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Kunitz's pair leads Pens past Lightning

by Brian Compton
Looks like Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero pushed the right button when he acquired Chris Kunitz from the Anaheim Ducks last Thursday.

Kunitz scored two more goals for his new team on Tuesday night as the Pens improved to 4-0 without injured captain Sidney Crosby in a 3-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum.

''I stand in front and I go to the net,'' Kunitz said. ''Right now we're doing a good job of shooting the puck on net and going for rebounds. I don't score many from outside the circles, it's usually right close to the crease.''

Crosby inched closer towards returning on Tuesday morning when he skated with the club. However, the Pens have been just fine without him and have moved into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves in his 14th consecutive start for Pittsburgh, which is 9-4-1 in its last 14 games.

''We're getting some confidence,'' Fleury said. ''We're battling for the big points we're getting.''

Kunitz broke a scoreless tie when he beat Karri Ramo on a rebound goal at 7:38 of the first period. The Lightning tied it when Vaclav Prospal scored off a pass from Vincent Lecavalier that capped off a 2-on-1 with 7:37 left in the period.

But the Pens regained the lead on Kunitz's second goal of the game during a power play late in the first period. Evgeni Malkin assisted on the goal for his NHL-leading 93rd point. He has eight assists and 13 points during a nine-game point streak. Much like last season, Malkin has shined in Crosby's absence.

''You've got to create offense, and a lot of times one of the best plays is getting the puck to the net and then going to the net,'' Penguins interim coach Dan Bylsma said. ''It can start to become an identity of a team if you get pucks to the net and make defensemen turn and have to play defense when there are pucks around their goalie.''

After Matt Cooke gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead at 12:26 of the second, Fleury made several excellent saves, including one on an in-close shot by Ryan Malone before the period concluded.

"We need to keep getting better, and there are challenges ahead," Bylsma said. "We're taking steps in the right direction and we're definitely building."

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, is playing for pride. Tuesday's loss was their 12th in 14 games. The Lightning did not dress veteran forward Mark Recchi, who has been the subject of trade speculation. He had five assists in Sunday's 8-6 win against the Calgary Flames.

"(Fleury) was good. He was really good in the third period as well," rookie forward Steven Stamkos said. "I thought we really came on and we had some chances in tight. He stood his ground."

Material from wire services was used in this report.  

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