It will be a when-last-we-met kind of game Tuesday when the Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting New York Rangers face off.
This is the first meeting of the season between the Metropolitan Division foes, so it’s the first rematch since the Rangers eliminated the Penguins in seven games in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
The memories are likely to be fonder for New York, and not just because of the outcome.
The series came down to overtime of Game 7, a 4-3 Rangers win with Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry gutting out his first game of the series on a badly injured foot. The Penguins had been forced to use three goalies in the series.
Pittsburgh came away from the series pointing to one pivotal moment. The Penguins held a 2-0 lead in Game 5 when New York defenseman Jacob Trouba — since named team captain — knocked Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby out of the game with what many thought was a questionable hit to the head.
The Rangers quickly scored three goals, won that game and Game 6 with Crosby out before clinching it in Game 7.
New York also knocked Penguins winger Rickard Rakell out of the series on another high hit, by defenseman Ryan Lindgren, in Game 1. Neither Trouba nor Lindgren received any supplemental discipline from the NHL.
Fast forward to Tuesday. Pittsburgh and New York are a point apart in the tightening division standings.
The Rangers have won a season-best seven straight games, including Sunday’s 7-1 win against the Blackhawks in Chicago. The Penguins had their seven-game winning streak halted Sunday in a 3-2 loss against the Hurricanes at Carolina.
“I think going back to (a 6-3 win Saturday at Philadelphia), where we kind of went back and forth, gave up some goals, we kind of stuck with it and just kept playing the game,” said Trouba, who had a goal Sunday.
“I don’t think we let the momentum affect us either way, good or bad. Same thing (Sunday). It was good.”
This will be the Rangers’ third game in four days.
“We’re playing, finding ways to win hockey games,” New York coach Gerard Gallant said. “We’re just playing as a group, and it’s four lines and six (defensemen contributing) on the goals.
“Everyone’s playing good, solid hockey. You get on a little roll and things happen good. We weren’t getting much puck luck the first part of the season. Now we’re getting a lot more of it.”
Pittsburgh is pretty happy with its game, too, despite Sunday’s loss.
“I thought we handled (the Hurricanes) pretty well most of the night; they just got the best of us in the end,” Penguins center Jeff Carter said.
Pittsburgh has the game against the Rangers and a rematch with Carolina Thursday before the NHL’s holiday break.
“We did a lot of good things (Sunday),” Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson said. “Just two good teams, and they got us.”
He said the loss to Carolina “stings because I thought we were playing pretty well for most of the night. But we have to get over it. We have two huge games at home before the break, and we need to be ready for those.”
–Field Level Media