Simon, Kessel lead Penguins to 5-2 win against Rangers
By DAN SCIFO
PITTSBURGH (AP) Dominik Simon admits he got a little wide-eyed as he closed in on his first NHL goal.
The only thing left for the Pittsburgh Penguins' rookie forward was to put the puck in a half-empty net.
Simon did just that as he and Phil Kessel scored milestone goals to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-2 victory against the New York Rangers on Sunday night. Kessel's 20th of the season was his 700th point that put the Penguins ahead for good.
"It feels unbelievable to score the first one," said Simon, who said he's keeping the milestone puck for himself. "It's even better with the win."
Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin also scored as the Penguins got their season high-tying fourth straight win and fifth in six games. Rookie Tristan Jarry, making his fourth straight start, stopped 26 shots to pick up his career-best fourth straight win.
Jarry was happy for Simon, as the two have spent time together with the Penguins' AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
"I think me and Dom have been together for awhile now," Jarry said. "It's good to finally see."
Michael Grabner and Brendan Smith scored for the Rangers, who were coming off a 7-2 loss at home to the Islanders the previous day. New York has lost four of five and seven of its last 10 (3-5-2). Henrik Lundqvist had 42 saves.
"I think the past month, the level is just not high enough," Lundqvist said. "(You) almost get tired of yourself sitting here, trying to find the right thing to say. It comes down to just going out and executing."
After Smith gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead with his first goal of the season in the final minute of the first period, the Penguins took over from there.
Simon scored on a rebound from the slot to tie the score with 6:45 left in the second period. Kessel then put the Penguins ahead for good 1:15 later with a wrist shot from the faceoff dot, becoming the 26th American-born player to reach 700 career points and the 11th with 20 or more goals in 10 different seasons.
Riley Sheahan thought he gave Pittsburgh a 4-2 lead early in the third period, but the goal was disallowed after a video review because Sheahan used a distinct kicking motion to score.
No matter. Crosby did the job with 7 1/2 minutes to go in the period when he beat Lundqvist with a blocker-side wrist shot off a pass from Kessel from the corner for his 17th.
Hagelin then closed the scoring with just under two minutes remaining with his third of the season and first in 18 games.
"I think we feed off momentum," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "Our team likes to score as much as any team in the league and when we score, we build off it."
Hornqvist put Pittsburgh on the board early. Hagelin dug Kris Letang's point shot out from underneath Lundqvist, and Hornqvist tapped the rebound across the line for his 13th at 3:14 of the first. The assist was Hagelin's 200th NHL point.
Grabner tied it with 4:43 left in the first when he flipped a backhander over Jarry's right pad on a breakaway.
Smith put the Rangers ahead with 54 seconds to go when he beat Jarry with a slap shot from the inner edge of the circle.
Simon started the comeback for the Penguins.
"We were behind for a little bit," Simon said. "We had chances, so we tried to stay with it. We just believed that we were going to turn it around and win the game."
NOTES: Crosby has 10 points in his last four games. ... Kessel has 10 points in his last six games. ... Penguins G Matt Murray returned from a personal family matter in Canada and skated Sunday, but he was not available against the Rangers. . Rangers D Ryan McDonagh (undisclosed) and F Kevin Hayes (contusion) both missed Sunday's game. . Penguins D Chad Ruhwedel missed his eighth straight game with an upper-body injury. Pittsburgh also scratched D Ian Cole.
Rangers: Host Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Penguins: Open a three-game West Coast road trip Wednesday at Anaheim.
Updated January 14, 2018