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Penguins beat Rangers for 11th straight home win

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Chris Kunitz and Jussi Jokinen each scored two goals and Sidney Crosby had with three points (one goal, two assists) to help the Pittsburgh Penguins make it 11 in a row on home ice in a 5-2 win against the New York Rangers at Consol Energy Center on Friday.

Pittsburgh has not lost at home since dropping a 2-1 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 13. It has not trailed at home since the third period of its 6-5 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 27.

After a quiet offensive performance in its 2-1 loss against the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 1, Pittsburgh doubled its goal total from that game in the first period against the Rangers. The Penguins established a 2-0 lead entering the first intermission on goals from Kunitz and Jokinen.

Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves in the win.

"We obviously got a big start there. That set the tone for the rest of the game," Crosby said. "[Fleury] was good. There were a lot of shots, but he found a way to keep the puck out of the net for the most part and we capitalized on the chances we got."

Kunitz's 11th power-play goal of the season put Pittsburgh up 1-0 with 6:51 remaining in the first. Rangers forward Derek Dorsett struggled to maneuver in the offensive zone after blocking an Olli Maatta slap shot during a Penguins power play. Pittsburgh cycled the puck through the zone before Matt Niskanen received it at the point.

Niskanen fired a slap shot into the crease where Crosby kicked it over to Kunitz, who buried it behind Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

"A couple turnovers obviously hurt us in the first period," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "They got a fortunate bounce on their first power play. We had done a good job of killing that penalty until that. Then the goal at the end of the first period and right at the start of the second really put us back.

"We tried to come back and we tried to generate offense. Anytime you give a team like this that is so structured a lead that we gave up, it makes it real hard."

Dorsett left the game following the goal with a broken fibula, according to Vigneault, and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Kunitz returned the favor with 1:31 left in the second period when he stole the puck from Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and found Crosby near the right faceoff circle. Crosby backhanded a shot past Lundqvist to give the Penguins a 4-0 lead.

Lundqvist surrendered three goals on his first 10 shots faced; he's allowed three or more goals in nine of his past 10 starts.

"I'm just disappointed, not surprised," Lundqvist said. "You go out and prepare this morning to play a solid game. Unfortunately, it was just too easy for them to create the big chances. It was a tough game to play."

The Rangers registered 12 unanswered shots prior to Crosby's goal and controlled much of the play through the middle part of the second. But Fleury, who leads the NHL with 23 wins, stopped each of New York's 14 second-period shots.

Fleury allowed two third-period goals (scored by Mats Zuccarello and Ryan McDonagh 4:10 apart). But Kunitz scored a second goal, assisted by Crosby and James Neal, to reestablish a three-goal lead for the Penguins with 7:06 left in the game.

"I think we had taken our foot off the gas a little bit," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They had gone in the offensive zone, scored the two goals and had some momentum and there was still a good portion of time on the clock. They [Kunitz, Crosby and Neal] answered right back with a shift, got in the offensive zone and the play around the net by Sid and [Neal] and [Kunitz].

"It was a big goal. It answered their run and finished off the game."

Crosby and Kunitz are tied for the team lead in goals with 23.

After failing to score a goal in his past 14 games, and scoring one in his past 25, Jokinen ended his drought with two goals.

Jokinen scored Pittsburgh's second goal with 1:20 remaining in the first period. Brian Gibbons backhanded a pass from behind New York's net to Jokinen. He wristed a shot into the upper-left corner of the net.

Gibbons connected with Jokinen again 1:09 into the second period to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead. Gibbons tapped the puck over to Jokinen near the left edge of the right faceoff circle. The puck bounced to Jokinen's right and he dove to send a backhand shot past Lundqvist for his 11th goal of the season.

"[Gibbons] is a really smart player," Jokinen said. "He's put up a lot of points in [the American Hockey League] and he's playing with a lot of confidence. He's not afraid to make plays and that's always been one of my strengths. If I can get open to areas, he was able to find me and helped create that first goal.

"It's been a while and obviously, as a forward, you want to score goals, but you can't score every game and when you hit a slump you just have to do all those little things right."

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