New York Rangers fast start lights up Penguins en route to a 5-1 win

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Mar 25, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) celebrates his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins with defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) and defenseman K'Andre Miller (79) and center Mika Zibanejad (93) during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins squared off in a potential playoff preview Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

With the letdown in New Jersey fresh in their minds, the Blueshirts went to work early and often en route to a big victory over a divisional rival.

Chris Kreider logged two goals and an assist on Friday for the Rangers, who rolled to a 5-1 win over the visiting Penguins. They are just one point behind Pittsburgh for second place with a game in hand.

Recap: Rangers 5 vs Penguins 1

Kreider scored his 43rd and 44th goals of the season to move into tie with the Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl for second place in the NHL. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews is on top with 46.

Kreider scored the second goal in New York’s three-goal flurry in the opening 4:16 of the game. He added his third career short-handed goal in the second period.

Kreider’s latest big performance helped the Rangers bounce back from a 7-4 road loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. Third-place New York moved within two points of second-place Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan and within four of the division-leading Carolina Hurricanes.

Alexis Lafreniere and Frank Vatrano also scored in the first period and Andrew Copp tallied in the third for the Rangers. Mika Zibanejad collected three assists.

New York goalie Igor Shesterkin made 20 saves as the Penguins rarely had any prime scoring chances.

Jeff Carter scored as Pittsburgh, which dropped its second straight and fell to 8-3-2 in its past 13 games. The Penguins played without Evgeni Malkin, who was scratched due to a non-COVID illness.

Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry saw his five-game winning streak end as he allowed five goals on 30 shots. He was replaced by Casey DeSmith after Kreider’s second goal but came back in when teammate Brian Dumoulin collided with DeSmith. DeSmith saved all three shots he faced.

New York Rangers strike early and often

New York went up 1-0 when Filip Chytil sped down the right wing and made a cross-ice pass to Lafrenière, who backhanded the puck past Jarry at 2:07.

“Nice play by [Goodrow] and we got a quick two on one,” Lafrenière explained on MSG. “Nice play by [Chytil]. A really good play by our line and a good start for sure.”

Kreider made it 2-0 moments after entering the ice on a line change. Zibanejad spotted him coming down the ice, made a lead pass and Kreider finished off a breakaway by lifting the puck over Jarry’s stick inside the left post at 3:58.

Just 18 seconds later, Kreider helped the Rangers take a 3-0 lead. He maintained possession along the left boards while being checked by Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang, then moved the puck to Zibanejad. A cross-ice pass from Zibanejad found Vatrano, who lifted a backhander from the high slot into the net.

“He works hard, he’s quick, a really smart player,” Zibanejad said of Vatrano. “It’ll be fun to continue that.”

Alexis LafrenièreChris Kreider and Frank Vatrano all scored 4:16 into the first period, marking the fifth fastest three goals to start a game in franchise history behind 2:16 on Feb. 28, 1965 (vs. TOR), 2:23 on March 5, 1961 (vs. DET), 3:00 on March 7, 1985 (at CGY) and 3:07 on March 24, 1982 (at PIT).

NHL Media

Kreider and Copp top off scoring

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Kreider made it 4-0 at 6:37 of the second with Pittsburgh on a power play. He finished off a two-on-one with Zibanejad, snapping a one-timer from the left side past Jarry.

In the loss against NJ, he lamented passing up a shorthanded chance set up by Zibanejad. “I always shoot that, every practice whenever he gives me that, so no idea why I tried to give it back to him,” Kreider said after the game.

In the replay of this shorthanded goal, Kreider can be seen saying to Zibanejad, “I shot it!”

Carter scored a power-play goal at 6:00 of the third period ending Igor Shesterkin’s shutout bid.

Copp capped the scoring at 17:47 off a beautiful backhand feed by Artemi Panarin from the corner. The newest member of the Blueshirts made no mistake burying it by Jarry for his first goal with the team.

“We bounced back and played well against a real good Pittsburgh team,” Gerard Gallant said with a smile. “Tonight was probably our most complete game.”

Notable Rangers

  • Igor Shesterkin stopped 20 of 21 shots for his 31st win
  • Mika Zibanejad recorded 3 assists and has over 500 points in his career (502)
  • Chris Kreider recorded 3 goals and now has 44 on the year
  • Alexis Lafrenière extends his point streak to a career high 5 games (1G – 4A)
  • Andrew Copp registered his first goal as a Ranger

Brett Howden out of the hospital

Former Rangers forward Brett Howden had to be stretchered off the ice on Friday night after a scary fall into the boards. Here’s the latest.

–Field Level Media contributed to this report

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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