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Pens edge Senators for fifth straight win

Stationary bike riding has taken up most of injured center Jordan Staal’s time during Penguins games the last few weeks. He hasn’t actually been able to watch the penalty-kill units that supposedly would miss his long reach, strong work along the boards and down low, and an innate understanding of one-on-one defending.

“Obviously, they’re doing really well,” Staal understatedly said Friday afternoon after the Penguins pushed a perfect penalty-kill streak to seven games during a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at Consol Energy Center.

Power-play goals by center Evgeni Malkin and Alex Goligoski helped the Penguins win this battle of special teams that featured 84 combined shots.

Count 24 straight power-play chances the Penguins have denied, including three for the Senators.

“I’ve never been a part of anything like this,” defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. “It’s amazing.”

Actually, the Penguins penalty-killing prowess is almost an afterthought, considering they’ve allowed only two power-play goals this month — one in which they are 8-3-1 and riding a 7-0-1 run into a home game today (1 p.m.) against the Calgary Flames.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury probably won’t start against the Flames — unfortunate for those who are fans of plays on words considering how white hot he’s been since center Sidney Crosby’s public show of support for him Nov. 8.

Fleury has registered a .942 save percentage on this Penguins’ surge to 14-8-2 (30 points).

He stopped 43 shots against the Senators — no save finer this his sprawling glove of a slot-shot by Ottawa center Chris Kelly eight minutes and seven seconds in to preserve a scoreless tie.

The Senators bested him about four minutes later on center Jesse Winchester’s goal. They carried that advantage into the first intermission, but a one-goal deficit felt somewhat like a victory for the Penguins because of Fleury’s 20 saves.

Malkin scored midway through the second, his first goal in six games since a hat trick Nov. 13, and Goligoski ripped a shot past Ottawa goalie Pascal LeClaire early in the third period. Goligoski’s second goal in 19 games came in the third minute of a four-minute power play, the result of Kelly’s minors for hooking and holding on the same sequence at 2:47.

“I didn’t get an explanation,” Kelly said. “I didn’t know it was two (penalties) until I looked up and saw four minutes.”

The Penguins have scored multiple power-play goals in two of three games and are on a 5-for-13 stretch over the last four contests.

They haven’t allowed five power-play goals combined in 17 games.

“System-wise they know exactly where they need to be; they’re working hard, and that’s the biggest thing … (Fleury) is making some big saves; and everything is clicking,” said Crosby, whose assist on Malkin’s goal extended his point streak to 11 games.

The Penguins were fast closing in on Montreal’s top-ranked penalty kill as of last night.

They’ve done all this without Staal, an elite two-way forward and penalty killer. He’ll be back from a broken right hand by the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.

By then, the Penguins, who have never finished higher than fourth in overall penalty kill, could be creating some kind of short-handed vintage.

Additional Information:

Penalty perfection

The Penguins went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill Friday afternoon in their 2-1 home win over the Ottawa Senators. Some of their notable penalty-kill trends:

• 24 consecutive kills dating to Nov. 12, a span of seven games

• 50 of 52 kills dating to Oct. 29, a span of 13 games

• 14 of 24 games without a power-play goal allowed

• No games with more than one power-play goal allowed

Source: NHL.com


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