Penguins snap power-play cold spell, still lose to Rangers in OT
NEW YORK — For the fourth consecutive game, the Pittsburgh Penguins had allowed the opposition to race out to a multigoal lead.
And for the fourth consecutive time, the Penguins found a way to adjust and climb back into the contest.
But any hopes of claiming a lead for a fourth consecutive game weren’t to be for a hobbled lineup missing a handful of all-stars such as Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang.
Despite rebounding from a two-goal deficit in the second period, including with a rare power-play goal, the Penguins couldn’t string together enough offense Tuesday and fell to the New York Rangers, 3-2, in overtime at Madison Square Garden.
“I didn’t like how we played in the first period yet again,” forward Jared McCann said. “We made too many mistakes. They capitalized on them. We were clawing back the whole game. I liked our effort in the second and third. But other than that, it wasn’t a good game.”
The Rangers controlled play early and tested Matt Murray with a pair of breakaways within the first seven minutes of regulation. The second was successful as Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko, the second overall selection in this year’s draft, split Penguins defensemen Marcus Pettersson and Justin Schultz at the offensive blue line and tucked a backhander past Murray’s left skate at 6 minutes, 42 seconds.
It became a 2-0 game with only 11 seconds left in the period when another rookie, defenseman Adam Fox, wired a wrister from the right circle past Murray’s glove hand on the near side.
“We had a slow start tonight,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “For me, it’s about a mindset before the puck drops. We weren’t ready to play. They were ready to play. They outplayed us in the first period.”
The Penguins appeared ready to play once the second period began.
They got on the scoreboard only 1:13 into the period. As forward Dominik Simon provided a screen, Schultz lifted a wrister from low in the left circle past goaltender Alexandar Georgiev’s glove hand on the far side.
At 12:33 of the second, the Penguins got their first power-play goal since Oct. 13. McCann reclaimed a puck off a botched passing sequence and ripped a wrister from the right circle past Georgiev’s glove hand on the near side, snapping a slump of 28 consecutive unsuccessful power-play opportunities.
“It’s a good feeling,” Sullivan said. “I was happy for the players because I know they want to score. It’s been a little bit of a struggle. It wasn’t the prettiest goal, but usually that’s how it happens. We’re going to try to build on that.”
After a scoreless third period, the Penguins advanced to overtime for the third consecutive outing. This time, they fell and saw their two-game winning streak come to a halt.
With acres of open ice in overtime, Malkin attacked the net deking past Fox in the offensive slot but failed to get a shot off. Chasing after the puck on the end boards, he fed a blind pass to the slot for forward Bryan Rust but had it stolen by Kaako, who then fed it to Fox.
Pushing play up the left wing, Fox veered to the slot, opened up the left wing and fed it back to Kakko, who tapped his second goal of the contest past Murray’s right skate at the 2:24 mark.
“My fault in (overtime),” Malkin said. “I need to save the puck behind the net. Play a little bit (more) simple.”
The Penguins would like to simply take the first lead of a game. That’s a feat they haven’t accomplished since Oct. 29.
“It’s the same problem (as) the last three games,” Malkin said. “We need to start better. For 20 minutes, a little bit soft. We understand if we want to win, we need to play better. The last 40 minutes, we play good. We understand, no Sid, no (Letang), no (Patric Hornqvist), we need to work harder. Like 120 percent.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .