Un­der­manned Rangers rally to beat Pen­guins

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Dan Scifo

J.T. Miller scored short-handed to cap a sec­ond-pe­riod rally, help­ing the un­der­manned Rangers over­come an early two-goal deficit to beat the Pen­guins 5-2.

The New York Rangers aren’t about to let the loss of two top for­wards de­rail their hot start.

The Rangers were hit with ad­ver­sity the pre­vi­ous two days, first on Sun­day af­ter learn­ing Mika Zibane­jad and Pavel Buch­nevich would miss ex­tended time be­cause of in­jury, and the fol­low­ing day when they fell be­hind early against their di­vi­sion ri­val Pitts­burgh Pen­guins.

Rick Nash sparked a come­back, though, and J.T. Miller scored short-handed to cap a sec­ond-pe­riod rally, help­ing the Rangers over­come an early two-goal deficit to beat the Pen­guins 5-2 on Mon­day night.

“We know a lot about this team be­cause we played them so much over the last hand­ful of years,” Miller said. “I think we were on our heels a lit­tle too much to start, a lit­tle too pas­sive. I thought we were a lot more ag­gres­sive af­ter that, and when we did that, we forced them into more turnovers and got a cou­ple lucky bounces.”

The teams play again Wed­nes­day night at Madi­son Square Gar­den to com­plete a piv­otal, early sea­son home-and-home be­tween Metropoli­tan Di­vi­sion con­tenders. The Pen­guins have lost four of six and trail the first-place Rangers by four points.

Pitts­burgh’s Jake Guentzel scored twice in the first pe­riod of his first NHL game, but Rick Nash and Michael Grab­ner made it 2-2 be­fore Miller, a Pitts­burgh na­tive, got his eighth of the sea­son.

Kevin Hayes added his ninth goal mid­way through the third, and Derek Stepan also scored into an empty net.

Antti Raanta, start­ing the sec­ond game of a backto-back for New York, re­bounded af­ter the first pe­riod and made 29 saves for his fifth win in six games.

Marc-An­dre Fleury stopped 31 shots for Pitts­burgh. It was the first time he started two straight games since Matt Mur­ray re­turned ear­lier in the month from a bro­ken hand.

“It’s a long sea­son and things aren’t al­ways go­ing to go your way,” Pen­guins coach Mike Sul­li­van said. “What’s most im­por­tant, from our stand­point, is how we re­act to it. That’s the les­son we need to learn from this game.”

Zibane­jad, in­jured a day ear­lier against Florida, is ex­pected to miss six to eight weeks for the Rangers with a bro­ken leg, while Buch­nevich is out two to three weeks with a back in­jury. Zibane­jad had five goals and 15 points in 19 games, while Buch­nevich scored four goals and eight points in 10 games.

That didn’t de­ter the Rangers on Mon­day, as New York, with an NHL-best 81 goals through 20 games, was able to rally.

Miller scored in the fi­nal minute of the sec­ond pe­riod to put the Rangers ahead. A cen­ter­ing pass de­flected off Pen­guins de­fense­man Kris Le­tang and for­ward Ev­geni Malkin be­fore hit­ting Miller and go­ing past Fleury.

The Rangers next goal was also a lucky one, as Ryan McDon­agh’s cen­ter­ing pass hit off Hayes’ skate and went be­hind Fleury.

“The game didn’t start the way we wanted, but I thought af­ter the first pe­riod we set­tled down,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “That’s a re­ally strong team, but we were able to do what we had to do to get the job done.”

Guentzel made his de­but against the same team that drafted his fa­ther Mike in the sev­enth round in 1981. The younger Guentzel scored on the first shot of his first shift, a sim­i­lar feat accomplished by Pen­guins co-owner Mario Lemieux 32 years ear­lier. Guentzel’s wrist shot from be­low the left face­off dot sneaked be­tween Raanta’s pads 1:02 into the game. It was the fastest goal by a Pen­guins player mak­ing his NHL de­but.

His sec­ond goal came ex­actly 12 min­utes later. Malkin tipped Phil Kes­sel’s ini­tial shot, and Guentzel put the re­bound be­hind Raanta from the slot.

Guentzel, the Pen­guins’ 2013 third-round pick, was re­called from the team’s AHL af­fil­i­ate in WilkesBarre/Scran­ton ear­lier in the day. He had seven goals and 17 points in 16 AHL games, lead­ing the team and rank­ing among the league lead­ers.

“It’s a dream come true to play here,” Guentzel said. “When­ever you get the chance, you want to make the most of it.”

This was the first meet­ing be­tween the di­vi­sion ri­vals since the Pen­guins elim­i­nated the Rangers in the open­ing round of the play­offs last spring. It marked the third straight year the teams met in the post­sea­son — the Rangers won the first two meet­ings be­fore los­ing to the Stan­ley Cup cham­pi­ons last sea­son.

NOTES

Guentzel is the fifth player in team his­tory to score his first NHL goal on his first shift. He is the third Ne­braska-born player in NHL his­tory to score a goal . ... Malkin has points in seven straight home games . ... Pen­guins F Chris Ku­nitz, who has 11 points in 18 games, is con­sid­ered week-to-week with a lower­body in­jury . ... Pa­tric Horn­qvist, who missed the last three games with a con­cus­sion, skated on his own be­fore the Pen­guins’ morn­ing skate.

UP NEXT

The teams com­plete their home-and-home at Madi­son Square Gar­den to­day.

GENE J. PUSKAR — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

J.T. Miller cel­e­brates short-handed goal with team­mates dur­ing Rangers’ vic­tory over Pen­guins.

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