Heinen’s goal sparked a late wave as the Penguins defeated the Rangers 7-4

PITTSBURGH — Danton Heinen’s first playoff goal in three years just midway through the third period broke a tie to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 7-4 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday night and 2-1 in their first game to take the lead -round series of the Eastern Conference.

Pittsburgh gambled away a three-goal lead in the first half but recovered behind the game by goaltender Louis Domingue and Heinen, who jumped on a loose puck near New York’s goal line and saw an Alexandar Georgiev shot at 11:02 in transformed the third to place the penguins in front to stay.

Game 4 takes place in Pittsburgh on Monday night.

Evan Rodrigues scored two goals and assisted on another for the Penguins, who won despite no member of the top line of Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust scoring a point until Guentzel’s empty net at 2-14 sealed the game. Jeff Carter also scored two goals for the Penguins, while Brock McGinn opened the scoring with his first goal of the playoffs on a wild night.


Domingue made 32 saves and even recorded an assist in his second playoff start. The 30-year-old journeyman tied a number of stops with the Penguins on penalties early in the third period to set the stage for Heinen’s exploits.

Kaapo Kakko, Frank Vatrano, Artemi Panarin and Andrew Copp scored for Rangers. Georgiev finished the game with 19 saves on 20 shots after taking on Vezina Trophy favorite Igor Shesterkin, who was being chased after conceding four goals in the first half.

The Penguins benched Shesterkin with a stunning first half in which they broke out for four goals – two from Rodrigues – only to immediately squander it on a second-half meltdown, culminating in a loss of possession by defender Kris Letang, which led directly to Copps short circuit. handed tally which held it at 4.

The Penguins earned a split in New York to start the series by relying on the top line of Crosby, Guentzel and Rust to do most of the heavy lifting. The trio scored five of Pittsburgh’s six goals at Madison Square Garden, the other for Evgeni Malkin’s winning goalscorer in triple overtime in the opening game.


Still, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan stressed he liked the opportunities the roleplayers created on his star-studded roster. Opportunities eventually turned into goals in the first half, with Rodrigues regaining the touch he managed so easily in his surprising first half of the season when his production helped keep Pittsburgh afloat as they struggled with a string of injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak was finished.

The teams traded goals in the opening five minutes before the Penguins overpowered Shesterkin, throwing bodies and pucks into the net with equal dedication. Carter’s deflection up front with Rodrigues’ shot gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead. Rodrigues made it 3-1 when he followed his own slapshot as it bounced off the end boards and lunged for the rebound to smack Shesterkin. He raised to 4-1 when a check from Brian Boyle caused a turnover that left Rodrigues all alone in the slot.

The first full playoff crowd at PPG Paints Arena in three years went wild as they chanted “IIIIIIIGOOORRR” to Shesterkin – whose 118 combined saves in his first two games were an NHL record.


Shesterkin was left on the bench early in the second half – only playing 20 minutes for the third time – and Rangers responded with a massive push in front of Georgiev to collect himself.

Vatrano’s second of the playoffs 6:51 in the second drew New York within two. Panarin’s second goal just 67 seconds later made it a one-goal game and Copp equalized that seemed inevitable after Kevin Rooney stripped Letang and shot into the net. Domingue made the first save, but Copp tapped in the loose puck when the net was removed to level Rangers.

NOTES: The Penguins played their second straight game without D. Brian Dumoulin (lower body injury). Forward Rikard Rackell also missed his second straight game after exiting Game 1 after being hit in the head. … Pittsburgh G Tristan Jarry skated Saturday morning, his first work on the ice since suffering a foot injury in mid-April. … Rangers played without the injured F. Tyler Motte (upper body), F. Barclay Goodrow (lower body) and D. Ryan Lindgren (lower body).



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Nate Jones

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