Killer Penguins win seventh straight
NEW YORK -- Had they stuck around Manhattan for another day, the Penguins might have killed the lights on the world's most popular Christmas tree tonight at Rockefeller Center.
They're killing everything else lately.
Three more successful penalty kills -- including two in the third period when ahead by two goals -- stretched the Penguins' streak to 32 in a row in a seventh straight win, 3-1, over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
The Penguins delivered 47 hits and blocked 13 shots to extend a 9-0-1 run -- finishing with a franchise-tying 10-3-1 mark in a November that began with three regulation losses in four games with 18 goals surrendered over that span.
They've surrendered 12 since.
"When you guys talked about rock bottom, we had a sense, guys said it in our room, that we could win games in a row right now," coach Dan Bylsma said. "We learned some lessons, overcame some adversity and came out of it with some good hockey."
Bylsma didn't mention a red-hot No. 1 goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury, whose 25 saves against the Rangers gave him a 1.64 goals-against average and .944 save percentage on his personal 8-0-1 mark.
Fleury did mention a white-hot penalty kill, which finished the month 50 for 52 and without a goal surrendered over the past nine games.
"Sometimes I don't even see a shot," he said. "Like in the third, on that last one, I don't think I saw one."
Actually, he did, and he stopped it - but, yeah, the Penguins allowed only one shot to the Rangers on what was a second penalty kill in less than four minutes. Defenseman Alex Goligoski was in the box for a tripping minor at 9:13; defenseman Deryk Engelland has been penalized for hooking at 5:34.
The Penguins had scored all their goals by then: Forward Max Talbot with his fifth early in the first period; and defenseman Kris Letang, his fifth, and winger Chris Conner, his second, each in the second period.
Right wing Pascal Dupuis assisted on the goals by Talbot and Letang.
Center Sidney Crosby recorded the primary assist on Letang's goal to extend an NHL-best point streak to 13 games. He has posted 26 points over that span.
He has been MVP-quality during this run to a record of 16-8-2 (34 points), but Fleury and the penalty kill have proven his equal in terms of contributing factors.
Rangers coach John Tortorella described the Penguins as a "good hockey club" and lauded their "opportunistic" nature.
Specifically, he meant several odd-man chances the Rangers surrendered to the Penguins.
He could have been discussing this opportunity they didn't waste to impress in-attendance majority co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle.
Those are the guys who have signed off on spending to the NHL's salary cap for a fourth straight season, the men who believe general manager Ray Shero has built a team that should perennially contend for the Stanley Cup.
The Penguins, after a discouraging start of 7-8-1, are finally looking like that team -- churning out this November-closing surge against teams that began this week with a combined 100-93-19 mark.
"If you look back at those early games it was always one glaring weakness, and not always the same one -- it was shifting around a little bit," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Now, not only is nothing terrible, but if one thing is lacking another has been exceptional."