In a game where he needed to make a statement, Petr Prucha made one of the biggest of the season. Prucha scored the game-tying goal in the third period, and the Rangers went on to defeat the Atlantic Division rival Penguins 3-2 in a shootout.
Prucha was playing in his first game after missing the past ten as a healthy scratch due to poor play. The Rangers had suggested he go to Hartford for a conditioning assignment, but the 26-year old refused. Head Coach Tom Renney placed him in the line-up to show he could produce, and he certainly did.
After falling behind 2-0 following poor play in the first period and missed opportunities early in the second, Nikolai Zherdev redirected a Scott Gomez shot passed Penguins goalie Dany Sabourin at 10:56 of the second to bring the Rangers back within one. Then in the third, with time winding down, Petr Prucha batted home a shot by Gomez that bounced back in front of the end boards, and sent Madison Square Garden into a frenzy.
The goal was the first for Prucha in 20 games played, the last one coming back in January. The goal gave the Rangers and their fans new life, and gave them at least a point as Henrik Lundqvist held strong the rest of the way to send the game into overtime. After a scoreless frame, Markus Naslund, Nikolai Zherdev, and Fredrik Sjostrom all scored in the shootout as Lundqvist stopped one of the two shots to secure the win for the Rangers.
Now with the win, the team’s second over the Penguins in shootout fashion in two games between the squads, the Rangers got some added momentum before their contest at Montreal on Thursday. The Blueshirts are now 5-0 in the first game of back-to-backs, and with Prucha getting some added confidence, the Rangers can certainly make a statement with a win over the Canadiens. Beating two of the best in the East on consecutive days would certainly qualify.