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Second Half of Season Starts with Shootout Win: Pens Top Rangers 4-3

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The first game after the break isn't worth any more than a game prior to the break, but it sure feels like it means something more.  Here we are in the second half of the season.  The Pens return from the time off well rested but still without the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.  The team will no doubt get better and healthier over the next few weeks, but to start the home stretch off with a win?  It's exactly what you want to see.

Who said it had to be a pretty win?  Any win against New York is a good win.  And any shootout where Marc-Andre Fleury stays perfect and Henrik Lundqvist gives up the only goal is a beautiful thing.

Injuries have provided Dustin Jeffrey with a solid chance to prove his value on the NHL level.  Five points over eights games is a nice way to do it, as he registered his third goal of the season on the Penguins power play early in the second period to cut the Rangers' lead in half at 2-1.  The second period saw a lot of scoring from both sides of the puck, as Mike Rupp tallied his fifth and Chris Kunitz notched his 17th to put the Penguins up 3-2.  Unfortunately with just about 17 seconds remaining, Ryan Callahan snapped one past Fleury to tie it up at three.

I wouldn't say the third period was exactly your definition of conservative hockey, but neither team was willing to bite too far into the offensive zone.  To be honest, I think the Penguins' defense had a few too many lapses that gave guys like Marion Gaborik and Artem Anisimov good looks at the net.  But Fleury was up for the task, even if it took him a good two periods to finally settle in to shutdown mode.

Overtime came and went before it finally extended to a shootout where both Fleury and Lundqvist remained perfect through seven rounds.  That is, until Jeffrey, the first Penguins' scorer of the night, sealed the deal when he snapped one past HEN-RIK, HEN-RIK to put the game on Gaborik's stick.  Fleury shut the door and the Pens skated away with two big points on the road.

Part of me wants to admire Jordan Staal's feisty attitude for jabbing Brandon Prust in the face after he took an obvious elbow to the chin, but the fact is it was still a sucker punch.  No way around it.  The Pens would've been better off with him in the game rather than sitting in the locker room.  It's bad enough injuries are requiring most guys to play a bit of overtime.  Even still, nice to see a pulse there.

Malkin's knee is allegedly back to 100 percent, according to the Trib-Review.  Now all he needs to do is get over this sinus infection and he can prove it.

Pens are back home Wednesday night to host the Islanders.