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Penguins win 11th straight at home in rout of Rangers

| Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, 9:51 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Chris Kunitz smiles after scoring his second goal of the game againt the Rangers on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

General manager Ray Shero has assembled a hockey club that has won 18 of its 21 home games.

So, of course, after the Penguins' 11th consecutive win at home — 5-2 over the New York Rangers on Friday night — Shero noted Anaheim's success in its building.

The Ducks have yet to lose a home game in regulation.

“Not one?” Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. “Come on. That's crazy.”

Equally crazy is Fleury's performance this season in a building where he once surrendered 10 goals in three losses that opened Consol Energy Center in 2010.

Fleury is 15-2-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .941 save percentage at home this season. He made 32 save against the Rangers, 13 in as many minutes to start the final period, when the Rangers pulled to within two goals.

Left winger Chris Kunitz stymied New York's comeback attempt with his second of the game and 23rd overall to put the Penguins in position to tie a franchise record against Winnipeg on Sunday.

No Penguins team has won more than 12 straight home games in a single season.

The Penguins set that mark last season.

Three of the Penguins' all-time best home winning streaks have come over the past three seasons, and they are 90-30-4 in four years since those opening three losses at Consol Energy Center.

The newest Penguin, winger Taylor Pyatt, experienced his club's home-ice advantage while playing for the Rangers.

“They always seem to come out so hard in this building,” Pyatt said after playing almost 12 minutes in his Penguins debut. “They always come out flying on the forecheck, creating turnovers. We did some of that tonight.”

The Rangers were credited with only one giveaway. They also had 15 shot attempts blocked and misfired on 13.

Kunitz finished with his two goals and an assist on captain Sidney Crosby's 23rd. Each player — neither having missed a game during a season in which the Penguins had lost 235 man-games to injury before Friday — finished with three points.

Crosby leads the league with 62 points.

He likely will be Canada's captain for the Winter Olympics, though he is not sure if Kunitz will join him in Sochi, Russia.

Crosby doesn't know if Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman, the architect of a gold-medal winning squad in 2010, will speak with him regarding Kunitz's candidacy before Tuesday, when the national team is unveiled.

Crosby could tell Yzerman to look at the obvious, though.

Kunitz, a first-team NHL All-Star last season, has had at least 20 goals in four consecutive seasons, and he is tied for fourth in the league with 46 points.

Crosby and Kunitz have carried the Penguins during a seven-week stretch that has featured several regulars out of the lineup.

Forward Jussi Jokinen, conversely, had gone without a goal in 14 games and had marked only once in 25 contests.

However, Jokinen, back at winger, where he focuses less on two-way play than when playing center, scored twice against the Rangers, bringing his goal total 11.

Jokinen said playing at home is “always fun.”

Fleury said it finally “feels good.”

“We felt that at Mellon (Arena) a little bit,” Fleury said, referring to the Penguins' old arena that is now a parking lot.

“It's good to be home. It always feels like we have a shot. It feels like we can always come back in games and hold on to leads.

“It goes with the team we have here. We've been good.”

The numbers, at least when the Penguins are in Pittsburgh, do not lie.

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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