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Penguins rally to beat Rangers 4-3 in shootout

by Dan Rosen
NEW YORK -- Penguins forward Mike Rupp turned to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the visitors dressing room late Tuesday night and with a hint of shock in his voice noted the team's odd misfortune on its trip to the Big Apple.

"We come to New York to play a game and go home minus three guys," Rupp said to Fleury.

He forgot to mention two points.

Despite losing Mark Letestu to what appears to be a left leg or knee injury during the morning skate, Arron Asham to an upper-body injury in the first period and Jordan Staal to a match penalty for his punch to Brandon Prust's face late in the second period, the Penguins still came away with a 4-3 shootout win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Dustin Jeffrey scored the lone shootout goal in the seventh round and Fleury came up with a pad save on Marian Gaborik to close out the Rangers. Jeffrey, who played a career-high 19:26, also scored a power-play goal in the second period to start Pittsburgh's comeback from a 2-0 deficit.

Sidney Crosby missed his 10th straight game with a concussion and Evgeni Malkin sat out his fourth in a row with a sinus infection, but the Penguins moved within three points of the first-place Flyers in the Atlantic Division and improved to 15-6-3 on the road.

"I'd say we've been dealing with (adversity) and dealt with it again tonight," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We get down 2-0 in a tough situation and our guys keep battling back and lean on some of the details of our game to get back in the game. I'm real proud of the effort we had tonight from different guys."

Letestu's freak injury Tuesday morning -- he went down awkwardly after hitting a rut in the ice -- gave Jeffrey the opportunity for extended ice time. Letestu was already assuming most of Crosby's ice time, so now it was up to Jeffrey, who was recalled on Monday for the sixth time this season, to eat up those minutes.

His role expanded when Staal was ejected from the game for receiving a match penalty with 4:33 to play in the second period. Staal's punch sent Prust spinning to the ice at the end of a scrum in front of the Rangers' bench.

Jeffrey seized the opportunity, and capped it by snapping the shootout winner into the small hole above Henrik Lundqvist's right pad and below his right shoulder.

"I'd say that was a pretty good chance and a pretty good response with the way he played," Bylsma said.

The Rangers were at least able to take advantage of the five-minute power play Staal gave them to score the game-tying goal. Ryan Callahan, who missed the previous 19 games with a broken hand, got a piece of Michael Del Zotto's shot from the right point and deflected it past Fleury with 12.5 seconds left in the second period.

New York outshot the Penguins 11-3 in the third period and 2-1 in overtime, but Fleury didn't allow anything else to get past him for the rest of the night. He stopped Wojtek Wolski, Mats Zuccarello, Artem Anisimov, Callahan, Derek Stepan, Brandon Dubinsky and Gaborik in the shootout.

"The shootout is always exciting, and when I make the saves I'm happy so I give a little cheer," Fleury said with a smile. "I see the shootout almost every day in practice so it's fun when it works out in games."

Rangers coach John Tortorella still called it an important point for his team considering that eighth-place Atlanta and ninth-place Carolina lost in regulation. The Thrashers and Hurricanes are five and six points behind the sixth-place Rangers in the Eastern Conference standings. Seventh-place Montreal came back to beat Washington 3-2 in a shootout, so the Canadiens moved within a point of the Rangers.

"I thought our game was good," Tortorella said. "It was the first game back (from the All-Star break), I thought we played hard and we had the chances 14-5. We tied the game up and played a good (third) period. Fleury just makes one more save than Hank."

The Rangers led 2-0 on goals by Brandon Prust and Artem Anisimov before Pittsburgh grabbed a 3-2 lead with three goals in less than nine minutes in the second period. Jeffrey scored on the power play and Mike Rupp and Chris Kunitz scored even-strength goals from the slot 3:36 apart to give the Penguins the advantage with 5:48 to play in the period.

However, the Rangers capitalized on the five-minute power play they received when Staal was ejected. Anisimov won an in-zone faceoff late in the period and the Rangers worked the puck around well to set up Del Zotto's open shot from the top of the right circle. Callahan set up shop in front of Fleury and got just enough on the puck to redirect it past the All-Star goalie.

Nothing else went in until Jeffrey stole the show.

"There was a lot of ice time available, probably the most I've played so far this season," Jeffrey said. "If we can keep going (Wednesday) night, get another win, it'll just make it sweeter."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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