Igor Shesterskin made 22 saves, including a save on Penguins forward Jake Guentzel in the dying seconds to help New York beat Pittsburgh for the second time in five days, moving the Penguins from second to third in the division.
“It was an intense game, but all the games are at this time of year when our team is in the standings,” Kreider said. “The level of intensity increases with each game as we come to the end here.”
Five days after being drilled at Madison Square Garden in a 5-1 loss, Pittsburgh responded with a much better effort but ultimately the same result.
Sidney Crosby scored his 25th goal and Brian Boyle got his ninth for the Penguins. Tristan Jarry has stopped 23 shots but is down 6-2 in his last eight starts, with both losses coming in New York.
“It’s the type of hockey we have to get used to playing down the stretch,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “It had a playoff feel to it.”
Last week, New York overwhelmed Pittsburgh with a furious start. This time, Rangers put the clamps on Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Co. early and relied on the resilience that defined them. The victory marked New York’s 23rd victory, a franchise record and most in the NHL this season.
“I think the easiest way to defend is to play offense, rotate defenders and try to force them into turnovers (and) play in their end,” Kreider said.
The open space and fortuitous rebounds that occurred in lighting up Detroit for 11 goals — Pittsburgh’s highest total in a single game since 1993 — disappeared Sunday against the Rangers.
Still, the Penguins managed to take the lead 14:24 into the first period when Boyle deflected a shot from defenseman Brian Dumoulin that beat Shesterkin.
Pittsburgh held the advantage despite sporadic pressure against Shesterkin until the second period before a shaky clearance attempt by Dumoulin found its way to the stick of Mika Zibanejad, who quickly passed it to Vatrano in the slot. Vatrano’s quick shot 13:32 into the second has earned him 15 goals this season, five since arriving in New York at the trade deadline.
Less than five minutes later, Rangers took the lead when Schneider leapt into play, ran into the slot and hammered in a pass from Artemi Panarin to make it 2-1.
Kreider pushed New York’s advantage to two as he headed for the front of the net and netted a power-play rebound 1:06 into the third.
Crosby extended his one-point streak at home to 13 games and moved up alone to 23rd on the NHL scoring list with a power-play goal just past the third midpoint. But the Penguins couldn’t even pull.
“When we executed, we had momentum,” Boyle said. “When we didn’t, they had momentum, they had chances. … We have another level to reach.
The Penguins paid tribute to recently retired Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger by wearing the No. 7 jersey during warmups and letting him drop a ceremonial first puck. Roethlisberger, who called it a career in January after 18 seasons and two Super Bowl wins, watched from the owner’s box alongside Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux.
NOTES: Crosby has 1,395 career points, which puts him ahead of Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille. … Malkin assisted on Crosby’s goal, giving him 697 in his career, the most for a Russian-born NHL player. … The Rangers, who have the second-largest power play in the NHL, have gone 1-for-1 with the man advantage and scored on the power play in seven of their last 10 games.
Rangers: Visit the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.
Penguins: Begin a two-game road trip Thursday when they travel to Minnesota.
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