NEW YORK (AP)Chris Kreider scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and added an empty-netter, and Igor Shesterkin made 30 saves as the New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 on Thursday night.
Kreider scored at 11:45 by sliding the puck past goaltender Tristan Jarry with Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin draped all over the New York forward in the crease. Kreider then scored his 30th of the season into empty net at 19:10 to seal the win and give the third-place Rangers a 10-point lead over Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division.
“That was a tight game, good hockey,” said Kreider, whose 259 career goals leave him three behind Vic Hadfield for fifth on the all-time Rangers list. ”We wanted to get behind their defense and establish the forecheck. We got pucks and bodies to the net all night.”
Mika Zibanejad and Tyler Motte also scored for the Rangers, who won for the eighth time in their last 10 home games. They are 11-4-0 in their past 15 at Madison Square Garden. Zibanejad’s goal was his 200th with the Rangers.
“We played hard tonight – a good, solid game,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “The lines are good. Everyone is working together.”
New York is 6-1-1 in its last eight home games against Pittsburgh, and the teams square off again Saturday night at The Garden.
New York did not take any penalties against the Penguins, denying Pittsburgh’s vaunted power play a single opportunity.
“Always good games against them. Intense,” Zibenejad said. “We know what’s at stake. That was a huge win.”
Penguins forward Jake Guentzel tied it 2-all at 9:09 of the third with his 30th goal after Motte put the Rangers ahead 2-1 late in the second.
Motte’s unassisted goal at 16:53 came just more than two minutes after Pittsburgh’s Rickard Rakell evened the game.
The goal was Motte’s first since returning to the Rangers in a trade with Ottawa on Feb. 19. Motte was a valuable contributor during New York’s postseason run last spring and has been part of an effective fourth line in recent games with Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey.
“We know our identity,” Motte said. ”We get in on the forecheck and try to create offense and stay reliable defensively.”
Zibanejad opened the scoring with his team-leading 35th goal at 2:51 of the first, taking a banked pass off the left boards by Artemi Panarin before skating in on Jarry and rifling the puck past the Penguins netminder. It was the ninth time this season Zibanejad scored the opening goal. He has 21 points – including 13 goals – in his last 19 games. Panarin leads the Rangers with 55 assists and 75 points overall.
Vladimir Tarasenko also assisted and has points in nine of his first 17 games with the Rangers.
“It’s easy to play with Artemi and Mika,” said Tarasenko, acquired from St. Louis on Feb. 9. “I enjoy playing with them. And it’s nice to get a win, especially at home.”
Rakell tied it at 14:40 of the second with his 24th goal. It also marked Rakell’s 400th career point.
“I just didn’t think we had enough juice,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. ”We had our moments but we didn’t have enough urgency. We gave up too many odd-man rushes.”
Jarry made 31 saves in defeat.
The Rangers were coming off a 5-3 home win over Washington on Tuesday, while the Penguins lost at home to Montreal the same day.
The Penguins beat the Rangers 3-2 in overtime at home last Sunday and also downed New York 3-2 on Dec. 20 in Pittsburgh.
Penguins defenseman Jeff Petry didn’t return after absorbing an unpenalized elbow from Motte early in the first period.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby assisted on both Pittsburgh goals. He leads the team with 83 points, ensuring the 35-year-old Penguins star will average a point per game for the 18th time in his 18 NHL seasons. In 81 career games against the Rangers, Crosby has 38 goals and 66 assists.
NOTES: The Penguins scratched defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and forwards Nick Bonino and Dalton Heinen. … The Rangers scratched injured defenseman Ryan Lindgren for the ninth straight game. … Since Dec. 5, when they turned their season around with a 6-4 comeback win at home over St. Louis, the Rangers are 28-9-5.
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