Penguins beat Rangers in shootout on Sutter's goal

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NEW YORK — It’s tempting to suggest that the Penguins have to be doing this with smoke and mirrors, but that really couldn’t be the case now, could it?

Hey, it should be obvious by now that if the Penguins actually had smoke and mirrors, the mirrors would be shattered and the smoke would have dissipated long ago.

After all, nearly half the guys on the major league payroll are badly bruised or — in most cases — flat-out broken these days.

The same can’t be said of their winning streak.

The Penguins stretched it to five games, matching their longest this season, with a 4-3 shootout victory against the New York Rangers Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

The victory was the 10th in the past 11 games for the Penguins, who improved to 25-10-1.

That’s a pretty fair run under ideal circumstances. Which these most definitely are not.

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin sat out his second game in a row because of an apparent leg injury, and, coach Dan Bylsma said, will not be in uniform at 7:08 p.m. today when Minnesota visits Consol Energy Center.

The Penguins again played without their top four defensemen — Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi and Kris Letang — because of injuries and also were missing defenseman Deryk Engelland. He served the second of a five-game suspension assessed Wednesday for a hit to the head Saturday of Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader.

Penguins right winger James Neal, meanwhile, completed his five-game suspension and is eligible to return tonight when the Penguins face the Wild.

“To go through what we’re going through and still find ways to win, I think it says a lot,” center Sidney Crosby said. “It says a lot about the character, says a lot about the guys who have come up [from Wilkes-Barre in the American Hockey League] and the job they’ve done.”

Brandon Sutter of the Penguins was the only shooter on either side to get a goal in the shootout, beating Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the fifth round.

“Part of me was kind of waiting to get a chance,” Sutter said. “I just felt good with the puck. I wanted a shot. It’s always fun to get out there.”

This game was No. 6 in a franchise-record nine-game homestand for the Rangers, who are 1-3-2 in the first six to stand at 6-9-2 at the Garden.

“Our home record isn’t where we want it to be, and we’ve talked about that,” Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto said.

The Penguins made the most of their second power-play opportunity as Chris Kunitz swatted his own rebound past Lundqvist at 12:44 of the second for his 18th.

Assists went to Jussi Jokinen and Crosby, who stretched his scoring streak to eight games.

New York pulled even at 15:35 on a sensational effort by Carl Hagelin, who burst past the Penguins defense before beating Fleury with a backhander.

Pascal Dupuis, however, put the Penguins back in front at 5:25 of the third, as he took a cross-ice feed from Crosby and beat Lundqvist from between the right circle and the crease for his sixth and Sutter added an insurance goal just 61 seconds later.

Sutter carried the puck down the right side, then made a move to the inside of Del Zotto before tossing a backhander by Lundqvist for his seventh.

“Sometimes [the move] works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Sutter said. “[Wednesday night], it worked pretty well.”

That goal gained importance when Mats Zuccarello backhanded in a loose puck after a John Moore shot from the slot had leaked through Fleury to cut the Penguins’ lead to one.

New York forced overtime with a power-play goal at 18:14 as Derick Brassard collected the carom of a shot off the boards and scored from low in the left circle.

“A good bounce for them,” Fleury said.

But not a fatal one for the Penguins.

“A few penalties kind of gave them momentum, but, besides that, we’ve been pretty strong playing in our own end,” Crosby said. “And finding ways to get timely goals when we need them.”

Even if it’s in Round 5 of a shootout.

Dave Molinari: or Twitter


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