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Rangers hope to build on rookie’s breakthrough vs. Penguins

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins

Heading into Thursday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, coach David Quinn believed his New York Rangers were better than their early-season record.

On Saturday night, the Rangers hope to find out if their path has been redirected thanks to a milestone goal by their player with the brightest future when New York hosts Pittsburgh in a battle of longtime rivals.

Both teams were off Friday following eventful road games Thursday.

The Rangers snapped a four-game losing streak in dramatic fashion when rookie Alexis Lafreniere made his first NHL goal a memorable one by scoring in overtime to lift New York to a 3-2 win over the Sabres.

The Rangers outplayed the Sabres for most of the first 60 minutes Thursday night but were in danger of suffering their fifth straight one-goal loss before Lafreniere, the No. 1 pick in October’s draft, teamed up with Colin Blackwell for a 2-on-1 that began with Blackwell stealing the puck from Jack Eichel and passing to Lafreniere, who fired a shot beyond the extended stick of Buffalo goalie Linus Ullmark at the 2:47 mark.

The goal made Lafreniere the first No. 1 pick to score his first career goal in overtime.

“Overtime, game-winning goal, it was really special,” Lafreniere said. “I’ll never forget this moment, for sure.”

The big goal by Lafreniere provided a much-needed boost for the Rangers, who outshot the Sabres 39-25 after outshooting their opponents 140-99 during the four-game losing streak.

“We needed this because we had done a lot of good things,” Quinn said. “I look at the standings and I see our point total regarding the rest of the league and I’m shaking my head. I know what we’re capable of doing. These players know what we’re capable of doing.”

Meanwhile Sidney Crosby had a rare second-straight subpar game as the Penguins fell to Boston, 4-1, on Thursday.

Few players and teams have done more over the last 15 years than Crosby and the Penguins, who have won three Stanley Cups since selecting Crosby with the No. 1 pick of the 2005 draft.

But Crosby endured some atypical struggles as the Penguins dropped both games of a series in Boston against the Bruins. Crosby was scoreless with a plus/minus rating of minus-2 in both losses. It was just the fourth time he’s gone scoreless while registering a plus/minus of minus-2 or worse in back-to-back games and the first time since Nov. 4-7, 2019, when he had a minus-4 and a minus-2 against the Bruins and New York Islanders, respectively.

Crosby was far from the only Penguins player to scuffle against the Bruins, who limited Pittsburgh to a season-low 17 shots on Thursday.

“We need just to look in the mirror and fight every shift,” Penguins center Evgeni Malkin said. “It’s not a pretty game right now. … We need to try to play simple and need to just work, work, work.”

(Field Level Media)

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