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Penguins win 6th straight, top Jets in shootout

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- The Pittsburgh Penguins brought all sorts of star power here Thursday, but it was their third line that grabbed the Penguins' sixth win in a row.

Brandon Sutter and Steve Downie scored to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead before Sidney Crosby scored the deciding goal in the shootout to defeat the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 at MTS Centre.

"You can't rely on the same guys all of the time," Sutter said. "Other guys have to step up. We managed to get some offense from our bottom-six forwards, and that's always big."

Winnipeg's three-game winning streak ended, but the Jets have at least a point in their past seven games (5-0-2). The Jets had a power play in the final 2:30 of regulation and ended overtime on another power play but could not score against a Pittsburgh penalty kill that has killed 34 consecutive power plays.

"To come away with that, get a couple of blocks from guys and … manage to get into the shootout, that's a good test for us, and that's a big builder," Sutter said.

Pittsburgh's Simon Despres scored his first goal of the season, and Sutter had three points to tie his career high. Jets captain Andrew Ladd, Jacob Trouba and Evander Kane scored.

"We wanted to come out and prove that we could play with the best of the best," Kane said. "It was a very emotional game. It was fun to play in. It was old-school hockey, and it's definitely something that you enjoy, and it's the reason you want to play the game."

Marc-Andre Fleury, who signed a four-year, $23 million contract extension Wednesday, stopped 34 shots. Ladd's goal broke Fleury's shutout streak at 164:22, a career high for the 29-year-old.

Ondrej Pavelec made 32 saves for the Jets. Pavelec was 4-0-1 with one shutout, a 1.15 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in his prior five starts.

"The crowd was loud and into it, and being on the road and getting a character win like that is a big win," Crosby said.

Winnipeg (7-5-2) managed to hold off the NHL's best power play on five opportunities, including 28 seconds of 5-on-3 play. Pittsburgh (9-2-1) began the game ranked first in the NHL at 41.3 percent and 42.9 percent on the road. The Penguins scored power-play goals in their past five games (11-for-24) before Thursday.

For the most part, the Jets avoided the temptation of trying to trade chances with an opponent averaging four goals per game.

"Something that we have been working on is sticking with our game plan and not getting into run-and-gun," Ladd said.

The Jets took a 1-0 lead 9:36 into the game on Ladd's sixth goal when he redirected a shot from Bryan Little that trickled through Fleury's pads. Winnipeg has scored first eight times this season, and Ladd has four of those goals.

Pittsburgh answered 1:40 later when Despres scored from the right point past Pavelec's glove.

The Penguins took their first lead of the game when Sutter grabbed a loose puck at center ice and raced into the Jets zone before beating Pavelec with a low shot 6:50 into the second period.

Downie made it 3-1 late in the second period when he won a race to a puck dumped into the Winnipeg zone and then beat Pavelec with a move for his second goal of the season at 17:04.

The Jets began their comeback against an opponent allowing 2.17 goals per game. Trouba scored to move Winnipeg within 3-2 with 1:32 left in the second period. With the teams playing 4-on-4, Trouba took a right-circle shot that beat Fleury to the far side of the net.

Kane finished a breakaway 3:55 into the third period for his first goal of the season and 100th NHL goal.

"I think it's encouraging the way we didn't give up," said Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler, who had two assists. "It went to 3-1, and it was looking like a tough mountain. It was a hard-earned point."

The game provided the Penguins, who continue their five-game road trip Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres, with an opportunity to test themselves in a surly, physical game that had 102 penalty minutes and three fights.

"I thought we handled it well," Crosby said. "I think that they wanted to come out hard and play well in front of their crowd. They were fired up, and we knew that, so we responded well."

Penguins coach Mike Johnston said, "You knew that they were going to come out and really try to test us. We want to face different types of opposition, and I compliment Winnipeg on how they played. They played a very good game. They were physical, but they also carried their speed through the game, and they really tested us in a lot of areas. So it was a big challenge for us, and we expect that we're going to get other teams' best when we come in."

The Jets begin a five-game road trip Saturday against the Ottawa Senators and are in the middle of a stretch of nine of 11 on the road. They are trying to create a better home presence.

"It was another one where we were ready to play from the start," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. "We played hard, made some mistakes, forced some mistakes. Everybody in [the dressing room] is tired, and they should be."

"If you're playing a hard game, if you're finishing checks and playing a hard game, that frustration is going to be built into the games that you're playing. We're not in there talking about [getting opponents] off their game. It's all about establishing our own game."

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