Kris Letang’s power play goal 1:38 into overtime lifted the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Sunday.
Letang’s ninth goal of the season came after New York’s Artemi Panarin was called for tripping Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin early in the extra period. Letang’s burst from the spot helped the Penguins strengthen their grip on the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Jason Zucker scored for the ninth time in eight games for Pittsburgh and Rickard Rakell added his 23rd. Tristan Jarry made 27 saves as the Penguins improved to 3-0-1 during a five-game homestand.
Barclay Goodrow scored his 11th goal of the season for New York and Chris Kreider’s goal midway through the third period tied the score. Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves for the Rangers, including a glove save over Alex Nylander to stifle a 2-on-1 break with less than a minute left in regulation.
The Penguins have shown signs of late of playing with the kind of consistency that eluded them for long stretches during a very uneven season. Pittsburgh is 7-1-1 since a humiliating 7-2 loss to Edmonton on February 23.
The NHL’s oldest team looked decidedly fresh despite their third game in less than 72 hours. A day after dominating hapless Philadelphia, the Penguins set the pace for much of the first two quarters against the Rangers, who were playing their third game in four days, all on the road.
New York took a series of penalties early in the first period, and Rakell’s laser from left circle during a two-man lead gave the Penguins the lead at 6:03 into the game.
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The Rangers tied it just over four minutes later, when Goodrow finished off one of New York’s few chances to create sustained pressure by blasting a shot from outside the box, a goal set up by a deft close-quarters pass from Jimmy Vesey. .
Zucker, whose relentless energy has been a catalyst for his team’s recent upturn in play, got a lucky rebound when his seemingly wide spot shot hit Zibanejad’s skid and past Halak to put Pittsburgh up 2- 1 just above. one minute of the second half.
The intensity increased immediately. Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba hit Nylander with a shoulder to the chest at near speed. The collision evoked memories of a Trouba hit on Sidney Crosby during last year’s playoffs that forced the Penguins star to miss two games with a concussion in a series Pittsburgh would lose in Game 7 overtime.
The hit and fallout seemed to give the Rangers a welcome jolt and New York came alive, particularly in the third quarter.
The Rangers heavily tilted the ice in their favor over the final 20 minutes, and Kreider evened the game at the end of a sequence that began with New York’s Vincent Trocheck hitting Malkin in the back in the Rangers’ zone, leading to a transition finished. with Kreider only in the slot, giving him plenty of room to tie him up.
Rangers: Host Washington on Tuesday night to open a five-game homestand that includes two against Pittsburgh later in the week.
Penguins: Host Montreal on Tuesday night in the final of a five-game homestand before heading to New York.