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Notebook: Pens' Gutsy Effort Garners Win

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
NEW YORK -- The Penguins limped into Madison Square Garden without the services of three of their top four centers, then lost two more men during the 65-plus minute affair with the New York Rangers.

Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (sinus infection) were slated to miss the game, but Pittsburgh lost center Mark Letestu during the team’s morning skate after he suffered a lower-body injury.

To make matters worse, Arron Asham suffered an upper-body injury in the game, Jordan Staal was given a game misconduct and Chris Conner missed a portion of the game after blocking a shot.

Add in the fact that the wounded Penguins fell behind 2-0 early in the second period, and it’s truly remarkable they were able to pull out a 4-3 shootout victory.

“We’ve dealing with (adversity) and dealt with it again tonight,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We were down 2-0 in a tough situation. Our guys battled back. … I’m real proud of the gutsy effort we had from our guys.”

Trailing 2-0 in the second period, the Penguins mounted a comeback on the strength of three second-period goals from Dustin Jeffrey, Mike Rupp and Chris Kunitz. Pittsburgh clinched the win in the seventh round of the shootout to improve to 3-1 since Crosby and Malkin have been out of the lineup.

“Even though we were down by two we still played hard,” Marc-Andre Fleury said. “We got three goals in the second and stuck with it all game long. It paid off in the end.”

Dustin Jeffrey is used to being shuffled back and forth between Pittsburgh and its top American Hockey League affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. And each time he is given an opportunity to prove that he belongs in the NHL level.

But he had his best opportunity of the season with the Penguins’ top four centermen out of the lineup at New York. Jeffrey made the most of his extra ice time (both working on the top power-play unit and playing alongside Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis).

“There was a lot of ice time available,” he said. “That’s probably the most I’ve played all season.”

Jeffrey scored the Penguins’ first goal in the second period to help launch Pittsburgh’s comeback. He then sealed the victory for the black and gold with a sweet shootout goal in the seventh round of shooters that sneaked in over the pad of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

“I was trying to see what (Lundqvist’s) tendencies were,” Jeffrey said of the shootout. “I was just trying to get him moving. I had a fake shot to try to freeze him a little bit. Luckily it went in.”

“(Jeffrey) was put in some big situations,” Bylsma said. “He came up with the goal and played some big minutes. He took some draws for us, and he came up with the shootout goal. That was a pretty good chance, and a pretty good response with the way he played.”

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had lots of work over the All-Star weekend in shootouts as he stared down some of the NHL’s best threats. That experience helped him immediately as he found himself in a seven-round shootout against the Rangers.

“That’s what I did all weekend was shootouts,” Fleury said.

Fleury wasn’t just good against New York. He was perfect.

His biggest save came after Jeffrey scored for Pittsburgh. The game was on the line when the Rangers most dynamic offensive weapon, Marian Gaborik, had the puck on his stick. But despite his best move, Fleury stoned him to clinch the win and two points in the standings for the Penguins.

“It was fun,” Fleury said. “The shootout is always exciting. When I make a save I’m happy and give a little cheer.

“I tried to stay patient and not move too fast. It worked out alright.”

Arron Asham has an upper-body injury and will be re-evaluated in Pittsburgh. Mark Letestu will also be evaluated for his lower-body injury.

“For Mark we haven’t evaluated where it’s at,” Bylsma said. “I don’t expect him for Wednesday. We’ll see what our doctors say and hopefully it’s better than what it looks like right now.”
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