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Notebook: Ocean's Eleven

by Tony Jovenitti / Pittsburgh Penguins
It’s not easy to win games in the NHL, but the Penguins made it look effortless.

Pittsburgh notched its 11th win in a row Wednesday night against Toronto, 5-2, at CONSOL Energy Center. The victory stretched the Penguins’ unbeaten streak to 14 games, posting a 13-0-1 mark, starting with a 5-1 win over Tampa Bay on Nov. 12.

The Penguins’ current win streak is now the second longest in team history. And the unbeaten streak also climbed the ladder, taking sole possession of fourth place in franchise history.

The Penguins jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two periods, and Sidney Crosby extended his scoring streak to 17 games, tallying 20 goals and 35 points during the dominating stretch. The Penguins captain notched two goals against the Maple Leafs, increasing his total to 26 on the season.

“He’s playing some really special hockey right now,” Mark Letestu said.

The crowd drowned out the announcement of Crosby’s second goal with a standing ovation and chanted “MVP!” for the league leader.

“That was nice,” Crosby said of the chants. “It’s December though. As a group we want to keep going and individually, I want to keep going. I appreciate it, don’t get me wrong, but I want to keep going.

“It was really nice and another example of the great fans we have here. I certainly appreciate it, and we hope there’s more of those.”

The Leafs tried their best for another comeback – they beat Washington 5-4 after trailing 4-1 on Monday – with two goals in the third period. But the Penguins stymied any chance of back-to-back comebacks for Toronto.

“Their play picked up quite a bit in the third,” Letestu said. “It was in our minds that they had come back in Washington, so it was something that we were conscious of and we wanted to put a stop to it.”

As if Penguins fans didn’t have enough to cheer about with Crosby’s two goals and a Dupuis shorthanded goal, Pittsburgh’s third and fourth lines provided their own excitement.

The fourth line of Mike Rupp, Craig Adams and Eric Godard provided some energy to the lineup. Adams registered three shots and nearly swatted a puck out of the air for a goal.

In the third period, when the play started to get chippy, Godard dropped the gloves with Jay Rosehill, who got in a shoving match with Crosby. Standing up for his teammate, Godard landed a few solid lefts against the Leafs left winger.

“I think as a team, we’re looking to respond to (chippy play), and the score allowed us to a little bit,” Rupp said. “You gotta protect your players. Eric did a great job jumping in there for his teammate.

“Everyone’s chipping in.”

But it was the third line – Chris Conner, Mark Letestu and Tyler Kennedy – that lit the lamp, twice.

Just in case Dupuis’ shorty didn’t do the trick, Mark Letestu’s second-period tally took the rest of the life out of the Leafs.

“It’s nice to get rewarded for some work,” Letestu said of the third line. “It feels like you’re digging a ditch sometimes when you’re not getting goals when you’re working hard. But the fact that we got some (goals) lately gives us some confidence.”

At 13:13 in the middle frame, Kennedy skated toward the net with the biscuit, but was knocked down by a Toronto defender. Letestu hustled to the slot and buried the puck behind Jonas Gustavsson.

“(Kennedy) and (Conner) have been working real well down low and along the cycle, beating their guys,” Letestu said. “TK beat his guy to the net and threw the puck there. I just got to reap the benefits of their hard work.

“Both those guys worked a lot harder than I did on that goal. I just got to stand there and put it in the net. So they deserve a lot of the credit for that one.”

Letestu struck again late in the game when he patiently held back as Kris Versteeg sprawled out to try block his shot. But he calmly  skated above Versteeg and snapped a shot top shelf to end any doubt of a Penguins victory.

“I wanted to pass the puck the whole time, and then that D-man laid down and gave me a shot,” Letestu said. “I just tried to pick that corner and it went in.”

The goal sealed the victory after the Leafs attempted a comeback in the third period.

“Letestu and the third line came up with a big goal there, to end the (Toronto) resurgence,” head coach Dan Bylsma said.

On Oct. 13, Deryk Engelland established himself as a formidable fighter when he challenged tough guy Colton Orr to a bout in the Penguins’ 4-3 loss to the Leafs. Engelland convincingly won that battle with a heavy punch that leveled the Toronto enforcer.

In Wednesday’s contest, Orr was looking for a rematch, and Engelland obliged. This time, the contest wasn’t quite as one-sided, but the Penguins’ rookie clearly landed more punches than Orr, igniting the sellout crowd into a frenzy.

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