Kris Letang’s power-play goal 1:38 into overtime lifted the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-2 win 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 blast from the point helped the Penguins strengthen their hold on the first 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 picked up his 11th goal of the season for New York and Chris Kreider’s goal midway through the third period tied it. Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves for the Rangers, including a glove save on Alex Nylander to snuff out a 2-on-1 break with less than a minute to go in regulation.
The Penguins have shown signs of late of playing with the kind of consistency that’s eluded them for long stretches during a wildly uneven season. Pittsburgh is 7-1-1 since a humbling 7-2 loss to Edmonton on Feb. 23.
The NHL’s oldest team looked decidedly fresh despite its third game in less than 72 hours. A day after dominating hapless Philadelphia, the Penguins dictated the pace for much of the first two periods 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 the left circle during a two-man advantage gave the Penguins the lead 6:03 into the game.
The Rangers tied it a little over four minutes later when Goodrow finished off one of New York’s few opportunities to create sustained pressure by flicking in a shot from just outside the crease, a goal set up by a deft drop pass in tight space by Jimmy Vesey.
Zucker, whose relentless energy has been a catalyst for his team’s recent uptick in play, received a fortunate bounce when his shot from the point that appeared to be heading wide instead struck Zibanejad’s skate and zipped past Halak to put Pittsburgh up 2-1 just over a minute into the second period.
The intensity ramped up immediately. Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba hit Nylander with a shoulder to the chest at near full speed. The collision evoked memories of a hit by Trouba 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 go on to lose in overtime of Game 7.
The hit and the aftermath seemed to give the Rangers a welcome jolt and New York sprung to life, particularly in the third period.
The Rangers tilted the ice heavily 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 that ended with Kreider all alone in the slot, giving him plenty of room to tie it.
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 finale of a five-game homestand before heading to New York.