In the first game of their first road trip of the season Friday night in Pittsburgh, the Rangers had some truly exhilarating moments — goals by Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko and a tremendous breakout game by rookie defenseman K’Andre Miller.
But in a 56-game season in which all of the games are within the division and every point matters, the Rangers gave away two precious points, blowing a two-goal lead and losing to the Penguins, 4-3, in a shootout.
With the Rangers up 3-1 late in the second period, Ryan Lindgren’s own goal gave the Penguins a lifeline, and Teddy Blueger tied it at 11:23 of the third. In overtime, Chytil’s shot hit the goalpost, and the game went to the shootout.
Jake Guentzel and Kris Letang scored for the Penguins and Mika Zibanejad and Tony DeAngelo missed for the Rangers, sealing the result.
DeAngelo had the last shot in the shootout and needed to score to keep the game going, but after a series of fakes, he was unable to get the puck past Pittsburgh goalie Tristan Jarry.
The Rangers lost their second straight game and their third in the four they’ve played this season (1-2-1). They did get a point for their troubles, but they should have had two.
"We have to understand situational hockey,’’ coach David Quinn said. "You’re up 3-1 and a lot of good things are happening and, you know, we just — we didn’t really understand the moment. It was six minutes to go [in the second period], we’re still doing things like we’re down 3-1. And it came back and bit us.’’
With DeAngelo back in the lineup after his two-game exile because of his bad penalty in the season opener, the Rangers’ defense was back to having the same three pairs it used in the season-opening 4-0 loss to the Islanders. And the best player among those six defensemen was Miller, the rookie who turned 21 on Thursday.
Miller was a rock all night, playing 21:17, getting his first NHL point — an assist on Kakko’s goal — and playing a shift in the three-on-three overtime. His partner, Jacob Trouba, did not play in the overtime.
The Rangers fell behind 1-0 when Bryan Rust deflected a shot past Igor Shesterkin at 10:29 of the first period, but the Rangers stunned the Penguins in the second, scoring three goals in the first six minutes to take a 3-1 lead. Chytil and Kakko scored two of those and linemate Phillip DiGiuseppe assisted on each.
Seconds after a Rangers power play expired, DiGiuseppe set up his team’s first goal when he checked Brian Dumoulin into the boards and stole the puck from him. Chytil picked it up, drove to the net and threw several fakes at Jarry before tucking a backhander past him at 2:41 for his second goal of the season.
Adam Fox blasted home a one-timer on a power play, off a pass from Artemi Panarin, to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 5:18. Just 24 seconds later, Kakko banged in the rebound of DiGiuseppe’s shot for his second goal of the season.
But the Penguins (3-2) have been comeback kings this season, and they got back in the game when Lindgren’s mistake gifted them a goal.
With the Penguins on a power play, Jared McCann threw a puck from the left wing into the crease and Lindgren dropped down to his knees to block it. As the puck lay in the goal crease, Lindgren tried to sweep it with his glove under Shesterkin so the goalie could freeze it. Instead, the puck slid underneath Shesterkin and in to make it 3-2 at 16:56.
"You got a 3-1 lead on a good team, you want to be able to hold that and not let them back in,’’ Fox said. "But it‘s a learning experience. You don‘t want to have too many of them, but I think we‘ve been playing some good hockey and we‘ve just got to come away with wins.’’