Artemi Panarin’s big day leads Rangers past Penguins

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena, the New York Rangers defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, 7-4, in the first game of a weekend back-to-back for both teams.

Artemi Panarin stood out offensively for New York, as the Hart Trophy candidate registered five points (two goals, three assists). Jonathan Quick made 34 saves on 38 shots for his 15th win of the season.

“Every game he’s making plays,” Adam Fox said of Panarin. “He could probably have four or five (points) every game with the way he plays.”

Bryan Rust and Lars Eller recored a goal and an assist for the Penguins. Tristan Jarry struggled in goal, making just 17 saves on 23 shots.

Related: Rangers prioritize future and winning a Cup

New York Rangers 7 vs Pittsburgh Penguins 4

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The first period was a high-scoring affair, with the ice wide open and a total of five goals scored between the two bitter rivals.

The scoring opened early when John Ludvig of the Penguins found the back of the net at 2:36, giving Pittsburgh an early 1-0 lead. 

However, the Rangers quickly responded with a burst of energy and offense, scoring two goals within just 26 seconds. Kaapo Kakko tied the game at 1-1 at 3:07 with his ninth goal of the season, swiftly followed by Fox, who put the Rangers ahead with a beautiful backhand goal at 3:33. The goal, Fox’s 12th of the season, tied his career-high goal total set last season.

Pittsburgh managed to even the score at 2-2 when Rust capitalized on an opportunity at 12:26, burying his 20th goal of the season. The equalizer marked the fifth-consecutive 20-goal campaign for the Penguins forward.

As the period progressed, the Rangers took the lead once again at 15:32. Vincent Trocheck and Panarin connected once again, with the ‘Breadman’ scoring his 37th goal and registering his 90th point of the season. 

This goal not only gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead heading into the first intermission, but marked significant milestones for Panarin and K’Andre Miller. Panarin became the first player in team history to reach 90 points four times, and the first to achieve it in three consecutive seasons. Meanwhile, Miller collected his 100th career point with an assist on the play.

The second period continued the high-intensity, high-scoring trend established in the first, with both teams creating significant scoring opportunities and adding more excitement.

The Penguins began with an early power play, during which both teams showcased their skills, creating outstanding chances. Despite the opportunities presented, the score remained 3-2 in favor of the Rangers as teams returned to full strength.

Pittsburgh found success on their second power-play opportunity of the period. Eller scored his 13th goal at 10:10, to tie the game 3-3.

The Rangers, not to be outdone, regained their lead at 16:27 on the power play, when Panarin scored his second goal and recorded his third point of the game, pushing New York ahead once again, 4-3.

The drama intensified following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Kris Letang, which gave the Rangers another man advantage. They capitalized on this opportunity as well, when Mika Zibanejad scored at 17:30, his 21st goal of the year. This goal extended the Rangers’ lead to 5-3, which they would carry into the locker room after 40 minutes of play.

The third period was dominated by Quick, as he turned away 15 shots in the final frame, playing a crucial role in maintaining the Rangers’ lead.

The Rangers extended their lead to 6-3 at 4:41 when Miller unleashed a wrist shot from the point that found its way past Jarry for his eighth goal of the season. This prompted the Penguins to make a goaltending change.

On this goal, Panarin recorded his third assist of the day, marking a significant milestone with the 500th assist of his career. Panarin’s achievement placed him as the third-fastest active player to reach this milestone, behind only Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, highlighting his remarkable playmaking skills and impact on the ice.

The Penguins responded nearly three minutes later at 7:23, when Valtteri Puustinen scored his third goal of the season off the rush, reducing the Rangers’ lead to 6-4 and keeping the game within reach.

However, any hopes of a Pittsburgh comeback were put to bed when Chris Kreider, playing in his 800th NHL game, scored an empty-net goal at 19:42. It was his 33rd of the season, to seal a 7-4 victory for the Rangers.

The Blueshirts are set to return to action on Sunday afternoon for a St. Patrick’s Day matinee against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden, with puck drop scheduled for 1:00 PM. 

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