The Penguins and Rangers played two-plus periods of hockey that would resemble a series of three-and-outs in a football game. Neither team really created much offense, zone time or puck possession.
Both teams scored two goals each in the third period, the Rangers mounting a two-goal comeback, to force a shootout.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, a beast in shootouts, stopped all five shooters he faced. Henrik Lundqvist stopped the first four. Then Brandon Sutter buried a shot five-hold to give the Penguins a 4-3 victory at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
"Part of me was just waiting to get a chance, I felt good with the puck and wanted a shot," said Sutter, the Pens' fifth shootout shooter. "It's always fun to get out there. That's only the third one I've ever had. I missed the first two so it feels good to get that one."
Fleury improved to 4-2 lifetime against Lundqvist in shootouts and 41-17 in his career.
"I was glad when Sutter (scored)," Fleury said. "It was a big goal. Usually we get a few in quick, but it was good. It was fun."
The Penguins have now won five straight games and 10 of their last 11. They also had goals from Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Sutter.
The Rangers goal scorers were Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard.
With the Penguins clinging to a 2-1 lead and goals seemingly hard to come by, Sutter came up clutch with one of the sweetest goals of his NHL career.
Sutter carried the puck from his own zone in four-on-four play. He skated up ice and entered the New York zone. He made a cut inside on Michael Del Zotto and toward the slot. Sutter then lifted a filthy backhander with some zip over the shoulder of Henrik Lundqvist to give Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead.
"Anytime you get a one-on-one, especially four-on-four, you want to try and make a play on it," Sutter said. "I tried to drive wide and get the D to think I was going to go wide or shoot. I pulled it in. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Tonight it worked pretty well."
Even though the Rangers scored two late goals to tie the game, Sutter had another opportunity to be the hero in the shootout. And he connected on his opportunity, slipping the puck through Lundqvist's five-hole for the win.
"I was just looking for a shot or any opening," Sutter said. "You always have a backup plan as a deke either way. I just saw an opening, fired it and it worked out. It felt good."
WBS IN NYC
The Pens entered their contest with the New York Rangers with 10 players on their injured list (and two suspended players). On the season they¹ve lost 187 man-games to injury/suspension.
There were eight players in the team¹s lineup that either are or were originally in Wilkes-Barre/Scraton (seven if you don't count Jeff Zatkoff). The other seven are Brian Dumoulin, Chris Conner, Zach Sill, Harry Zolnierczyk, Simon Despres, Brian Gibbons and Philip Samuelsson.
"To go through what we're going through and still win says a lot," Sidney Crosby said. "It says a lot about our character and the guys that have come up and the job they've done."
The depleted lineup made for some interesting shootout selections.
"It's not the deepest lineup for shootout candidates that we've had," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "It looked like both guys wouldn't let one in. So we were looking to see how deep we would go."
With several injuries to the Penguins defensive corps, their current top D-pairing is Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta. Both had extensive minutes against the Rangers. Niskanen led the way with 29:44 minutes, while Maatta logged 28:06.
That's a heavy workload considering the Penguins host the Minnesota Wild Thursday night in a back-to-back affair.
"It's probably more minutes than either player is accustomed to," Bylsma said. "They've played very well the last couple games with it. The 29 minutes in Detroit for Matt Niskanen.
"I think they have been getting the lion share back there for sure. We¹re going to have to have those other guys step up some more in tomorrow night's game."
Center Evgeni Malkin did not join the team on their trip to New York and has also been ruled out of their Thursday matchup with the Minnesota Wild at CONSOL Energy Center. He will be re-evaluated and a decision will be made regarding Saturday's afternoon contest with Calgary.
Author: Sam Kasan