‘Hungry’ Rangers aim to sweep home series vs. Penguins


‘Hungry’ Rangers aim to sweep home series vs. Penguins

Whatever it is, the New York Rangers are feeling it.

Not only are they aiming for a two-game sweep Thursday night against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins, but also they are looking to continue to climb toward a playoff spot in the East Division.

The Rangers are 8-3-2 in their past 13 games and are five points below the playoff line in the East.

“We’re trying to make a push for the playoffs, and there are only so many games left,” said New York defenseman Adam Fox, who has an 11-game points streak after notching a goal and two assists Tuesday in an 8-4 win over the Penguins.

“We’re a hungry team. Everyone is hungry.”

One indication of that might be New York’s prolific offense lately, both in numbers and in spreading it around.

Eleven of the Rangers’ 18 skaters scored points Tuesday. And their youngsters chipped in – in addition to Fox, 23, Alexis Lafreniere, 19, and Kaapo Kakko, 20, scored, and Filip Chytil, 21, added two assists.

New York also was 3-for-3 on the power play and scored shorthanded.

That’s how life has gone lately, especially on offense. Over their past 11 games, the Rangers have wins of 9-0, 8-3 and 8-4.

“You know, you have those nights where it seems the puck goes in no matter what you’re doing,” said New York’s Mika Zibanejad, who also scored Tuesday.

Poppycock, the Penguins said. Or something equivalent to that. They have a good idea of exactly why the Rangers were able to score eight goals – and the Boston Bruins seven against them in the previous game.

That would be a severe breakdown in the solid two-way game Pittsburgh seemed to have perfected before falling by a combined 15-9 during its two-game losing streak.

“It looks like we’re kind of lost,” Penguins forward Jared McCann said. “We’re giving up (opponent scoring) chances we don’t usually give up.

“We’re hanging our goalies out to dry.”

It’s not just the defensemen. McCann alluded to Pittsburgh in general getting a bit greedy in trying to score.

“I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves a little too much offensively,” he said. “We’re cheating a little bit.”

Pittsburgh won five straight before stumbling the past two games.

Before their two straight losses in which they gave up 15 goals, the Penguins had given up 15 goals — total — over a stretch of nine games.

“These are hard ones because they sting (and) because we have a proud group,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve had a lot of success this year. We’ve got to find a way to get back to some of the details that are necessary to give ourselves the best chance to win.

“It’s hard to win games consistently when you give up the quality chances that we’ve given up the last two games.”

Now sitting as close to first in the East as they are to the fourth and final playoff spot in the division, the Penguins seem ready to do that.

“You’re not going to sit here and whine about it; let’s learn from it and move forward,” McCann said.

Pittsburgh defenseman John Marino, who left in the third period Tuesday after appearing to smack his chin on the ice, did not practice Wednesday. Sullivan termed it a maintenance day.

–Field Level Media

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