Penguins soar past Jets, 4-0, for 14th win in a row


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Penguins coach Dan Bylsma likely surprised a lot of people when he said Thursday that he has no plans to break up his No. 1 line simply to create a spot for Jarome Iginla.

Mostly, those people who haven't been watching while Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis have made up perhaps the most effective and productive unit in the NHL.

Crosby leads the league with 56 points and Kunitz is second with 44.

And all Dupuis has done lately is to score two goals in the Penguins' 4-0 victory Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets at Consol Energy Center.

Bottom line: While Bylsma might be able to come up with a reason to reconfigure that unit if he tried hard enough, concocting a convincing one for doing it now wouldn't be easy.

Or, most likely, wise.

For the moment, there's nothing to suggest the Penguins need even a minor shake-up. They have won 14 consecutive games, tying the third-longest in NHL history, and raised their record to 27-8, good for a seven-point advantage over second-place Montreal in the Eastern Conference.

"They're good," Winnipeg defenseman Zach Bogosian said. "There's a reason why they are where they are."

The 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 2009-10 Washington Capitals are the only other teams to put together 14-game winning streaks; the only clubs to win more in a row were the 1981-82 New York Islanders (15) and the 1992-93 Penguins, who own the league record of 17.

The Penguins played without defenseman Kris Letang, who is on injured reserve, but got back Evgeni Malkin, who had missed the previous nine games with an apparent shoulder injury.

Malkin didn't need long to have an impact, scoring the Penguins' second goal at 18:32 of the first period.

That proved to be nothing more than insurance for Tomas Vokoun, who rejected 20 shots to become the 26th goaltender in league history to record 50 career shutouts.

"It's pretty cool," Vokoun said. "A pretty nice milestone. They don't come easy in this league."

Still, some can be tougher than others.

And while Vokoun made enough quality saves, like when he stopped Kyle Wellwood of the Jets as he moved down the slot alone at 12:24 of the third period, to have earned the shutout, he also benefited from the way his teammates controlled play much of the game.

The Penguins ran up a 43-20 advantage in shots, and had a territorial edge that was even greater.

"[It] was the type of game where we played defense [by keeping play] in the offensive zone," Bylsma said. "We spent a lot of time there, especially after the first eight to 10 minutes.

"It was a real display of playing in the offensive zone and grinding the team down and not giving them a lot of chances with the puck."

That's pretty much how the game looked from Vokoun's crease.

"They're a pretty good team," he said. "And we dominated them."

Kunitz gave the Penguins the only goal they needed with his 20th of the season at 15:03 of the opening period as he took a feed from Crosby and beat Jets goalie Al Montoya from low in the left circle.

Malkin put them up by two when a puck struck his skate as he drove to the net. Montoya stopped that, but the puck then hit Malkin's skate again and made it across the goal line for his sixth.

The Penguins seized complete control in the middle period, most of which unfolded around Montoya.

By the time the Jets made it to the intermission, Dupuis had scored twice -- the second while the Penguins were short-handed -- to remove the mystery from everything except his team's margin of victory.

"[Being down], 4-0, that's a mighty big problem to have," Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey said.

The Penguins did not approach the final 20 minutes as if they owned a four-goal cushion. That was particularly evident when they prevented Winnipeg from scoring with a five-on-three advantage that lasted 1:56. Bylsma called that penalty-kill "the highlight of the game for me," and the effort the Penguins put forth to preserve Vokoun's shutout was striking.

"The game is 4-0, and you see Craig Adams, Brandon Sutter, Matt Cooke all putting their bodies on the line, blocking big shots from their defensemen," Dupuis said. "It was lots of guts."

The Penguins' win gave them a 2-1 decision in the season series, but with the Jets leading the Southeast Division, the teams might meet again.

"Luckily for us," Hainsey said, "I don't think we'll see these guys until the conference final."

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Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter: @MolinariPG. First Published March 29, 2013 4:00 AM


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