Despite a miserable opening 20 minutes, the Rangers were able to rebound in the final 40 minutes to earn a hard fought 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Antti Raanta improved to 5-0-0 on the season, and played a large part in keeping this game in reach as the Rangers struggled in the early going.
Coming off of an extended game last night, the New York Rangers struggled to keep up with the Penguins speed in the opening minutes of this one. As a result, just 1:02 into regulation, the Penguins were able to take an early lead off of a transition play in the neutral zone. Phil Kessel was able to find Jake Guentzel flying into the zone, and Guentzel beat Antti Raanta from a horrible angle.
Sure enough, that was Guentzel’s first career goal on his first career shot and shift. Any time a player makes their debut against the Rangers, it’s almost a guarantee that they will score. Funny enough, Guentzel didn’t just settle for his first NHL goal, as he wound up scoring his second goal of the game a few minutes later.
The goal came off of a broken play at the top of the crease, where Guentzel was able to chip the loose puck over a pile of players in front. After going down 2-0 in the first half of the period, the Rangers attempted to push the pace back the other way, but came up empty handed. The Rangers had several threatening chances in front of the net, but Marc-Andre Fleury was up to the task, and turned away every opportunity.
As bad as the Rangers were during the first 20 minutes, they completely made up for it during the middle frame. They came out like a completely different team, and appeared to tighten up whatever was giving them issues in the defensive end. Because of that, the Rangers were able to score three straight goals over a span of 15 minutes, and grabbed a 3-2 lead.
Rick Nash got everything started with a hard working goal at the top of the crease, after he chipped home the loose puck. About ten minutes later, Michael Grabner picked up his 12th goal of the season coming off of a centering from Ryan McDonagh, who kept the puck alive behind the net. Then it was J.T. Miller, who caught a fortunate bounce following a crisp feed from Kevin Hayes, which skipped in behind Fleury to make it a 3-2 game.
Things did get a little dicey near the end of the period, when the Rangers were forced to kill off the remainder of Brady Skjei’s interference call. Thankfully, they were able to make quick work of that, and started out the third period with a couple encouraging shifts. The Rangers were able to control a good portion of the game during the third period, and were rewarded with yet another goal.
Ryan McDonagh created the entire goal by keeping the puck in on a failed stretch pass, and absolutely danced around Brian Dumoulin as he drove towards the net. With Kevin Hayes posted up in front, McDonagh tossed a centering feed in front, and the puck took a fortunate bounce off of Hayes’ skate.
For the remainder of the period, the Rangers were able to keep the Penguins off the board, with Antti Raanta picking up some key saves as well. With the goaltender pulled with under two minutes remaining, Derek Stepan iced the game with an intended pass that ending up sliding down the ice into the empty net.
This was a huge statement win for the Rangers, after an abysmal opening 20 minutes, and playing without two key pieces in Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. They absolutely dominated the defending Stanley Cup Champions in their first matchup of the season, and scored five unanswered goals.
These two teams will be right back in action this coming Wednesday, when the Pittsburgh Penguins make the trip to New York City, for the second game of the home-and-home series.
If it’s anything like tonight, it should be a good one.