PITTSBURGH – Ondrej Pavelec didn’t know he was getting just his third start in the last six weeks until late Tuesday afternoon, when New York Rangers star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist came down with the flu.
The short prep time against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins seemed to suit Pavelec just fine. Pavelec stopped a season-high 41 shots and the Rangers took advantage of a fortunate bounce to edge the Penguins 4-3.
“It was a good hockey game, I think,” Pavelec said after beating Pittsburgh for just the third time in 17 career starts. “Not so much fun for the goalies, but we got the win. So, that’s huge for us.”
And huge for Pavelec, who came in just 1-4 on the season and has been a spectator during Lundqvist’s recent resurgence. Yet he withstood a steady barrage from Pittsburgh and had more than a little luck. The Penguins hit a handful of posts, including one by Evgeni Malkin in the final seconds that would have forced overtime.
“We had 44 shots,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We had a significant amount of scoring chances. We just couldn’t get that tying goal.”
Boo Nieves, Jesper Fast, Mats Zuccarello and Pavel Buchnevich scored for the Rangers. Buchnevich provided the game-winner when his centering pass deflected off Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang and by Tristan Jarry 11:12 into the third period.
“It’s about finding a way to win on the road, we did that,” Rangers forward J.T. Miller said. “We got pucks to the net and a couple bounces. But sometimes, it’s not pretty.”
Phil Kessel picked up his team-high 13th goal for the Penguins. Conor Sheary added his ninth and Patric Hornqvist his 11th for Pittsburgh, which saw its season-high four-game winning streak snapped. Jarry finished with 25 saves but could only watch the puck smack off Letang’s skate and flutter by his glove to give the Rangers the lead for good.
“It’s a tough play,” Sullivan said. “It’s a 3-on-3. We’ve got numbers back. It goes off a skate and in the net. I don’t think we can overthink that one.”
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was held scoreless as his streak of five straight multipoint games ended.
Devils 4, Blue Jackets 1
In Columbus, Stefan Noesen, Taylor Hall and Jesper Bratt each had a goal and an assist, and Cory Schneider made 41 saves.
Lightning 6, Islanders 2
In Tampa, Yanni Gourde scored two of the Lightning’s three goals late in the second period.
Red Wings 5, Jets 1
In Detroit, Justin Abdelkader and Gustav Nyquist scored in a dominant first period for the Red Wings.
Predators 5, Stars 2
In Dallas, Juuse Saros made a career-high 43 saves and his Nashville teammates scored four times in the second period.
Blues 4, Canadiens 3
In Montreal, Brayden Schenn scored three goals and St. Louis ended a three-game skid.
Sabres 4, Avalanche 2
In Denver, Jack Eichel had a goal and two assists, Evander Kane broke a third-period tie and Buffalo beat Colorado to stop a four-game losing streak.
Kings 5, Wild 2
In Los Angeles, Marian Gaborik scored two third-period goals.
Golden Knights 4, Ducks 3 (SO)
In Las Vegas, Alex Tuch scored the game-winning goal in the first shootout at Vegas.
Canucks 3, Hurricanes 0
In Vancouver, Jacob Markstrom made 30 saves for his first NHL shutout.