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Fleury rebounds as Pens shut out Lightning

The SportsXchange

TAMPA, Fla. -- Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury picked the right time for him to have one of his best games of the season while center Sidney Crosby continues to make history.

Fleury notched 21 saves and his third shutout of the season while Crosby became the fastest active player to reach 700 career points as the Pittsburgh Penguins earned a 3-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.

Crosby, who had three assists in the game, reached the 700-point plateau in 497 career games. He currently leads the league with 36 points this season.

"You try to be consistent and I think with missing time and things like that you appreciate these things a little bit more," Crosby said. "It's not why you play, you play to win, but you can enjoy these individual things a little bit."

Pittsburgh (17-9-1) won its eighth consecutive game over the Lightning and did it with a defensive effort that consistently frustrated a Lightning attack that had netted nine goals in its previous two games.

"It sucks when you don't score a goal," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "You need goals to win, but you have to give them a little credit, they dictated a little bit of what went on with us, as I thought we did with them at times."

In a stark contrast to the offensive-dominated contests that usually occur between these two clubs, Fleury made left winger Chris Kunitz's first-period goal stand for much of the game. It was a nice effort after being benched during Wednesday's game against Toronto, which Pittsburgh rallied to win 6-5 in a shootout.

"It was good to see (Fleury) bounce back," Crosby added. "But I don't know if it's fair to say that because we didn't give him much help Wednesday night."

Kunitz's first goal came off of a beautiful pass from Crosby. Crosby, working from the point, found Kunitz in the slot and the forward blasted a one-time over the shoulder of Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. Kunitz added an empty-net goal in the closing minutes of the third period, his 13th goal of the season.

Tampa Bay (16-9-1) turned up the offensive pressure late in the second period when center Valterri Filppula drew a hooking call on left winger James Neal. Fleury, however, stood up to the Lightning power play as he made a pad save on right winger Richard Panik's shot in the final seconds of the second period. Fleury made a second stop on forward Martin St. Louis early in the third period to end the threat.

"I just took everything one shot at a time tonight," Fleury said. "It was nice to get this result because they are a very good club. Sometimes you play well and the shots still go in so you want to be ready in every situation."

Pittsburgh opened a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal when center Brandon Sutter took a shot from behind the net that bounced off Bishop's pad and went in.

"It was a tough game overall," said Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. "It was a really lunch bounce for them and unfortunate for us. We had a few chances before they put the game away in the open net. I thought it was a pretty even matchup."

Bishop made 26 saves. The Penguins improved to 13-1 this season when scoring first.

NOTES: Penguins LW Jossi Jokinen did not participate in Thursday's evening practice but was suited up for Friday's game and got an assist on Sutter's goal. ... Lightning G Ben Bishop was back in the starting lineup two days after taking a puck off his hand during the team's morning skate. ... Penguins LW Chris Kunitz's first-period goal was just the fourth the Lightning have given up in 12 home games. ... Lightning C Tom Pyatt is practicing with the team in a non-contact jersey and is expected to return to the ice next week. ... Penguins G Marc-Andre Fleury was back in goal Friday despite being pulled early in the second period Wednesday against Toronto after giving up his third goal. ... Lightning D Keith Aulie, expected to be activated from injured reserve any day now, was a scratch Friday.
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