The Rangers have made progress as a team since their last meeting with the Penguins and they rode that to victory Thursday night.
Chris Kreider scored the go-ahead goal with 8:15 left in regulation and then chipped in an empty-net score to secure a 4-2 win over the Penguins on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
The victory gave the Rangers, who lost in overtime Sunday at Pittsburgh in the first of three games in seven days between the teams, a 10-point cushion on the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division standings.
It was another neck-and-neck game between two teams who always seem to have some extra bite to their play when they face each other, especially after last season’s seven-game, first-round playoff series.
The Rangers played fast and put the puck on net in different ways all game. There was a lot of movement away from the puck, give-and-gos and cycling through the zone.
Jake Guentzel tied the score at 2-2 with 10:51 left in regulation, when the Rangers’ fourth line had been on for a long shift and allowed the Penguins’ top unit to take advantage.
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby fed Guentzel for the five-hole shot on Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin.
But Kreider cleaned up a long shot from Adam Fox to regain the lead for the Rangers, before Kreider scored his 30th goal of the season on an empty net later in the third.
Tyler Motte, who plays so much bigger than his 5-foot-10 stature, pieced together another impactful game for the Rangers.
In addition to scoring to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the second period, when he stole the puck from Pierre-Olivier Joseph and buried it from in front of Pittsburgh’s net, Motte was everywhere, as usual.
It was Motte’s first goal in the regular season for the Rangers since he first joined the club before the 2021-22 trade deadline.
Motte, who missed two games this month with an upper-body injury, is becoming another Ryan Lindgren-type player for the Rangers. He’ll get bumped and bruised almost every game, but he returns more often than not.
The Rangers are still without Lindgren, who was sidelined for a ninth straight game with a lingering shoulder injury.
While the rest of the defense certainly misses the 25-year-old blueliner, the Rangers have cleaned some things up a bit on defense in comparison to earlier this month.
Crosby did intercept a pass from K’Andre Miller behind the Rangers’ net, which ended up on the stick of Rickard Rakell for the 1-1 score at 14:40 of the second period.
The Rangers could’ve had two or three goals, given how they were skating in the opening period, but they had to settle for one amid a sharp game from Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry.
Artemi Panarin bounced the puck off the left wall to spring Mika Zibanejad for a breakaway, and the Swedish center buried it to give the Rangers a 1-0 advantage less than three minutes into the game.
Both teams lost players at different points in the first period.
The Penguins had Jeff Petry exit early on after Motte caught the defenseman with an elbow to the jaw.
Petry didn’t return for the remainder of the game.
Motte later left after colliding with Joseph, whose shoulder hit him in the face, but the feisty wing returned from the locker room rather quickly.