The New York Rangers will square off against division rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Read to find out why this game is so important for the Blueshirts. 

New York Rangers Play a Must-Win Game Against Pittsburgh on Friday 

Friday night will feature a marquee NHL Eastern Conference matchup as the New York Rangers play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

The two teams have been neck and neck in the Metropolitan Division virtually all season, but the Penguins have a real chance to slip away as they’ve won three straight. The Rangers are just two points behind the Penguins, but are coming off a disappointing loss to the Devils. The Penguins will get a chance to extend their lead over New York as they take on the Sabers in Buffalo Wednesday night.

In the season’s home stretch, this is the worst possible time for the Rangers to run out of gas. They’ll very likely be going to the playoffs, but establishing a leg up on the Penguins will be critical to their success down the stretch.

Game Preview 

The Rangers and Penguins have met only once so far this season as Pittsburgh was victorious 1-0 on a third period goal by forward Evgeni Malkin

The Rangers were fantastic on defense and Igor Shesterkin was brilliant in net, but New York just couldn’t get anything past Penguins’ goalie Tristan Jarry. Last time out against New Jersey, the Rangers led 2-0 early but proceeded to get outscored 7-2 after that.

Games like that have been an anomaly for New York, though. Shesterkin has been the best goalie in hockey as he boasts the top numbers in goals against per game (2.05) and save percentage (.936). 

The Rangers are also coming off two recent wins against Eastern Conference heavyweights in the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes; both wins coming on the road. 

On the Penguins’ side, they’ve been red hot of late, going 7-2-1 over their last 10 games. Pittsburgh’s offense has been way more consistent as they have 17 more goals for than the Rangers. Forwards Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby lead the pace for the Penguins. 

On the defensive side, the Penguins have only one more goal against than the Rangers due in large part to Kris Letang’s brilliant play.

However, The Rangers have their own defensive prowess that kept the Penguins off the board for over two periods when they met back in February. New York has the best defender in the league in 24 year old Adam Fox. Fox has the 5th most assists in the league with 54.

Predictions 

The Rangers have won two out of their last three games against Eastern Conference leaders, so their ability to beat good teams should not be questioned going into this one. What should be in question is the Blueshirts’ ability to bury the biscuit and take the weight off Shesterkin’s shoulders.

The inability to create scoring chances is what killed them in their initial meeting with the Penguins. Forwards like Chris Kreider , Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad will need to crash the net and take close shots on Jarry when they have the chance. The Rangers are not going to win this game if they can’t establish consistent puck control early. 

If the offense can get going and bring the game to the Penguins, then New York will have a good chance in this one. 

This is a formidable Penguins team and they know that the Rangers need this win more than they do. New York will need to keep the Penguins’ offense at bay as they did in the teams’ previous meetings, while also being relentless against on the other end. 

These two teams are very even and that first game proved it. The Rangers will have home ice and the advantage of Madison Square Garden going for them. They’ll get their revenge on the Penguins through a hard fought victory. 

Final score prediction: Rangers 2, Penguins 1 Final/OT