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Jeffrey Cashes In

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin came up with yet another big effort on Friday night, but he wasn’t the only one.

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Dustin Jeffrey produced his first career three-point night, scoring twice (one shorthanded) and adding an assist, to help the Penguins top the Canadiens, 5-4, in a shootout at CONSOL Energy Center.

“Tonight, he came up real big for us,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “That’s something we’ve seen from Dustin in his games with us last year. As he’s gotten a few games under his belt here, he’s gotten some chances and tonight he cashed in.”

It would be an understatement to say this was a rewarding night for Jeffrey, but that’s exactly what it was.

“Relief,” Jeffrey said of his emotions following the game. “You want to get the first one under your belt and hopefully they’ll come in bunches. I’ve been knocking on the door here the last 2-3 games, and it’s nice to get the first one out of the way.”

It’s been a tough year for the 23-year-old center, who originally suffered a knee injury March 24, 2011 at Philadelphia which cut short a successful rookie season that saw him post 12 points (7G-5A) in 25 games.

After rehabbing his knee during the offseason and through training camp, Jeffrey made his 2011-12 season debut on Oct. 20 against Montreal. But to his utter disappointment, he was forced to shut down and start rehabbing again in early November.

Friday marked his sixth game back after concluding his second rehab stint, and he’d been held pointless the first five games despite generating plenty of chances centering Pittsburgh’s second line between Pascal Dupuis and Tyler Kennedy.

“It’s starting to feel really good,” Jeffrey said of his knee. “I’m starting to feel like I can catch my breath out there and get my legs under me. The first couple games you’re playing under adrenaline, but it was starting to catch up to me.

“I’m starting to feel really good on the ice and I started feeling like I can contribute and play in a lot of different situations.”

Another understatement there.

“It was great to see him rewarded for his really hard work lately,” Dupuis said.

Jeffrey finally got on the scoresheet starting with his assist on Kris Letang’s first period goal, his first point since March 15, 2011 vs. Ottawa.

With the Pens down 3-1 in the second period and one of their best penalty killers (Craig Adams) in the box, a pass from Zbynek Michalek deflected off P.K. Subban’s stick right to the waiting blade of Jeffrey, who tapped it home to get Pittsburgh within one.

“The guys on the bench were talking about how big of a kill that was,” Bylsma said. “To come out of that kill with a goal and to get back 3-2 was a huge goal for us.”

Jeffrey then collected a loose puck above the near circle and wristed it past Budaj to cut Montreal’s lead to 4-3 in the third before Malkin’s tying tally.

“We’ve had chances the last 3-4 games, but to finally capitalize on some of those chances and give the team some secondary scoring on the second, third and fourth lines, I think that’s huge for our team going forward,” Jeffrey said.
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