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Notebook: Perfect 10

by Tony Jovenitti / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins did it again.


Just when it looked like New Jersey would bedevil the Penguins again by playing their trademark shutdown defense after taking the early lead, the Penguins never gave up and notched a 2-1 victory over the Devils Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center.

The game marked the Penguins 10th win in a row and the second win in as many tries against the Devils this season – a team that swept the Penguins in the six-game series last year.

“Clearly having not won a game against them last year was something that we looked into and tried to come up with reasons why,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Last year getting down to the Devils was something that we didn’t deal with very well. But tonight we kept our focus and kept going.”

Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby both tickled the twine to improve the team’s unbeaten streak to 12-0-1.  During that stretch the Penguins took control of the Eastern Conference as they now lead their Winter Classic foe, Washington, by one point in the standings with 40 points to the Capitals’ 39.

“Everybody’s doing things right, everybody’s happy on the bench,” Kunitz said. “Guys are excited to go over the boards the next shift. It doesn’t matter if somebody was forechecking or just controlling the puck in their end. I think it’s something where it’s just kind of a team personality.”

The winning streak is now tied for the second-longest in team history. The last time the Penguins won 10 games in a row was from Jan. 28 to Feb. 15, 1999. The Penguins still have a ways to go before they break the franchise record for longest winning streak, since the team set the NHL record in 1993 with 17-straight wins (March 9 – April 10).

But the way the Penguins are playing, it’s certainly not out of the question.


SUPER SID
The Penguins captain extended his scoring streak to 16 games with a goal and an assist in the victory over the Devils.

Crosby now has 18 goals and 15 assists for 33 points in that stretch and 48 points on the season, increasing his lead as the NHL’s top goal scorer and points leader.

In the first period, Crosby whipped a cross-ice pass right to the tape of Chris Kunitz, who ripped it past Johan Hedberg to tie the game at 1-1.

“I just saw (Kunitz) kind of delay a bit,” Crosby said. “He didn’t slow down a ton, but it was just enough to create some separation from the defenseman he was in front of. It was a great shot.”

In the second period, the captain put the Penguins on top as he corralled a loose puck and snapped it top-shelf past Hedberg. It was his 24th goal of the year in just 29 games played.

“I was just in the right spot,” Crosby said. “I just tried to get off to the side of the net and hope that something bounced over.”

Crosby is on pace for a career season. At this rate, he would notch 135 points, easily passing up his personal best of 120 points (36G-84A) in the 2006-07 season.

Former Penguin Bill Guerin described Crosby’s incredible success as “an assault on the game.”


GUERIN HONORED
Speaking of Guerin, before the game, he was honored by the team after he announced he would retire as a Penguin on Monday morning.

A special red carpet was rolled out as Guerin, his wife and his four children stood on the ice as a tribute video played on the scoreboard overhead. Bylsma presented him with a framed collage of iconic images from Guerin’s time as a Penguin.

He then donned his No. 13 Pittsburgh jersey to symbolize the fact that he will forever be a Penguin.

“I’m sure the emotions were pretty high and it was really nicely done,” Crosby said of the ceremony. “We’re happy that Billy and his family got to do that here – to have us and New Jersey here, two places where he had some great years and some great memories.”

Guerin played in 1,263 games with eight different teams over his 18-year career. He notched 429 goals and 856 points while winning two Stanley Cups – one with New Jersey in 1995 and one with the Penguins in 2009.


FLEURY FLOURISHES
The win gave goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury a personal best nine-game winning streak. During the team’s 12-game unbeaten streak, the “Flower” played in 11 of those contests, posting a 10-0-1 record.

“Every night is a new game, a new challenge,” Fleury said. “So I just try to keep working. “

During the unbeaten streak, Fleury stopped 320 of 340 shots, posting a .941 save percentage and 1.64 goals-against average. But, like always, he was quick to deflect praise to the rest of the team.

“I think (the team) has been doing a great job, allowing a lot less scoring chances,” Fleury said. “So that makes my job a lot easier. They’re blocking a lot of shots and getting out of our zone very fast.”

The Penguins will look to make it 11 wins in a row Wednesday when they host Toronto at CONSOL Energy Center.

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