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Penguins win eighth in row with shutout of Rangers

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have found that having fun doesn't mean having to score a lot of goals.

Winning's always fun -- no matter the style.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves to establish a franchise record for career shutouts, and Pittsburgh won its eighth consecutive game, 3-0 against the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon.

The Penguins lead the NHL in goals with 104. That allowed them to reach first place in the Atlantic Division weeks ago despite a defense that was allowing, for example, at least three goals in seven consecutive games through a 5-4 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 9.

Pittsburgh has allowed a total of four goals over its past four contests.

"It's fun for a little while -- guys get points," wing Pascal Dupuis said of the run-and-gun style. "But it's not the way to win in the playoffs, so we buckled down lately in the last couple weeks there and we are playing the right way and we're still winning games. That's the main thing there."

Pittsburgh (21-8-0) moved into first place in the Eastern Conference and defeated New York for the seventh straight time. It was the Penguins' second consecutive shutout this season against the Rangers, the only team they have held scoreless.

Rookie Beau Bennett's goal 90 seconds into the game held up, and Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis scored in the third period.

Fleury earned his first shutout of the season, the 23rd of his career, breaking a tie with two-time Stanley Cup winner Tom Barrasso for the most in Penguins history.

"It has the feel of talking about a no-hitter -- it's not something you really bring up," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said of Fleury's record-setting shutout.

"But I thought in today's game in particular... right from the start, and especially after the second goal, I think it didn't need to be said but it certainly was there, (playing) for the shutout."

It was Fleury's first since a 36-save shutout against the Rangers on Feb. 21, 2012.

"I wanted it so bad," Fleury said. "I tried to not jinx it -- I was (knocking on) wood -- but yeah, I was looking forward to getting it finally."

The Penguins are averaging a League-best 4.4 goals per game during an 8-0-0 March, a month that has been especially successful for them in recent years.

They're 26-6-2 at home in the month under Bylsma, and Fleury is 33-6-3 at home in March since 2007.

The Rangers wrapped up a season-long four-game road trip having lost three consecutive and four of their past five. They've been held to two total goals over their past three games. New York's regulation losing streak is a season-high.

"The biggest thing for us is to stay together as a club here and try to find our way," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.

"It's been a long trip; it hasn't been a fun trip."

The Penguins extended their streak of scoring at least three goals to eight -- once since Feb. 10 have they not. But they again had to wait until late in the game to reach it.

Pittsburgh had been held scoreless through the first 52-plus minutes of its previous two games, scoring three times down the stretch for regulation wins in each.

Saturday, Kennedy and Dupuis scored 43 seconds apart beginning 6:34 into the third, taking the pressure off Fleury. Kennedy's goal, a one-timer off a pass from Kris Letang while on the power play, was his fourth of the season. Dupuis' was his 14th of the season and seventh in his past six games.

Dustin Jeffrey had the primary assist on Dupuis' goal and on Bennett's. Bennett, a 2011 first-round draft pick known for his passing, showed off his shot when his rising slapper from the right circle beat Henrik Lundqvist for his second goal of the season, the first at even strength.

The Rangers did not have a shot through the first 10:55 of the game and did not seriously test Fleury until later than that.

"I thought today we were in mud (early)," Tortorella said. "We really struggled, but we righted the ship. I thought we played a good second period, and I thought we were in a good spot going into the third."

One of the Rangers' best chances to score came 1:25 into the third when Fleury denied Carl Hagelin from in close after he skated down the left wing.

Hagelin also produced the shot that was the closest New York came to scoring -- literally. At 1:14 of the second period, Hagelin's shot from the left wing deflected off Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. Fleury had trouble tracking it from there, and the puck made its way over his shoulder and fell onto the goal line but did not cross it.

"You need a little bit of good bounces here and there to get a shutout," Fleury said. "Definitely, that was a good one there."

Fleury (15-5-0) has his second personal five-game winning streak of the season and moved into sole possession of the NHL lead for victories. His shutout was the fourth of his career against the Rangers, against whom he improved to 5-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average in his past five starts.

Fleury has won eight home starts in a row and is 13-3-0 overall since the beginning of February. Pittsburgh has won 13 of 16 overall and has a six-game winning streak at home.

The Penguins won despite League scoring leader Sidney Crosby being held without a point, and without Evgeni Malkin in the lineup. Malkin (upper-body injury) missed his fourth straight game, but Bylsma did not rule out a possible return Sunday when Pittsburgh plays the Boston Bruins.

With the way they've been shutting down opponents lately, the Penguins hardly look like they're missing the reigning League MVP and scoring champion.

"Going forward, that's something we've been focusing on just in practice and whatnot: Tightening up around our own net, making it hard to play against us," Bennett said. "And you can see the last four games, we're not giving anyone easy offense."

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