Sunday’s matchup between the Rangers and Penguins was the first of three times they play each other this week, making this the best chance the Penguins and their (questionable) deadline additions to close the distance for third place in the Metro. Unsurprisingly, the game eventually got physically, emotionally charged, and chippy.
The Rangers got into penalty trouble early; Barclay Goodrow, Vincent Trocheck, and Mika Zibanejad all took minors within the first six minutes. Zibanejad’s game shortly after Trocheck’s giving the Penguins an extended five-on-three, during which they scored the game’s opening goal. Rickard Rakell finished off a quick passing sequence from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
First on the board yesterday.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 12, 2023
First on the board today.
Rakell is off to some strong starts! pic.twitter.com/r9E0FTEPwd
From there, New York was able to stay at five-on-five, and the fourth line tied the game. Jimmy Vesey got stuffed up close, but quickly gathered the in the puck and shoveled a backhand pass to Barclay Goodrow, who slammed it home. I did not anticipate enjoying Vesey’s return to Broadway so much, but he’s been so solid (and a good reminder of why you shouldn’t pay up for depth forwards).
Fourth line, no quit. pic.twitter.com/8Ww70pAo9T— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) March 12, 2023
Jaroslav Halak was great in the first, slamming the door on multiple chances on the doorstep. With all the time shorthanded, the Rangers had six SOG for the period. Jason Zucker alone had five.
Zucker got his sixth shot early in the second, and with it, his first goal. He took a slapshot from a terrible location that was heading wide by far, but Zibanejad deflected it past Halak. Zucker had so many legitimate scoring chances in the first, but that’s the one that goes in. What a world.
Jason Zucker has seven goals in his last six games pic.twitter.com/ojrfZTcv42— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 12, 2023
Jacob Trouba, who was booed every time he touched the puck, laid a big hit on Alex Nylander, and things got heated from there. Malkin became the Penguins franchise leader in PIM earlier this week, he and added another two minutes to his lead with a retaliatory crosscheck. The funny thing is that despite the many—shall we say—borderline hits thrown by Trouba, this one was unambiguously clean.
At any rate, the Rangers never got anything going on the powerplay, and neither team scored again. I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but the Rangers were lucky to escape the second with only a one-goal deficit. They have been utterly unable to defend the front of the net, and making matters worse, the offense’s many turnovers mean their spending more time defending than attacking.
After getting caved at five-on-five for a couple periods, Gerard Gallant hit Pulse a couple times on the blender and mercifully rearranged the middle-six, reuniting the Kids and putting Kane back with Trocheck and Kreider.
That decision paid off. For as mediocre-bad the Rangers were in the first two frames, they dominated the Pens in the third.
In the middle of the period, the Rangers pulled even. Trocheck knocked Malkin down at center ice with a good, clean hit. Malkin got him back in the offensive zone. Again, a legal hit. But Trocheck got the final word, taking down Malkin from behind on what was decidedly not a legal hit, but the refs let it go. I guess they’re warming up for the playoffs when they turn down penalty sliders in the options menu. That hit created a three-on-two and the game-tying goal from Chris Kreider.
Trocheck vs. Malkin hits x3 that precede the score pic.twitter.com/zWqyHR2phQ— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 12, 2023
Kreider with the tying goal to make it 2-2 with ~half the third to go pic.twitter.com/KG8WQ7HVy1— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 12, 2023
The game slowed down from there, and neither team managed another goal.
And so began the overtime for the third game in a row. The Rangers won the faceoff and Zibanejad, Artemiy Panarin, and Adam Fox possessed the puck for almost a minute straight. But at the end of his shift, Panarin lost puck along the boards to Malkin, and Panarin tripped his countryman to put the Penguins on the powerplay. Malkin and Crosby again linked up, but this time Kris Letang was the goal-scorer.
A PERFECT WEEKEND pic.twitter.com/xpUNEgQsj7— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 12, 2023
. . .
Another game, another uneven performance by the Rangers. As mentioned, the first two periods were pretty dire, but they came alive and showed what they’re capable of in the third. The OT penalty by Panarin was unfortunate, and he’s shown a bad propensity for offensive zone penalties this year. On the positive side, the fourth line was excellent for the Rangers all game long. They were energetic, they managed the puck, and they even chipped in a goal. Halak was good, too, even if he looked a little scrambly sometimes.
Plus, getting a point out of this one is significant. The Rangers are already comfortably ahead of the Penguins, so managing the pity point will help keep that margin as time winds down. Expect the Penguins to play with urgency in the other two games this week.
Before that, however, the Rangers have a Tuesday night game against the Washington Capitals.