Fleury, Pens edge Rangers in shootout

Everett Merrill, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The Pittsburgh Penguins, forced to use young, inexperienced defensemen due to numerous injuries, continue to get consistent performances from goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
The veteran netminder recorded his league-leading 20th win, stopping all five New York Rangers in a 4-3 shootout win for Pittsburgh on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. Fleury is 7-1 in his last eight decisions.
Pittsburgh center Brandon Sutter scored in the fifth round of the shootout after the tiebreaker was scoreless after four rounds, giving the Penguins their 10th win in their last 11 games. He sent a wrist shot past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist for his second goal of the night.
The game went to a shootout after the Rangers failed to capitalize on a 4-on-3 power play in the overtime. Fleury stopped six shots in the extra session.
"It looked like both guys might not let one in, but Marc was fantastic," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. "He didn't budge on any of those (shots)."
The shootout was the second in a row for the Rangers (16-18-1). New York knocked off Calgary 4-3 on Sunday.
Center Derick Brassard scored on the power-play at 18:14 to draw the Rangers even at 3 in the third to force overtime. The goal ended Pittsburgh's streak of killing off 19 short-handed situations in its last seven games.
"We haven't come back in very many situations this year and in the third we came back from a two-goal deficit," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. "We had a chance to win it in OT and we had a few chances in the shootout but couldn't get it in."
Pittsburgh (25-10-1) leads the Metropolitan Division with 51 points despite a defense unit that has been fully healthy for just four periods this season. However, its 2.18 goals-against-average ranks fourth in the NHL.
New York (16-17-2) is now 1-4-1 in its first six games of a franchise-record nine-game homestand that ends Dec. 23 against Toronto.
The Penguins received goals from left winger Chris Kunitz, Sutter and left winger Pascual Dupuis in regulation.
Left wingers Mats Zuccarello and Carl Hagelin scored for New York, along with Brassard. Zuccarello scored at 12:43 of the third to draw the Rangers to within a goal at 3-2.
Pittsburgh scored two goals 1:01 apart in the third period, snapping a 1-1 tie.
Dupuis snapped the tie at 5:25 with his sixth goal of the campaign. Center Sidney Crosby sent a backhand pass to Dupuis, who one-timed it past Lundqvist.
Sutter scored on the backhand at 6:26 to provide the Penguins with a 3-1 cushion. The goal was Sutter's seventh of the season. The goal was made possible by some good dirty work from Kunitz, who dug the puck out from the end boards to find Crosby, who has registered 12 points in his last eight games.
Besides defenseman Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta, who have skated in each of the Penguins 35 games this season, Pittsburgh employed a raw defense corps against the Rangers due to injuries to Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi and a suspension to Deryk Engelland.
Brian Dumoulin, Robert Bortuzzo, Simoin Despres and Philip Samuelsson combined for 22 games this season. Niskanen and Maatta logged the most minutes among the Penguins defensemen Wednesday, at 29:44 and 28:06, respectively.
"It's obviously more minutes than either player is accustomed to," said Bylsma. "They have been getting their lions share back there for sure. The expectation of how we play and the young guys stepping in, is not to tread water. They're expected to step in and contribute and play the right way. You see that in the way they step over the boards."
New York tied it at 1 on a breakaway from Hagelin in the second period. He received a breakout pass from defenseman John Moore near center ice and with Despres draped on him, Haglin slid a backhander under the pads of Fleury for his seventh goal this season.
The Penguins took a 1-0 lead at 12:44 of the second period when Kunitz jammed his 18th goal of the season from a scrum in front of Lundqvist.
The goal was Pittsburgh's 32d on the power play, tying it for the league lead with the Washington Capitals.
NOTES: Penguins D Deryk Engelland was suspended for five games without pay for an illegal check to the head of Red Wings F Justin Abdelkader on Dec. 14. Engelland was assessed a match penalty for an illegal check to the head. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and based on his average annual salary, Engelland will forfeit $14,529.90. ... The Penguins called up D Philip Samuelsson from Wilkes Barre/Scranton of the AHL on Dec. 16. He is the son of Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson. ... Pittsburgh lost 170 man-games to injury this season. ... C Evgeni Malkin missed his second straight game for Pittsburgh with a lower-body injury. ... Since signing his seven-year contract extension, Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist is 2-3-1 with a 3.42 goals-against-average. ... Lundqvist made his 538th appearance for the Rangers, tying Ed Giacomin for third place among goalie appearances on the club. ... Rangers RW Derek Dorsett is tied for the NHL lead in fighting majors, with nine.

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