|PIT||2||0||1||0||(0 - 0)||3|
|NJD||1||0||2||1||(0 - 0)||4|
If the result of their first game back was any indication, the All-Star break may have done wonders for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It certainly hasn't slowed the New Jersey Devils.
Coming off an overtime road victory against the Eastern Conference's best team, the Devils will return home in search of their eighth straight win on Friday night when they face the Penguins.
New Jersey (31-15-3) went into the break with five consecutive victories - the first four of which came at the tail end of a season-high six game road trip.
The Devils returned to the road after the All-Star game, opening up the second half Tuesday night in Ottawa. With the score tied at 1 midway through the second period, Jamie Langenbrunner broke the deadlock, and he gave New Jersey a two-goal cushion 19 seconds into the third en route to a 4-1 victory.
Langenbrunner was at it again Thursday night in Boston against the East-leading Bruins. He notched a shorthanded goal in the first period and then scored 1:11 into overtime, lifting the Devils to a 4-3 victory - their seventh in a row.
"They're the team that everybody needs to measure themselves against, and rightfully so," Langenbrunner said. "They've had a great year, and we just wanted to see if we could play with them. I think we proved a little something to ourselves tonight that if we're on top of our game we can."
It's the longest string of victories for New Jersey since it won nine straight from Nov. 17-Dec. 7, 2007.
Langenbrunner hasn't been the only Devil with a scoring touch lately. Zach Parise's had his all season - he's tied for third in the league in goals - but he's been on fire recently. Parise, who scored a goal in his first All-Star game on Sunday, has seven goals in his last nine games, including his 29th on Thursday.
Parise has scored twice this season against Pittsburgh (24-21-4) and the Devils have won both of those games. New Jersey is 5-6-0 in its last 11 games against the Penguins - 5-0 if Parise scores a goal and 0-6 if he doesn't.
Prior to the All-Star break, the Penguins showed a few signs of emerging from a funk that's lasted since the beginning of December. They had won three of four following a stretch where they dropped seven of eight, but they couldn't get anything done in a 2-1 loss to Carolina heading into the break.
Pittsburgh's offense, however, finally broke through in the third period against the New York Rangers on Wednesday. The score was tied at a goal apiece entering the final 20 minutes, when Kris Letang scored two of the Penguins' five third-period goals to carry them to a 6-2 win.
"It's great for the confidence of the team," Letang said of the third-period outburst. "I know we've been struggling a little bit before the break, so it was just important to win this game at home, especially against a hard division team."
Sidney Crosby, meanwhile, had a goal and three assists in the third, showing no ill effects from the knee injury that kept him out of the All-Star game.
"The next game becomes the most important one for us," Crosby told the Penguins' official Web site. "It's going to be like that all the way down the stretch here. We did a good job here tonight, but it just gets tougher."
Crosby has been held off the scoresheet in three of the four games between the teams, but did record a hat trick and added an assist in Pittsburgh's 4-1 home victory on Nov. 29.