When Jake Guentzel scored at 18:54 of the first period of Tuesday’s match in Pittsburgh to tie the score 1-1, it marked the seventh time the Blueshirts had surrendered a goal within the final 91 seconds of a period (not counting empty-netters).
And when Kasperi Kapanen roofed one from the slot to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead at 19:40 of the second, it marked the fourth time the Blueshirts had been scored upon in the final 40 seconds of a period (and eighth within the final 91 seconds, not counting empty-netters).
“It was a good response from the group but we put ourselves in a hole because of those two late goals,” Chris Kreider said following the 4-2 defeat in which the Rangers could not recover despite dominating the third period with a 15-1 shots advantage. “For 56, 57 minutes we’re doing a good job of playing through, establishing a forecheck and playing good structured hockey and then we chase our tails a little bit late in the period.
“They’re obviously a team that’s had a lot of success with a lot of veteran players and are very opportunistic, but late in a period like that if we don’t have the energy to play through it, we have to have that bend-don’t-break mentality when they start buzzing around the perimeter there.”
The Rangers weren’t quite as efficient as Kreider might have thought through the first two periods, the Penguins pretty much had their way breaking out and gaining the offensive line, but there is no doubt about the Blueshirts’ third-period domination.
Or, as David Quinn observed: “I certainly loved how we battled back but, you know, it’s tough to win a game when you play 30 hard minutes.”
The Blueshirts killed the Penguins’ lone power play, extending their streak of successful kills to 14 straight over their past seven games, while snuffing 51 of the 54 they have faced over the last 17 matches dating back to Jan. 30. They rank fourth in the NHL at 87.2 percent after finishing 23rd last season at 77.4 percent and 27th the season before that at 78.2 percent.
The Rangers last placed in the top five in the Stanley Cup final year of 2013-14 with an 85.3 rate and last cleared 87 percent in 2008-09, when the Blueshirts led the NHL at 87.8 percent.
Quinn was not particularly pleased with the power play that went 1-for-3 while allowing a shorthanded goal. The club is ranked 26th in the NHL at 16.1 percent.
“I just thought we were slow, it was a reflection of our five-on-five play,” the coach said. “The power play has been very sporadic for sure. We have to find the way to make things a little more consistent.”It’s too slow, we need more pace. That’s something we’ll certainly address [Wednesday].
Brendan Lemieux was designated as a healthy scratch for the second time this season, supplanted up front by Colin Blackwell, while Libor Hajek was scratched for the first time since his Feb. 3 promotion from the taxi squad, replaced on the back end by Jack Johnson.
Lemieux, who sat in Pittsburgh in the fifth game of the season on Jan. 24, has gone 11 straight without a point. The 24-year-old winger has one goal and three assists while getting an average of 10:47 per in 22 games.
Hajek had played 14 games, recording one point (1-0) while getting 15:36 of ice per.
Keith Kinkaid became the 14th Rangers starting netminder in the hard-cap era that commenced in 2005-06. Henrik Lundqvist started 871 games, with Alexandar Georgiev the runner-up at 81. Cam Talbot is next with 53 starts, followed by Kevin Weekes and Antti Raanta, each with 44.
Martin Biron started 41 for the Blueshirts, with Steve Valiquette in at 28 and Igor Shesterkin with 25 starts. Ondrej Pavelec is next with 12, followed by Chad Johnson’s four and Buffalo killer Mackenzie Skapski’s two. Alex Auld and Magnus Hellberg each got one start as a Ranger.