The New York Rangers have plenty to be thankful for so far in the early stages of the 2016-17 season, including a big opportunity to see where they stand against the defending champions and the team that eliminated them last season, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With an appetizing 5-2 come-from-behind victory entree in Pittsburgh on Monday night, the Rangers will go back up for seconds, as they complete their home-and-home set with the Penguins tonight at Madison Square Garden (7:00, MSG).
The Rangers (14-5-1) got off to a slow start, as Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel made history. Playing in his first NHL game, Guentzel scored on the first shot of his first career shift, and later added another to put the Pens up 2-0. However, the Rangers used a trio of goals to kickstart them to victory, as Rick Nash and Michael Grabner provided the equalizers, before JT Miller put in a shorthanded goal to give the Rangers a lead they would not relinquish. Like good neighbors, Kevin Hayes and Derek Stepan were on hand to provide insurance, giving the Rangers the 5-2 margin. It was the fourth time in as many tries they won the second half of back-to-back games this season.
In addition to the five-games series victory they claimed in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the Penguins also took three of four regular season games from the Rangers last season, the lone win coming February 10 at Pittsburgh. Henrik Lundqvist, who will start tonight after watching Antti Raanta pick up his fifth win of the season in as many decisions, made 34 saves in a shutout, while Hayes and Jesper Fast were among the scorers. The Rangers and Penguins, who have squared off in each of the past three postseasons, will face off again in another pre-holiday showdown on December 20.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490