Rangers fatten league lead, Penguins lose game and Jordan Staal

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Even the most gluttonous gulps of victory won’t satiate John Tortorella enough to cease his yelling, but deep down, he must be delighted with how the New York Rangers are playing right now.

The Rangers topped the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 thanks to hard work and opportunism, building themselves a decent lead atop the overall NHL standings and a downright comfy one in the competitive Atlantic Division:

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How many people expected the Rangers to generate a six-point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers and a 10-point margin of error ahead of the Penguins in early January?

Speaking of the Penguins, their misery wasn’t limited to Marc-Andre Fleury’s brain fart during the Rangers’ final goal.

Jordan Staal needed help off the ice after taking a knee-to-knee hit from former Penguins teammate Mike Rupp. It’s too early to know the severity of the injury, but it certainly didn’t look good. Tortorella disagreed with the minor penalty Rupp received, which seems like a risky endeavor considering the fine he received earlier this week, but the damage could be huge for Pittsburgh.

Whether the doom and gloom rumors regarding Sidney Crosby’s health are dubious or not, those rumblings and the Rangers’ surge make this as tough a time as ever to lose Staal. (About the only good news is that Evgeni Malkin is healthy and on top of his game, which obviously is very good news, but still …)

You’ve undoubtedly heard about the Penguins’ resilience amid star shortages approximately a million times before, but one cannot help but wonder if they’re going to wear down. One thing’s for sure: the Rangers, Flyers and rest of the NHL won’t take it easy on them.