Blown leads and a shaky third defense pairing are becoming a recurring problem for the Rangers this season.
They returned to Madison Square Garden on Saturday to open a three-game homestand with the first of two games against the Penguins, and they blew yet another third-period lead before Sidney Crosby scored at 2:27 of overtime to give Pittsburgh a 5-4 victory.
The Penguins (5-3-1) have won all three games against the Rangers this season.
The Rangers (2-4-2) led 4-3 entering the third period, but the Penguins tied it at 9:18 when Jake Guentzel reached behind goalie Alexandar Georgiev and nudged in the second rebound of a shot by Cody Ceci that Guentzel tipped and Georgiev stopped twice but never was able to control.
In the overtime, the Rangers’ threesome of Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Tony DeAngelo got stuck on the ice for a long shift, and Crosby took a pass from rookie defenseman P.O. Joseph (three assists) and whipped a shot from the high slot past Georgiev (33 saves).
Coach David Quinn bemoaned the Rangers’ no-show performance in the third period, when they were outshot 16-7 and seemed pinned in their own end for most of the period.
"Really, probably as bad a period as we’ve played all year,’’ Quinn said. "They beat us to every loose puck; they won every battle. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot.’’
"It’s a recurring thing at this point,’’ forward Chris Kreider said. "We understand what we need to do to be successful. And then they crank up the intensity a little bit in the third period there and all of a sudden we get away from it.’’
The Rangers were playing two men short in that third period, though. They lost gritty forward Colin Blackwell to an upper-body injury in the first period and Quinn benched defenseman Brendan Smith in the third. Smith and DeAngelo, his partner on the third defense pair, were on for all three Penguins goals in the first two periods.
Smith got only one shift, on the penalty kill, after Pittsburgh’s Kasperi Kapanen got behind him and scored on a breakaway to put the Penguins ahead 3-2 at 9:42 of the second period. Kreider tied it at 10:25 and Panarin’s power-play goal at 16:01 gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead.
Georgiev got the start in goal despite the fact that Igor Shesterkin got his first win of the season in the Rangers’ overtime victory over Buffalo on Thursday. Quinn explained that the plan, at least for now, will be to alternate goaltenders in an attempt to build up the confidence of both.
Georgiev’s confidence couldn’t have been helped by all the defensive breakdowns in front of him.
The Penguins opened the scoring at 7:39 of the first period when Jason Zucker drove to the net on a three-on-two break and tapped in a feed from Joseph. Smith, skating backward, dropped down to the ice in an attempt to block the right-to-left pass from Kapanen to Joseph, but he missed it. That allowed the pass to get across and Zucker to get to the goal crease unchecked.
Brendan Lemieux’s first goal of the season tied it at 1-1 at 13:52. The Penguins retook the lead with 39.4 seconds left in the period on a tip-in goal by Brandon Tanev.
With Smith serving a tripping penalty, the Rangers tied it at 2-2 on a shorthanded goal by Kevin Rooney, who took a return pass from K’Andre Miller (two assists) on a two-on-zero break and scored his first goal as a Ranger.