For the first period of the latest tilt between the New York Rangers and their Metropolitan Division rivals at PPG Paints Arena, the Pittsburgh Penguins, resembled last season’s playoff series between the two teams, a five-game Penguins triumph that was never in serious doubt.
However, the Rangers brought back memories of Penguins games past, resembling the squads that eliminated Pittsburgh during the 2014 and 2015 editions of the playoffs, taking over the latter portions of the game to top the Penguins 5-2 in the teams’ first meet-up since Pittsburgh’s positive playoff performance.
The Penguins picked up right where they left off against the Rangers, scoring on the first shot of game, coming from the recently promoted Jake Guentzel at 62 seconds in, making his NHL debut. With his family in attendance, Guentzel added to his unforgettable evening with another goal just over 12 minutes later, part of a 2-0 Pittsburgh lead after the first period. Pittsburgh outshot the Rangers 14-8 in the first 20 minutes, and doubt started to creep up on the Rangers and their fans, especially after going winless in back-to-back games for the first time this season over the weekend.
However, the Rangers (14-5-1) broke out in the second period, as Rick Nash, one of the few skaters able to break through during the Rangers’ doomed playoff series with the Pens last season, put in an unassisted goal, his first since November 8. Michael Grabner, off a helper from Ryan McDonagh, later put in his team-high 12th of the season, but the Rangers weren’t done yet. While Brady Skjei served two minutes for interference, JT Miller put in a shorthanded goal in the final minute of the frame, capping off a 3-o Rangers’ second period, one where they outshot Pittsburgh 15-9.
In an evenly contested third period, Antti Raanta, who made 29 saves to improve to 5-
0-0 on the year, stopped eight remaining Penguins shots, while Kevin Hayes put in his ninth off another assist from McDonagh. Derek Stepan added an empty netter, and the Rangers’ victory over the Penguins was complete, giving them a four-point lead in the Metropolitan Division, albeit with the Penguins (11-5-3) having a game in hand.
Grabner’s 12th goal of the season now ties him for the league lead in goals with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine. The Rangers also improved to 4-0-0 in the second part of back-to-back games.
The Rangers will complete their pre-Thanksgiving portion of the schedule by completing their home-and-home with the Penguins on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden (7:00, MSG).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490