The Pittsburgh Penguins scored three goals in 61 seconds and didn’t blow the lead in a 5-1 victory over the New York Rangers Sunday night
Maaaaaaan, if only the Penguins hadn’t blown that three goal lead against the Philadelphia Flyers last week!
Picking up two of three games against the Philadelphia Flyers last week and now the first of the two-game series against the Rangers, the Pens could be heading into a series against the lowly Buffalo Sabres up next with a chance to make a run at the Washington Capitals at the top of the division. Oh well.
Regardless, the Penguins exorcised some demons Sunday, scoring three goals in 61 seconds AND holding the lead in route to a big team win over the Rangers.
Kasperi Kapanen provided a spark for Evgeni Malkin, with the pair scoring five points (a goal and two assists from Kapanen and a goal and assist for Malkin) as the Penguins shook off a slow start to the game to bust it wide open late in the first period.
After the Rangers series concludes Tuesday, the Penguins play the New Jersey Devils and the Sabres, the East division basement dwellers, in five of the next seven contests. Sitting in the fourth and final playoff spot now, the Pens have a chance to build on some encouraging play.
The 4-3 loss to the Flyers last week was a turning point for the Penguins, and the Pens appear to have answered the call well through the first couple of games.
Brian Dumoulin has been a much needed jolt on the blueline, bringing that steadying presence to Kris Letang’s high-risk style of play. The Penguins still need more from John Marino, but there’s hope he can rebound with stretches of strong play this season — and stretches of bad though.
Seeing Malkin with goals in back-to-back games — and increased hustle and effort — provides more encouragement that Geno has shaken off a very, very slow start and can get back to his all-wordly level of play from last season.
Of course, Sidney Crosby is his usual GOAT self.
With Evan Rodrigues on the fourth line, and Sam Lafferty out of the lineup, the fourth line played some valuable hockey. It’s clear Rodrigues and Anthony Angello have earned their playing time over Colton Sceviour and Lafferty right now.
Casey DeSmith was strong in net, fending off some early chances from the Rangers to allow the Penguins to find their footing. He likely won’t receive too many more starts this season, but in his last two spot starts, coming off back-to-backs, he’s been strong in net.
The Penguins have a lot of work to do, but Sunday’s game was about a good as can be expected.
First Period – 3-1, Penguins
The Penguins are a funny team. You really can’t get a read on them at any point ever. Ever.
With just one shot through the first 14 or so minutes of the game, it looked like those Penguins had shown up against the Rangers. Instead, the other side of the Pens, you know, the score three goals in 60 seconds showed up.
The first Penguins’ power play was awarded when Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren dragged Crosby to the ice, more of a makeup call on a blatant trip on Malkin that was missed but whatever. The power play went by without much incident, and two seconds after the time expired, Marino wristed a shot past Rangers goaltender Alex Georgiev.
Evan Rodrigues skated into the zone, dropped a pass for Kapanen and crashed the net. Kapanen cycled back and dropped a pass for Marino, who used the Rodrigues to score his first of the season.1-0, Pens.
40 seconds later, Rangers defender K’Andre Miller couldn’t make a play on the puck at the Rangers’ blueline, failing to bat the puck out of the air, and Kapanen pounced on it to create a quick breakaway. Kap skated in on Georgiev, got him to lean and snapped a quick wrister up over his glove. 2-0, Pens.
20 seconds later, Letang hit Dumuolin mid-stride and Dumo busted up through the neutral zone. Dumo fired a perfect pass to Crosby, who entered the zone and busted through the middle of two defenders and wristed a shot up over Georgiev’s glove. 3-0, Pens.
And that was the end of the night for Georgiev.
At an early 8-1 shot deficit, the Rangers appeared to be in line for a dominant night. Especially after an early gaffe from Mike Matheson awarded Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad a 2-on-1 just over a minute into the game.
Matheson made an ill-advised pinch near the blue line, couldn’t corral the puck and Zibanejad bore down on Cody Ceci. Ceci played him, taking away the pass, but DeSmith hung back in the crease and allowed a quick shot up over him to break the score.
While the Penguins didn’t immediately fire back after that opening goal, their resilience shone through. Again. Maybe the Pens should just never score first again?
Second Period – 3-1, Peguins
The second period escaped without too many high-risk scoring chances as both DeSmith and newly installed Rangers goaltender Keith Kinkaid stifled any chances.
After a Rangers’ 2-on-2 chance ended with a shot off DeSmith’s mask early in the period, Crosby sent a pass off the boards to spring Jake Guentzel on a breakaway chace. Kinkaid’s pads proved too big, and his shot bounced to the boards.
With just one shot through the first seven-ish minutes of the period, the Pens got off to another slow start in the period. More power play problems followed.
Bryan Rust seemingly drew a power play chance after being hooked, but the referees switched it to a too many men on the ice call. The end result was the same, and the Pens generated some chances but couldn’t unlock Kinkaid.
As time winded down on the first call, Rodrigues found himself with space in front of the net and the puck hurtling toward his stick from behind the net. Zibanejad’s stick check cracked Rodrigues’ stick and awarded the Pens a quick 5-on-3 and subsequent extended power play.
The second power play ended with nothing, no serious chances created. Sigh, this power play could be such a dangerous weapon if the Penguins learned how to put pucks on net and establish a net-front presence.
A strong finish to the period from the Rangers created some scoring chances, but between being unable to find the back of the net and DeSmith making some saves, the period ended with a two goal deficit for them.
Third Period – 5-1, Penguins
Marcus Pettersson retrieved the puck below the goal line a little over halfway through the period and fed Malkin as he skated out of the zone. Kapanen’s speed out of the zone, looking like he was shot out of the zone, created a 2-on-1 as Malkin crashed the net. Kapanen’s cross-creased feed hit Geno’s stick, and he didn’t miss the back of the net. 4-1, Pens.
Kapanen has been such a good pick up for the Pens this season. His speed, tenacity and scoring touch has allowed him to play up and down the lineup, but it appears he’s found a place with Geno. The pair have looked very, very good together.
The Malkin goal actually came not long after a similar but reversed play saw Kapanen absolutely robbed by Kinkaid on a cross-crease feed from Geno. Just keep putting those pucks on net, huh?
As time was winding down in the period, Zach Aston-Reese knocked a puck down at the side of the net with his hand and forced it past Kinkaid after it bounced wide of the post originally, and after some initial confusion from the referees, it was deemed a goal after it was determined it never hit Kinkaid after touching ZAR’s glove.
With a goal from the boards and a goal from directly next to the net in back-to-back games, ZAR is finding new ways to score. With five goals in 13 games this season, he’s been a much welcomed boon to the offense this season.
The Penguins and the Rangers will meet again Tuesday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and will be broadcasted on AT&T SportsNet locally and ESPN+ nationally.
What did you think of the Penguins’ contest against the Rangers? Let me know in the comments!