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Rangers Recap: Stale Penguins a step behind NY all night, lose 4-2

Try as Sidney Crosby and the first line may, they can’t overcome defensive mistakes in New York

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images


For the first time in 15 games Ryan Poehling is back from injury. That bumps Danton Heinen from the lineup which otherwise is the same and an encouraging development given the bumps that Jan Rutta and Jeff Petry took last game.

First period

Not a great start for Pittsburgh, Vladimir Tarasenko made a really good defensive play to deny a centering pass and then Artemi Panarin made an even nicer bank pass off the wall to send Mika Zibanejad on a clean breakaway. The Rangers’ leading goal scorers made no mistakes, firing a hard shot past Tristan Jarry and it’s 1-0 NYR early.

Things went from bad to worse for Petry when he went into a corner with Tyler Motte and ended up catching an elbow in the kisser as a result. That felled Petry, who had to be helped from the ice.

Marcus Pettersson gets rung up for elbowing but the Penguins’ PK holds strong. Jarry then comes up with a huge and very impressive save on Panarin from right in front of the net.

NYR generally in control, Pens just hanging on and giving Jarry plenty of looks at the puck. Perhaps too many. 12-7 NY are the shots, but despite a sleepy opening, Pittsburgh is only down by a goal after the first period.

Second period

Fairly uneventful start to the second. Jake Guentzel pops up to put a nice shot on Igor Shesterkin but the Ranger goalie hasn’t fallen asleep. Jarry answers that big save by stretching out his legs to stop Vincent Trocheck on a backhand deke.

The goalie duel keeps going with Shesterkin stopping Jason Zucker and then Jarry making an even tougher save on a broken play that put the puck on Tarasenko’s stick from just to the right of the net.

With so little going on, Mike Sullivan plays a little right wing roulette and bumps Bryan Rust down to the second line, Alex Nylander to the third line and Rickard Rakell up to the first line. The results pay off almost immediately with Rakell receiving a pass from Sidney Crosby from behind the net and quickly ticketing a shot to the top of the net. 1-1 game.

The game isn’t tied for long, P.O. Joseph can’t control a bouncing puck and turns it over for Motte. He quickly shoots to the far-side on Jarry. 2-1 NYR back out.

Pettersson goes back to the penalty box for NY’s second power play chance of the game near the end.

Shots in the second period are 11-9 PIT, not the most excitement for either team going on in this contest. 2-1 NYR with 20 minutes to play.

Third period

Pittsburgh starts the period short-handed but kills off the remaining time on Pettersson’s penalty.

The new-look first line is back at it, with Crosby and Rakell working like madmen down low the whole shift. Eventually Crosby wins the puck again down low and for the second time sets up a goal down low. Sid hits Jake Guentzel with a pass and Guentzel has space to rip a shot that beats Shesterkin to tie the game at 2 and get Guentzel back to the 30 goal mark on the season.

The Rangers find another quick answer, working the puck around the outside and firing a shot in. Jarry fought off the initial attempt but left a rebound. Chris Kreider out-muscled Brian Dumoulin in front and slid the loose puck home. 3-2 NYR back in front with 8:15 to go.

Pittsburgh puts a big push on to tie with their first line pinning the Rangers in. NY ices the puck so Malkin’s line gets a crack at the tired group but they can’t find the equalizer. Jarry is pulled late for an extra skater but that goes up in smoke. Malkin blocks a shot at the net but Kreider taps in the rebound. 4-2 Rangers.

Some thoughts

  • Was thinking about a note how stale the forward groups were looking, and Sullivan obviously agreed and didn’t even wait for an intermission to go in a new direction. Nicely done by him, ultimately the rest of the third line isn’t doing enough to maximize what Rakell can do. It was a good call to get him back to star players where that came to life instantly.
  • It’ll be interesting to see where Nylander goes from here, he’s been more anonymous which each passing game. The team just moved his emergency recall to use their second (of four) “regular” recalls from the AHL so he probably will be sticking around, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see Nylander and healthy scratch Danton Heinen switch places in the near future.
  • Sullivan’s other major decision about which goalie to start also paid off. Jarry steadied his ship and played well enough in this game. That was an important showing for him to have the opportunity to get back on track and he did his part with some key saves that kept his team in there deep into the third period.
  • The first goal against was the stuff to drive you crazy, as our pal Jesse Marshall pointed out on twitter. You had Brian Dumouln throwing a blind pass through the middle, Bryan Rust completely abandon covering the back-end with Dumoulin low, Jeff Petry going the wrong direction too long and letting Zibanejad get behind him. Lots of oof to go around on that one, and the Rangers are always all too opportunistic (and skilled) to capitalize in transition.
  • Petry was knocked out of the game on his third shift of the night and going to five defenders wore on the Pens. It showed when Joseph made a critical error in a tie game in the second period, not the best of showings again for that young player. Playing defense is often known as a game of mistakes and tonight Joseph and Dumoulin had plenty of costly ones.
  • On a night where Crosby ensured he will be over a point/game player again for the 18th straight year, the way he got it was very fitting. Hard work down low, winning pucks, setting plays up. The consistency and ability to grind it out night after night and year after year is or should be the mark of his greatness.
  • No power plays for the Pens tonight. Just one of those nights, they weren’t holding onto pucks or using much speed to force the Rangers to stop them.

Well, this mini “series” of three PIT/NYR games this week will require a rubber match on Saturday to see the unofficial winner. Pittsburgh is up 2-1 on the season series, which is a good enough place to be in the big picture of this matchup. After a bad game earlier to Montreal, they would have liked to get a bounce-back but that opportunity will have to wait.