PITTSBURGH (AP) — Penguins coach Mike Sullivan thought his team wasn’t playing with emotion throughout the first half of Tuesday night’s game against the New York Rangers.
Then a red-hot power play came to the rescue.
Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust each scored with the man advantage as Pittsburgh beat the Rangers 3-2 to stop their seven-game winning streak.
“We weren’t playing that hard and for some odd reason, we weren’t in a game that we should’ve been,” Rust said. “I think getting those power-play goals really kind of gave us a shot in the arm.”
It was the first meeting between the division rivals since their first-round playoff series last season. New York rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate Pittsburgh, winning Game 7 at home in overtime.
Sidney Crosby scored his 18th goal and had an assist for the surging Penguins, who have won eight of nine. Pittsburgh is 15-3-2 in its last 20 games overall.
Malkin extended his point streak to nine games and tied Sergei Fedorov for the second-most points in NHL history among Russian-born players.
Tristan Jarry made 26 saves and ran his winning streak to seven. He also has a career-best 13-game point streak, tied for fourth-longest in team history.
Chris Kreider scored twice for the Rangers, who lost for the third time in 11 games. Igor Shesterkin stopped 21 shots but lost on the road in regulation for the first time this season.
“I thought we played a great game,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “We worked hard and competed hard. It’s too bad for those power-play goals we gave up late in the second, but overall we played real good hockey.”
Kreider scored off the rush 22 seconds in when he sent a puck toward the net from the side wall that deflected past Jarry. Pittsburgh native Vincent Trocheck extended a five-game point streak with his first of two assists on the night.
New York took control for a while, but couldn’t finish. The Rangers were awarded three power plays and hit three posts in the next period and a half, while the Penguins couldn’t manage a shot for more than 10 minutes.
“It was a lackluster kind of performance for the first half of the game,” Sullivan said. “Somewhere in the middle of the second period, we started to get some life and we played with some juice. When we got the first power-play goal, it gave us a boost of energy.”
Malkin tied the game on the power play at 14:24 of the second. He beat Shesterkin with a blocker-side wrist shot from the top of the left circle, as the Penguins scored a power-play goal for the ninth straight game. Pittsburgh has 13 power-play goals in the last nine games.
Rust scored a second power-play goal in the final 15 seconds of the period. He tipped Pierre-Olivier Joseph’s shot behind Shesterkin to put Pittsburgh in front for good.
“In the absence of emotion, it’s hard to be at your best in this game,” Sullivan said. “Over the course of an 82-game schedule, sometimes you have those moments. But the first power-play goal got us going and we started to play from there.”
Rangers: Host the New York Islanders on Thursday.
Penguins: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.