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Short-handed Penguins get win over Rangers

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 11:21 p.m.
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The Penguins' Brandon Sutter celebrates his goal against the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist during the third period Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) watches as the shot by Penguins center Brandon Sutter enters the net during the shootout Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
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The Penguins' Pascal Dupuis (9) celebrates a goal by Sidney Crosby (87) against the Rangers in the third period Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
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The Rangers' Justin Falk (44) checks Zach Sill on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
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Penguins left wing Zach Sill (38) checks Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi (5) during the first period Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
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The Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury (29) makes a save against the Rangers as the Pens' Philip Samuelsson (55) looks on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
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The Penguins' Philip Samuelsson (55) skates with the puck against the Rangers' Derek Stepan (21) on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
The Penguins' Simon Despres (47) and Rangers center Dominic Moore (28) battle for the puck during the second period Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin (62) scores against Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the second period Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
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Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) looks on as Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) looks to pass during the second period Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
Penguins left wing Zach Sill (38) falls while in pursuit of the puck as Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman (6) and goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) look on during the second period Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
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Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) makes a save against the Penguins during the first period Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
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The Penguins' Chris Kunitz (14) falls after shooting against the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist (30) on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
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Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin (62) scores a goal past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the second period Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
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Rangers' Anton Stralman checks the Penguins' Harry Zolnierczyk on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
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The Penguins' Harry Zolnierczyk (39) and the Rangers' Michael Del Zotto (4) battle for the puck Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) makes a save as defenseman Philip Samuelsson (55) defends against Rangers center Dominic Moore (28) during the second period Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
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The Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury (29) makes a save against the Rangers on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.
Penguins right wing Craig Adams (27) looks to pass as Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30), right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) and defenseman Anton Stralman (6) look on during the first period Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in New York.

NEW YORK ­— Dan Bylsma is not into giving away secrets.

That would include those concerning his input on how the Penguins keeping winning without so many regulars.

That did not include the identity of his sixth shootout selection Wednesday night — though center Brandon Sutter made that reveal unnecessary for Bylsma.

Sutter's clean beat of goalie Henrik Lundqvist won a five-round shootout for the Penguins, who came back from their own giveaway for a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

All Bylsma said was that a defenseman was up next for the Penguins had Sutter not scored.

“I was just looking for any opening,” Sutter said. “You always have a backup plan, and it probably was a deke either way. I did see an opening, tried to fire it and it worked out.”

Sutter's more eye-opening goal staked the Penguins to a 3-1 lead in the third period. He burst with speed into the offensive zone, cut with power from right-to-left, backing off a couple of Rangers in the process, and then pushed a backhand shot behind Lundqvist.

Goal No. 7 on the season probably was his prettiest in his two Penguins seasons, Sutter said.

“Anytime you get a one-on-one, especially 4-on-4, you want to try and make a play on it,” Sutter said. “I just tried to drive wide, get the (defensemen) thinking I was going to drive wide or shoot and try to pull it in. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.”

It's working for the Penguins (25-10-1, 51 points), even though only captain Sidney Crosby's top line and the makeshift No. 1 defense pairing of Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta are devoid of AHL call-ups as contributors. Niskanen played 29 minutes and 44 seconds. Maatta was a close second at 28:06.

When the top four defensemen are healthy — and that has been for fewer than four periods — Niskanen and Maatta might play between 15-17 minutes.

On Thursday night, they will be tasked again with anchoring the Penguins, who will face Minnesota at Consol Energy Center.

“It's probably more minutes than either player is accustomed to,” Bylsma said. “We're going to have to have those other guys step up some more (Thursday).”

Under normal circumstances, asking more from the other AHL guys — be they Brian Dumoulin on defense and working with the top power-play unit or Brian Gibbons filling in for the Jayson Megna, who was the replacement at second-line right wing for James Neal — would seem unfair.

However, Crosby is loving what he is seeing from a group of fill-in players that have sparked the Penguins on a 13-3-1 run since injuries started piling up.

“To go through what we're going through and still find ways to win says a lot,” Crosby said. “It says a lot about the character, a lot about the guys who've come up and the job that they've done.”

Crosby, the NHL leader with 49 points, did his job against the Rangers, assisting on goals by Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis.

The Penguins' league-best power play/penalty kill combination acquitted itself well, too.

Kunitz's goal was on the advantage, and the Penguins killed three of four Rangers' power plays — holding New York without a shot on two, and denying it a winning goal in overtime while going against a 4-on-3 disadvantage.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury denied the Rangers' first four shooters in the shootout while winger Benoit Pouliot, missed.

Sutter followed that miss with his hit against Lundqvist.

That extended the Penguins' winning streak to five games and kept Bylsma from having to tell who was next in line.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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