Zibanejad forces OT, notches game winner as Rangers top Penguins

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 phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Sheahan on playing for Blashill: ‘Guys will be a little bit more confident’

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Riley Sheahan believes his teammates’ familiarity with Jeff Blashill will help ease the transition for the rookie head coach in Detroit this season.

Sheahan is one of a number of players on the current Red Wings’ roster that played under Blashill with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.

“You can see the job that he’s done in Grand Rapids and so many of us have played there and played with him, especially the Calder Cup team,” Sheahan told the team’s website. “He’s had so much success everywhere that he’s gone, so I think all of the guys are pretty happy.

“The guys that played with him before know how he reacts to different situations and knows what he expects. I think in that way some guys will be a little bit more confident, which always helps. It’s definitely a good thing.”

Blashill was named the 27th head coach in Wings’ history back in June. The 41-year-old led the Griffins to a 134-71-23 record in three seasons winning a Calder Cup in 2013.

Sheahan, who scored 13 goals and 36 points in 79 games in his first full season with the Wings last year, doesn’t expect much to change systems-wise with Blashill taking over from Mike Babcock.

“I actually thought they were really similar,” Sheahan said. “The system is pretty similar, there are a few tweaks here and there, but I think obviously, Babs leaving that’s tough to deal (with). He’s such a good coach, but Blash coming in, I think there’s a lot of positivity and a lot of happiness with the guys.”

Related: Under Pressure: Jeff Blashill

Detroit makes another splash, inks Richards to one-year, $3M deal

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Shortly after landing one of the biggest UFA prizes in Mike Green, the Red Wings made another big move by signing Brad Richards to a one-year deal worth $3 million.

For Richards, 35, it’s his second straight one-year pact. Last year he inked with Chicago and enjoyed a good bounce-back campaign after getting bought out by the Rangers.

Richards’ regular season was solid — 12 goals and 37 points in 76 games — and he stepped up in the playoffs, emerging as a solid contributor in Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run by scoring 14 points in 23 games, averaging close to 17 minutes a night.

In Detroit, he’ll look to fill the second-line center void that Stephen Weiss was never able to fill.

The Red Wings bought out the former Panthers pivot yesterday, putting Richards in a group of centers that includes youngsters Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening. Should Richards emerge as Detroit’s 2C, it’ll allow new head coach Jeff Blashill to keep Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together on the club’s top line.

As for the team Richards left, there was some thought Chicago would have interest in retaining his services. But that possibility was ruled out yesterday when the team acquired center Artem Anisimov in the Brandon Saad trade, then inked Anisimov to a long-term extension.

Related: As Weiss struggles, Datsyuk and Zetterberg are split up

Babcock won’t discuss future yet, but sees challenges ahead for Wings

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Are the Detroit Red Wings a team moving up courtesy of a young core led by Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Danny DeKeyser, and Petr Mrazek? Or are they a fading dynasty having already lost former leaders like Nicklas Lidstrom and on the brink of watching the two stars they have left head off into the sunset?

“Who’s going to replace Pav?” head coach Mike Babcock asked, per NHL.com’s Аrpon Basu. One of the best two-way forwards in the game, Pavel Datsyuk will turn 37 in July. Henrik Zetterberg will celebrate his 35th birthday in October.

“Our team is not as good as it was,” Babcock also noted, according to Postmedia News’ Michael Traikos.

That’s hard to dispute. Detroit has only won a single playoff series in its last four campaigns after reaching the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back years in 2008-09. They won it all in 2008. Once Zetterberg and Datsyuk are gone or even just less effective, will the Red Wings start missing the playoffs entirely? Do they have anyone on their roster capable of filling that massive void?

Certainly the future isn’t all fire and brimstone for Detroit. The players mentioned off the bat have proven to be solid contributors and with their help, Detroit both made the playoffs and gave Tampa Bay a run for its money in the first round. The fact that the Red Wings came within a hair of advancing can’t be just brushed under the rug.

That being said, Babcock has raised legitimate points, and it will only add fuel to the speculation that the highly regarded coach will walk as a free agent this summer. Babcock didn’t confirm anything tonight, but Edmonton, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Toronto, and likely others would certainly be eager to sign him if he’s available.

Blashill: No conversations about inheriting Detroit gig from Babcock

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Jeff Blashill, head coach of Detroit’s AHL affiliate and rumored to be Mike Babcock’s heir apparent, said he’s had zero talks with GM Ken Holland about going behind the Wings’ bench.

“We have not had one conversation about it since Ken and I sat down last spring to talk about doing a new contract and me being the head coach of the Griffins,” Blashill said, per MLive. “That’s the only conversation we’ve had.”

Babcock, in the final year of his contract with Detroit, is believed to be highly sought-after by a number of clubs. Toronto, Philadelphia, Buffalo and San Jose all currently have coaching vacancies.

Detroit inked Blashill to a three-year extension last June, which many saw as a precursor to him eventually taking the head gig at the NHL level. Blashill, 41, has been with Detroit since the 2011-12 season, first spending a year behind the Red Wings bench as Babcock’s assistant before taking the head coaching gig with the Griffins.

In Grand Rapids, he’s enjoyed tremendous success. The Griffins won the Calder Cup two years ago and advanced to the Western Conference semis last year; this season, they’ll open the playoffs as the West’s No. 2 seed.

Blashill is thought of very highly within the Detroit organization. He’s overseen the development and promotion of Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Joakim Andersson, Luke Glendening and Brendan Smith and, shortly prior to signing Blashill to the aforementioned extension, Holland called him “an NHL coach in the making.”

But it doesn’t sound like he’s ready to make the leap just yet.

“As in the past, I honestly don’t even think about it,” Blashill explained. “I have never been in a job and thought about what’s next. I’ve always thought about right now, and that’s a series with Toronto [Marlies, Grand Rapids’ Round 1 opponent], and that’s my sole focus.

“I signed a contract last year because I really enjoy my job and I really enjoy working for the Red Wings.”