Penguins up next for Rangers' Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere

League: NHL

Posted on: 31 Mar, 2024 at 11:12 PM

Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere are enjoying career seasons -- among the many reasons for the New York Rangers vaulting to the top of the NHL standings.

The duo has clicked for most of the season, and two nights after the pair combined for nine points, the Rangers return home attempting to pad their lead in the Metropolitan Division and the President's Trophy race Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Rangers (50-20-4, 104 points) are on a five-game winning streak after scoring five times in the third period of their 8-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

Panarin collected a goal and three assists to extend his career high totals to 44 goals and 107 points, the latter tied for third in team history with Mark Messier (1991-92). He has six goals and 13 points during New York's winning streak, which began with his hat trick on March 21 against the Boston Bruins.

Panarin is also two points shy of Jean Ratelle (1971-72) for the second-highest single-season point total and is 16 shy of the team record set by Jaromir Jagr during the 2005-06 season.

Lafreniere notched his first career hat trick and added two assists as part of the former No. 1 overall pick's first career five-point game. He has a career-best 25 goals and 52 points, including five goals in his past three contests.

"It's good to get that first one," Lafreniere said. "I'm just playing my game and playing with confidence."

The big nights by Panarin and Lafreniere, along with Chris Kreider's 300th career goal, helped the Rangers stay one point ahead of the Dallas Stars and three in front of the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins. New York also leads Carolina in the division and has three more victories than the Hurricanes.

"We've been doing this all year," New York goalie Jonathan Quick said. "It's a fun team to be a part of. These guys work hard every day. They push each other. That's what you need. You need that. Every great team has that."

Pittsburgh (32-30-11, 75 points) is seven points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference but also has to climb over the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings.

The Penguins are 4-6-3 over their past 11 games, though they have gained a point in four straight games. Six days after blowing a four-goal lead at Colorado, the Penguins were unable to protect a two-goal lead and took a 4-3 loss at Columbus on Saturday when Alex Nedeljkovic gave up two goals in the shootout.

Drew O'Connor, Bryan Rust and Richard Rakell scored, but the Penguins gave up a goal nine seconds after taking their two-goal lead and suffered their seventh loss this season when leading through two periods.

"Maybe we haven't been able to regroup. A lot of those times we've given up leads," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "So, maybe the team that's gotten back in the game has kind of rode that momentum into overtime. We haven't done a good enough job in overtime, I think, the whole year. But obviously, it's a big point tonight."

The Rangers have won the past four meetings by scoring 18 goals. They earned a 7-4 win in Pittsburgh on March 16 when Panarin scored twice in a five-point performance. New York is 7-1-1 in the past nine regular-season encounters.

--Field Level Media