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Pens beat Rangers for seventh straight win

by Staff
NEW YORK -- At least Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma is sane enough to not be all that superstitious when a team is on a run like his is right now.

"I change my underwear," Bylsma joked.

Phew. We're all happy about that, Dan.

The usually stoic (when the cameras are rolling) Bylsma can happily crack a few jokes and smiles these days because his team is rolling.

Pittsburgh's 3-1 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday was its seventh in a row. Sidney Crosby ran his point streak to 13 games with the primary assist on Kris Letang's goal in the second period, Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves for his sixth straight win and Pittsburgh's top-ranked penalty kill was 3-for-3, making it 32 kills in a row.

The Penguins haven't allowed a power-play goal in nine consecutive games. They're now in a virtual tie for first place in the Atlantic Division with the Philadelphia Flyers.

"You get the feeling, and the penalty kill is a sense of that, that our guys know what they're doing when they go over the boards," Bylsma said. "They know their roles, they know how we're going to play and they're buying into it."

Crosby, who has 26 points during his 13-game streak and leads the NHL with 41 this season, said the consistency the Penguins played with Monday is indicative of how they've been playing over their run. They're 9-0-1 in their last 10 games.

"Yeah, all the way through, from Marc all the way out," Crosby said. "Consistency is huge. There are games you're going to play well and still not win because there are good teams and everything is so close, but we're giving ourselves a chance by the way we play and tonight we did that again."

Pittsburgh scored the first goal for the fifth time in their last seven games when Maxime Talbot converted off a Rangers' turnover 5:10 into the game. Ruslan Fedotenko shoveled the puck with his hand through Marc Staal's legs and it went right to Talbot, who quickly fired a shot that beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (24 saves).

"We're not falling behind," Crosby said in going over reasons why the Penguins have won seven in a row and haven't lost in regulation since Nov. 10. "We're giving ourselves a chance. Again, tonight we get the first goal and the start we want."

Only 75 seconds separated the goals from Kris Letang and Chris Conner goals in the second period.

Letang scored at 12:01 on a one-timer from the left circle thanks to Crosby's slick, cross-circle backhanded pass. Conner ripped a shot from between the hash marks past Lundqvist's blocker after Pascal Dupuis' shot was blocked.

The fact that the Penguins won and Crosby didn't score is also indicative of how balanced they've been lately.

Crosby has scored a goal in four of Pittsburgh's last seven games (6 in total), but nine other Penguins have at least one goal over that stretch. Conner, Talbot, Letang, Arron Asham and Chris Kunitz have two apiece.

"We've been able to win hockey games in different ways and tonight when you talk about where we got the goals from and how we got the goals you start to see we're not depending on the power play or just one person," Bylsma said. "We have a lot of people contributing if the team is playing the right way. That's what you like to see."

The Penguins capped the night with a pair of strong penalty kills in the third period. New York got a combined four shots on goal over the two power plays.

"The penalty kill in the third was outstanding," Bylsma said. "We kept pressure on them, kept the puck on the outside, on the wall. It's five guys acting as one like that and it was a pretty outstanding job."

Marian Gaborik gave the Rangers life when his wrist shot from the left side beat Fleury, but the Rangers needed to make something happen on the power play in the third and they couldn't.

"We have to find a way to bury one of those," Brandon Dubinsky said. "We have to find a goal from our power play and our best guys out there, or at least get some big chances and some momentum. We didn't find either of those.'

The Penguins wouldn't let them.

Seven wins in a row, 32 straight successful penalty kills, 13 consecutive games in which the captain has a point and six victories in six starts for the goalie -- it's a wonder they're willing to talk about it all.

"I don't ignore things and I do change my underwear," Bylsma reiterated. "At least, I tell you I do."

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