Rangers Pull an Escape Act

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Harry Houdini would’ve been proud.

Artemi Panarin scored two goals and added three assists for a five point game but it was goaltender Jonathan Quick and the power play that made the difference as the Rangers literally escaped with a 7-4 win over the Penguins Saturday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena.

Quick made 34 saves, including 15 in a wild third period where the Penguins seemed to have a 5-on-3 advantage for the entire 20 minutes. “He [Quick] was fantastic and the four [goals] were not his fault. I thought he was unbelievable tonight the way he played the game,” Coach Peter Laviolette said. We got to tighten things up, they got behind us too much. Some chances in our zone so there’s things we can tighten up. He [Quick] was on point, for sure.”

The Rangers were 2 for 3 on the power play but they did not play well in their own end and will need to clean things up fast as they will be right back at it against the Islanders on Sunday in a 1 PM clash at Madison Square Garden.

All the games are tough, especially this time of year so we know we have to bring our best game every night,” Quick said.

The Penguins, who have had trouble scoring goals, had no problem generating grade A chances as Quick was left out to dry, but somehow he kept the puck out of the net. Pittsburgh came into the game having scored 17 goals in their previous nine games, a stretch that included 6 of those 9 games where they scored 1 goal or less.

The checking game was inconsistent at best and the Rangers were losing many of the battles along the boards, but they are a gritty bunch and that trait would eventually help them win this one.

K’Andre Miller had a goal and two assists but his game has been inconsistent since his partner, Jacob Trouba went out. The Rangers had the lead, yet were pressing as if they were behind and it led to some odd man rushes.

I thought that we had good looks, I don’t know if it’s because it was coming off of them pressing so hard offensively themselves and we were doing the same thing,” Laviolette said. “Like I said, there was too many odd man rushes for me.”

Adam Fox had a goal and an assist and appeared to be hurt after blocking a shot in the second period but he gutted it out and still logged over 25 minutes of ice time.

After a solid stretch of defensive hockey, the Rangers have suddenly forgotten how to protect the lead. At the midway point of their loss Thursday night to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Rangers had allowed one goal in a span of over three full games, but since then, they’ve allowed 9 goals (and an empty netter) in just under what would constitute one complete game.

The desperate Penguins came out flying and got the first goal of the game when John Ludvig beat a screened Quick with a shot from the point at 2:36 of the first period.They’re [Penguins] scratching and clawing to stay in the playoff mix. They came out and they had a great effort from the start. We knew we had to be ready. Some chances back and forth, fortunate that we got a couple more than them,” Quick said.

It took just 31 seconds for the Rangers to tie the game as Kappo Kakko netted his 9th goal of the season off of a beautiful feed from Jimmy Vesey to make it 1-1.

The quick strike Rangers took their first lead just 26 seconds later when Fox made a nifty move to beat Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarray for his 12th goal of the season that made it 2-1.

Pittsburgh tied the game when Sidney Crosby skated out in front and found a wide open Bryan Rust who buried the puck to tie the game at two.

Panarin’s first goal of the game and 37th of the season gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead after one. Vincent Trocheck, who had two assists, skated in on a 2-on-1 and made a beautiful play that was capped off by a pretty saucer pass to Panarin who buried the puck for the lead.

Midway through the second period, the Penguins were on the power play and with the Rangers standing around, Lars Eller beat a helpless Quick to tie the game at three.

With the game tied at three late in the second period, Panarin’s power play goal and 38th of the season gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead. Chris Kreider, who had a goal and two assists, did a good job occupying a few of the Penguins players in front of their net and when the puck came loose, Panarin was there to score the go ahead goal at 16:27 of the second period.

The Rangers were immmediately awarded another power play as Kris Letang went off for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and they took advantage a little over a minute later. Mika Zibanejad cashed in with the man advantage for his 21st goal that gave the Rangers a 5-3 lead after two.

Miller’s goal in the first five minutes of the third period gave the Rangers a 6-3 lead but Quick was under siege in the final 20 minutes. The veteran goaltender stood tall to keep the Penguins from tying the game.

With the Rangers leading 6-3 in the third, Fox made an uncharacteristic poor play when he made an ill fated dive at the offensive blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone, but the decision created an odd man rush. Valtteri Puustinen took advantage of Fox’s give away to make it a 6-4 game, but Quick came up big from that point as he made 8 more saves, including a big stop on Micheal Bunting who was wide open in front.

Kreider gave the Rangers bench some relief when he scored an empty net goal to put the game away with :18 seconds remaining. Miller made a nice play to poke the puck ahead to Kreider who scored his 33rd goal of the season.

Panarin reached a milestone with 500 career assists and with 93 points, he has a chance to reach 100 points for the first time in his career.

No rest for the weary with the Islanders up next.

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