A key difference between the early performances of the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers can be found in their respective results in one-goal games.
Pittsburgh heads into Monday’s visit to Madison Square Garden with three victories by a goal in the first three meetings with the Rangers, who are struggling to protect leads.
The Penguins are 5-0-1 in one-goal games so far and their one-goal wins are tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the league lead. The Penguins also are 5-1-1 in their past seven games after getting outscored 11-5 in their first two games at Philadelphia.
On Saturday, the Penguins picked up their fourth win beyond regulation and second over the Rangers when Sidney Crosby scored 2:27 into overtime.
Crosby’s game-winner occurred after Jake Guentzel tied the game midway through the third period and capped a night that saw Pittsburgh squander three one-goal leads.
“I think it builds character for the group,” Crosby said. “If you continue to put yourself in that situation, that’s not necessarily the formula to have success. We’ve got to find a way to get leads, hold them and build momentum from them.”
Crosby’s goal also improved the Penguins to 3-3-1 when trailing after two periods so far and Saturday was a strong response to a 4-1 loss in Boston on Thursday. It also capped a night when the Penguins were down to five healthy defenseman after losing Kris Letang to a lower-body injury midway through the first period that may keep him sidelined Monday.
One of those defensemen was rookie Pierre-Olivier Joseph, who set up Crosby’s game-winner and collected three assists.
“I was happy for those guys, their resilience and their resolve through all the ebbs and flows of the game, through some of the adversities during some of this early part of the season,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said.
The Rangers are off to an underwhelming start, 1-3-2 in one-goal games and 2-1-2 when holding a lead into the final period.
“It’s a recurring thing at this point,” New York’s Chris Kreider said. “We’ve shown what we can do in spurts. We understand what we need to do to be successful, and then they crank up the intensity a little bit in the third period and all of a sudden we get away from it.”
New York’s only one-goal win was Thursday’s 3-2 victory in Buffalo when rookie Alexis Lafreniere scored 2:47 into overtime. On Saturday, the Rangers tied the game three times before Artemi Panarin scored a power-play goal with 3:59 left in the second period to give his team a 4-3 lead.
New York then wound up getting outshot 19-8 the rest of the game and fell to 1-3-2 in their past six games with each contest being decided by one goal. In overtime, Panarin nearly won the game and then could not get off the ice alongside Mika Zibanejad and defenseman Tony DeAngelo while Pittsburgh was able to make two line changes.
“They beat us to every loose puck, they won every battle, we kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “They were smarter and looked like a little hungrier team than we were in the third period.”
The Rangers lost when Crosby’s goal went past Alexandar Georgiev, who continued the trend of New York alternating starting goaltenders. That means Igor Shesterkin is likely to start Monday and he is 1-2-1 with a 2.73 goals-against average and .894 save percentage after making 23 saves Thursday.
–Field Level Media