Bryan Rust

Penguins avoid Niemi’s revenge for win

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Nights like these remind you why the Pittsburgh Penguins often pay a big price to add depth. Nights like these also help explain why the Penguins decided that they had to hand Patric Hornqvist a contract extension.

Despite closing out a back-to-back set after allowing the Rangers to rally in OT last night, the Penguins played like the fresher team against the Montreal Canadiens, generating a 39-20 shots on goal advantage. Antti Niemi almost made the difference to get revenge against a team that discarded him as a backup earlier this season, but Hornqvist and the Penguins gutted out a 5-3 win tonight.

Niemi’s showcase was in the second period. Pittsburgh really flexed its muscles then, firing 18 shots on Niemi to only four for Montreal. Despite that disparity, each side scored one goal, and the two teams entered the final frame tied 3-3.

Hornqvist finally attempted a shot that even Niemi couldn’t stop, collecting the game-winner and also the 400th point of his career.

That was his second goal of the night, and Hornqvist also collected an assist, so he’s actually at 401. Not bad for a guy who was once “Mr. Irrelevant” as the final pick (230th overall) of the 2005 NHL Draft.

(There’s some sweet symmetry that Hornqvist, the final pick of that draft, has celebrated some fantastic victories with Sidney Crosby, who went first in 2005.)

Again, this was a game in which the Penguins’ depth allowed them to dominate a hungry (if reeling) opponent. Derick Brassard helped the Penguins begin a rally from down 2-0 by creating a turnover, then sending the puck to Bryan Rust, who found Phil Kessel for Pittsburgh’s first goal. If they can stay healthy, the Penguins’ playoff opponents will have to deal with the notion that, on any given night, Brassard can pick up the scoring burden if a team is slowing down Evgeni Malkin and/or Sidney Crosby.

You know, not that anyone has really been slowing down Malkin lately.

The Washington Capitals pasted the New York Islanders 7-3 tonight, so the Penguins weren’t able to make up ground in the battle to win the Metropolitan Division crown. (Both teams are at 87 standings points, but Washington holds two games in hand.)

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Pittsburgh seems increasingly likely to grab at least a round of home-ice advantage, though, as the Flyers seem like they might slip into a bubble battle with Columbus and New Jersey rather than posing a real threat as the second seed. Actually, with six straight wins, the Blue Jackets might be the greatest threat … but wins like these really give the Penguins some meaningful breathing room.

[The East playoff bubble intrigue increased on Thursday night.]

The Penguins probably grimaced at coughing up a lead against the Rangers last night, but by pushing through for a win in this one, they left a back-to-back set with three of four points. Maybe it’s not always pretty, but this veteran group is used to “finding ways to win,” as they proved once more on Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Montreal Canadiens

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Pittsburgh Penguins
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Conor Sheary
Carl Hagelin – Evgeni Malkin – Patric Hornqvist
Bryan Rust – Derick Brassard – Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl – Riley Sheahan – Carter Rowney

Brian DumoulinKris Letang
Jamie OleksiakJustin Schultz
Olli Maatta – Chad Ruhwedel

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[PHT’s preview]

Montreal Canadiens
Paul ByronJonathan DrouinBrendan Gallagher
Alex GalchenyukJacob De La RoseArtturi Lehkonen
Charles HudonLogan Shaw – Nikita Scherbak
Nicolas DeslauriersByron Froese/Michael McCarron – Daniel Carr

Mike ReillyJeff Petry
Karl AlznerNoah Juulsen
Jordie Benn – Brett Lernout

Starting goalie: Antti Niemi


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Zibanejad forces OT, notches game winner as Rangers top Penguins

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The Pittsburgh Penguins had this one right where they wanted it.

A 2-0 lead heading into the third period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, 20 minutes away from taking sole possession of first place in the volatile Metropolitan Division.

But the Rangers, who could only hope to play the role of spoiler on during Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN, did exactly that after two third-period comebacks in a 4-3 overtime win.

For the Penguins, the point was enough to move them into a tie with the Washington Capitals for first place, with Alex Ovechkin and Co. holding a game in-hand over their Metro rivals. But the Penguins won’t be looking at the silver linings after giving up 2-0 and 3-2 leads respectively in the final frame.

Pittsburgh was even gifted a glorious opportunity to break a 3-3 with 10 seconds left.

The Rangers started Alexandar Georgiev in goal, and the veteran of five NHL games nudged the net off its moorings with Pittsburgh pressing and time running down in the third. Given that it was in the final two minutes of the game, the Penguins were awarded a penalty shot.

Step up Evgeni Malkin, who was looking for No. 40 for the third time in his career. Georgiev, with an opportunity to make amends for his transgression, stuck with Malkin as he dangled in close, ultimately turning aside the attempt to force overtime.

Bryan Rust, who missed the past two games with a concussion, returned in style to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead after a scoreless first period. Riley Sheahan doubled the lead under a minute later.

Casey DeSmith wasn’t tested much during the first two periods but turned aside all 17 shots he faced through 40 minutes.

The Rangers looked like a different team in the third period. Sustained pressure forced DeSmith to make some timely saves, but the walls eventually gave way.

Chris Kreider notched his 13th followed by Jesper Fast‘s 11th to tie the game with just over five minutes to go.

Former Ranger Carl Hagelin scored just over a minute later to restore the lead for the Penguins, but the Rangers got a late power play opportunity and cashed in, with Kreider making a slick cross-ice feed to Mika Zibanejad.

And it would be Zibanejad who would have the final say in the contest, scoring at the 2:53 mark in overtime to cap off quite the comeback for the Rangers.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Penguins at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry




Pittsburgh Penguins

Jake Guentzel/Sidney Crosby/Conor Sheary

Carl Hagelin/Evgeni Malkin/Patric Hornqvist

Bryan Rust/Derick Brassard/Phil Kessel

Tom Kuhnhackl/Riley Sheahan/Carter Rowney

Brian Dumoulin/Kris Letang

Jamie Oleksiak/Justin Schultz

Olli Maatta/Chad Ruhwedel

Starting goalie: Casey DeSmith

[PHT’s preview for Penguins – Rangers.]

New York Rangers

Chris Kreider/Mika Zibanejad/Jesper Fast

Ryan Spooner/Kevin Hayes/Mats Zuccarello

Jimmy Vesey/Vladislav Namestnikov/Pavel Buchnevich

Cody McLeod/David Desharnais/Paul Carey

Marc Staal/Neal Pionk

Brady Skjei/Ryan Sproul

John Gilmour/Rob O'Gara

Starting goalie: Alexandar Georgiev

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Wednesday, as the Philadelphia Flyers will host the Pittsburgh Penguins on rivalry night at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here


Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyPatric Hornqvist
Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinBryan Rust
Dominik SimonDerick BrassardPhil Kessel
Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanConor Sheary

Brian DumoulinKris Letang
Jamie OleksiakJustin Schultz
Olli MaattaChad Ruhwedel

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry


[Pens, Flyers battle for Metro Division positioning on Rivalry Night]

Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Oskar LindblomNolan PatrickJakub Voracek
Jordan WealValtteri FilppulaWayne Simmonds
Jori LehteraScott LaughtonMichael Raffl

Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere
Robert HaggAndrew MacDonald
Brandon ManningRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Petr Mrazek