With Henrik Lundqvist falling ill with the flu, Ondrej Pavelec was pressed into duty for the first time since October 28th. The Rangers netminder would make 41 saves on 44 shots to carry his club to a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena. One very odd stat in those 44 shots by Pittsburgh……
Only four of them came in the first period!
Pavelec would be given a bit of luck on the night as the Penguins would ring the post on four separate occasions, including late in the third period when Evgeni Malkin thought he had buried a tying goal with the Pens net empty, only to watch it hit the post and go through the crease and out the other side harmlessly.
New York would outshoot the Penguins 10-4 in the opening frame and Tristan Jarry would make several difficult ones as the opening twenty minutes would end tied at 1.
Conor Sheary opened the scoring at 15:13 when he would beat Pavelec from the near side circle on a setup from Patric Hornqvist. The goal was Sheary’s ninth on the campaign and the Penguins appeared to be waking up from a slow start all to familiar during first periods. Ryan Reaves had a great chance earlier in the period, but his wrister hit the red iron as well.
New York would come back just over a minute later and get the game knotted up when Boo Nieves scored his first goal in the NHL at 16:49.
An important development occurred during the first when Justin Schultz had his leg rolled up on in a pile of four players near the defensive zone blue line. Schultz would skate off and go to the dressing room under his own power. He would also attempt to give it a go in the second period, but left for good shortly in. No immediate update was given by Mike Sullivan other than to say that Schultz would be re-evaluated on Wednesday.
Despite the Penguins ripping off a season high 23 shots in the second period, you could see with the scrambling of five defenseman to cover in his place, that it affected the team. New York would repeatedly get odd man breaks and generate dangerous rushes throughout the period. To this writer’s viewpoint, this is where the game was lost.
Despite taking a two to one lead on Phil Kessel’s 13th of the year (and it was a beautiful play by Jake Guentzel. Guentzel controlling the puck down low, allowed Evgeni Malkin to take two defenders to the net before allowing Kessel to come in a second-wave and finding him for a quick, low one-timer), the Penguins would see the Rangers score twice to end the period down 3-2.
Jesper Fast would collect a rebound in front of Jarry to tie up the game at two. Kris Letang allowed Brady Skjei to blow by him at a high rate of speed. Skjei would have his shot stopped by Jarry’s glove, but the rebound was pounced on by Fast who beat 2 additional Pens defenders to the front of the net and easily roofed a backhand home.
Ten seconds before the goal, Fast appeared to hook Malkin on the hands in a call that has consistently been whistled down all year. Malkin even turned and gestured to the officials to no avail.
The Rangers go ahead goal caught the Pens defense sleeping when JT Miller found Mats Zuccarello behind a flat-footed Matt Hunwick at the Pens blue-line. Zuccarello would get a shot off, low on Jarry that he appeared to have stopped. Jarry, however would push the puck into his own net when he tried to squeeze his pads together and kicked it with his foot sweeping along the ice. A shot Jarry would have liked to have back for sure.
Pittsburgh would fail on two power play chances in the second, compounding the defensive breakdowns.
Early in the second each team would get whistled for minor penalties as Hunwick would go off just over a minute in. One minute in to his penalty however, Kevin Shattenkirk would take a needless slash in the neutral zone. It was Shattenkirk’s second stick foul in the game and he was visibly upset with the refs on his way to the penalty box.
After a minute of four-on-four play, the Pens would get a chance on a shortened power play. They would capitalize on it as Evgeni Malkin caught the Rangers changing penalty killers and find Patric Hornqvist with a stretch pass that sprung the Swede on a mini breakaway from the Rangers blue-line.
Hornqvist’s wrister would go off of Pavelec’s glove and in to tie the game at 3:35.
Pittsburgh would carry the play from a territorial point of view for most of the rest of the game. It would be an unfortunate bounce on a harmless looking three-on-three rush that would steal the two points for New York on this night.
Pavel Buchnevich would control the puck entering the Penguins zone. With both of his teammates covered, Buchnevich would try to force a pass across the slot. The puck would deflect off of Kris Letang and flutter perfectly into the top half of the net past a stunned Jarry to give the Rangers the lead. A lead they would hold on to for the last eight minutes.
Sidney Crosby’s five game point streak came to an end.
Jarry would make 25 saves on 29 shots, and while he was not as sharp as previous outings, this game definitely does not fall on him solely. A slow start in the first and a rough defensive second period allowed New York to hang around and keep the game within one shot. A shot that they took advantage of to take their sixth win in the last seven games.
Pittsburgh would finish the night 1 for 3 on the power play, New York was 0 for 2.
The Ranger victory allowed them to climb to within one point of Pittsburgh in the super tight, super competitive Metro Division.
Another team in the mix, the New York Islanders come calling on Thursday night at 7 PM. The islanders, hot of late, will come in to Pittsburgh fresh off of being hammered 6-2 by Tampa on Tuesday night so look for them to want to bounce back with a good effort.
Stay tuned for our coverage of Pens and Isles right here at Pittsburgh Sports Castle, and as always, thank you for reading!