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National Hockey League
NY Rangers 3, Pittsburgh 2
When: 7:00 PM ET, Sunday, April 9, 2017
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Referees: Francis Charron, Dan O'Halloran
Linesmen: Brian Murphy, Ryan Daisy
Attendance: 18006

NEW YORK -- Jimmy Vesey's third-period goal was the difference as the New York Rangers defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night in what was a tuneup for two teams that cared more about avoiding injuries than winning the regular-season finale.

Both the Penguins and the Rangers rested key players -- Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry and Rangers goaltender Magnus Hellberg were both making their first NHL starts -- with an eye toward their first-round playoff series that will begin this week.

"I think in these last few games, we've accomplished what we wanted to do," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Some guys had some bumps and bruises, so (resting players) was a smart thing to do. We're going to the playoffs as healthy as a team can be at this time of year. We're looking forward to the opportunity that's in front of us."

The Rangers will open their series on the road against the Montreal Canadiens while the Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Columbus Blue Jackets in matchup of teams with two of the four-best records in the league. What does Sidney Crosby expect from the Blue Jackets?

"A physical series," said Crosby, who did not play against the Rangers. "Besides one game, they were all tight games. A lot of intensity. A lot of emotion. Being the playoffs, you expect that to be even moreso. It'll be a physical series and a good test for us."

There wasn't much of a test Sunday, as both teams seemed to be avoiding physical play. But Jarry made the most of his first NHL game, even though it was in a losing effort.

With the Penguins leading 1-0 in the first period on a Nick Bonino goal, Jarry made a desperation stick save on Tanner Glass, who had a gaping net at which to shoot. But Jarry raised his stick to block the shot, then snared the puck out of the air with his glove.

Jarry made 22 saves but none was as spectacular as that.

"I thought he looked really good in there," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "He's got a calm demeanor about him. He looked very composed. He made some big saves for us. They had a couple breakaways and he made some real nice saves."

But after the stop on Glass, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan scored less than five minutes apart to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead after two periods.

Carter Rowney scored on a breakaway with 6:22 remaining in the second period tie the score at 2, but Hellberg held the fort the rest of the way. He made 22 saves for his first career win that was sealed when Vesey buried a rebound on the backhand with 12:37 remaining in regulation.

"I am a little overwhelmed right now," Hellberg said. "This is something I've been fighting for five years, so to be able to get this opportunity in the last game of the season is very big for me. To be my first NHL start, I'm very happy with how the guys played in front of me for sure."

The Rangers have scuffled down the stretch, going 4-5-4 in their final 13 games, although some of that could have to do with being essentially locked into the first wild-card spot with a month remaining in the season.

But when they go to Montreal for Game 1, they will be healthy, rested and ready to start the second season with a clean slate.

"Everybody has a great opportunity in front of them to make a different and an impact in the playoffs," Vigneault said. "This is what we worked for the whole season and what every player and coach works for, to get an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. We're one of the 16 teams that has that opportunity.

"Let's go out there and have some fun."

NOTES: Key Penguins absent from the lineup included C Sidney Crosby, C Evgeni Malkin, G Matt Murray, D Justin Schultz, D Trevor Daley, LW Conor Sheary and C Matt Cullen. ... Penguins LW Phil Kessel played all 82 games this season. He has played in 610 consecutive games and hasn't missed a game since the 2009-10 season. ... The Rangers did not dress LW Chris Kreider, RW Jesper Fast, C Kevin Hayes, D Brendan Smith and G Antti Raanta, who has a minor knee issue but is expected to be ready for the playoffs.
Top Game Performances
 
Pittsburgh   NY Rangers
Nick Bonino 1 Points Ryan McDonagh 2
Nick Bonino 1 Goals Ryan McDonagh 1
Phil Kessel 1 Assists Mika Zibanejad 2
N/A Power Play Goals Derek Stepan 1
N/A Short Handed Goals N/A
Tristan Jarry .880 Save Percentage Magnus Hellberg .917
Tristan Jarry 22 Saves Magnus Hellberg 22
Team Stats Summary
 
Team Shots Goals Power Play Penalty Kill Penalty Mins Face Offs Won
Pittsburgh 24 2 0-0 0-1 2 34
NY Rangers 25 3 1-1 0-0 0 38
Upcoming Games
  • NY Rangers will play their next game on the road against Montreal. The Rangers have a W/L % of .511 after a win and .686 after a loss.
  • Pittsburgh will play their next game at home against Columbus. The Penguins have a W/L % of .620 after a win and .594 after a loss.