preview. The game didn’t disappoint from an entertainment perspective, though it was New York that skated off the ice with the win and possession of second place in the division, hopping Pittsburgh in the process.

Early in the first, the post proved to be challenges for both teams with Danton Heinen and later Frank Vatrano seeing open net to shoot at, but only hitting iron.

Deep in the first, veteran Brian Boyle would put the Penguins on the board, tipping a Brian Dumoulin point shot to open the scoring.

Shots only ended up 9-5 in favor of the Rangers in the first period, in a spirited but tightly contested game.

New York would strike back in the second period, scoring two goals to take the lead in the middle frame. The equalizing goal came after Pittsburgh tried and failed on two chances to clear the puck out of their zone. Mika Zibanejad continued his run of strong play by settling down a puck from mid-air and making a short pass to Vatrano, who quickly snapped a five-hole shot before Tristan Jarry could cover the bottom of the net.

Shortly after, the Rangers would take the lead, scoring on a rush play with rookie Braden Schneider drilling a puck to the top corner of the net off a nice feed from Artemi Panarin.

At the end of the second period, Jake Guentzel and Ryan Lindgren got tangled up and Mike Matheson came in forcefully to help Guentzel out. All three players would end up in the penalty box to give the Rangers their first power play of the game. It wouldn’t be long before, who else but Chris Kreider scores his 45th goal of the season from in close to extend the NYR lead to 3-1.

The Pens would answer with a power play goal in the third period with 9:23 remaining when Sidney Crosby displayed his rare slap shot goal from distance that eluded Igor Shesterkin thanks to Jake “the tank” Guentzel setting a screen.

Pittsburgh pushes to tie the game and come close to doing so when Matheson’s incoming shot nails the crossbar. The Pens pull Jarry with 2:30 and run with five forwards and just one defensemen and get all sorts of pressure and looks at the net, as do the Rangers on an empty net. No one scores though before time expires.

Some thoughts

  • No doubt emboldened by a short handed goal against the Pens on Friday, the Rangers were definitely making an effort to push the play when they had the puck even when down a player. They don’t look like they have a lot of fear of the Pens’ power play at this point, especially without the puck.
  • The Rangers converted their lone power play chance. The Pens got the one in the third, but it took three chances to get there. Efficiency wise, the Rangers were superior with special teams in this game.
  • Both of these teams are similar in a lot of ways, right down to their goalies being great puck movers that can spring a breakaway when the opposition gets sloppy with a line change. Happened for and against each team and will definitely be a note to take forward.
  • With 2:30 left in the game, not only did the Pens pull the goalie for an extra player on an o-zone draw, but they went 5F+1D and continued that the rest of the way. Bold strategy, but it almost paid off. “A” for effort on some coaching creativity there.
  • The last about 1:30 of this game was especially electric. Rickard Rakell from his knees was hugging the post and blocked a Kreider shot. Malkin blocked a shot. Barclay Goodrow inexplicably missed a wide open net. Rakell and Guentzel almost scored at the other end a few times. Insane sequence of desperation and some fun, Pittsburgh just couldn’t find that goal.
  • Another good game for the fourth line, who pitch in with another goal and did some good things out there. One standout is that Teddy Blueger only took one faceoff, they are not using this line to start many shifts and nearly all defensive zone draws were taken by Crosby or Jeff Carter.
  • The last two games have shown the Pens still have to go to the drawing board to figure out the Rangers’ forecheck and how to effectively get the puck out of their zone while keeping possession. The Pens only mustered 13 shots in the first 40 minutes, which just isn’t going to cut it (but they only gave up 18 as well).

There won’t be any moral victories for Pittsburgh, falling short against the Rangers for the second time in five days. Their focus will now shift to Western teams for the next three days as the sprint to the end of the regular season continues.