Crosby, Kunitz propel Penguins to first home victory
Saturday, 02.02.2013 / 3:45 PMPITTSBURGH --
Considering it'd been almost 10 months since they'd savored a victory at Consol Energy Center, a season-opening two-game home losing streak was feeling much longer for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"It seemed like a lot more than two games," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "It's been forever. But it's good to finally have a good game, get those two points and get everybody cheering."
Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby each had a goal and two assists Saturday afternoon as the Penguins put together a complete effort in a 5-1 win against the New Jersey Devils.
Brandon Sutter and Robert Bortuzzo each added his first goal as a Penguin, Kris Letang also scored and reigning scoring champion Evgeni Malkin had two assists for Pittsburgh, which limited New Jersey to 16 shots.
"We definitely stuck to our plan, start-to-finish, and everybody helped out in our zone," said Fleury, who won for the seventh time in his past 10 starts against New Jersey. "We didn't give up too many chances or shots. We were still able to get some goals, so that was the way we want to play every night.
"The guys did a great job for 60 minutes."
The Devils were shut out during 5-on-5 play, their only goal coming from Andy Greene while shorthanded. Although New Jersey lost in regulation for the first time this season, its winless streak was extended to four.
"It wasn't pretty, but a good team like that, if you don't show up with your 'A' game, they can make you look bad," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "And that's what happened."
Facing his childhood idol in Martin Brodeur, Fleury didn't have to work too hard -- his best saves probably both came in the first period, when he twice denied New Jersey sniper Ilya Kovalchuk from the left-wing circle.
Pittsburgh reversed a season-long trend that had seen it outscored 11-2 in second periods by doubling its season output for second-period tallies in a span of 7:32.
Sutter scored for the first time since a draft-day trade from Carolina 2:27 into the second on a fast sequence immediately after Crosby came out of the penalty box.
Sutter entered the zone with Crosby and Malkin and took an initial shot from the slot. Brodeur went down to make the pad save, but the rebound lay to the left of Brodeur. Sutter and Crosby both made attempts to flip it over Brodeur's pads. Initially, the goal was awarded to Crosby, but official scorers switched it to Sutter.
"We've had a couple frustrating games [at home], and we wanted to make sure we kind of stayed focused and maybe brought the same attitude we had on the road at home," Crosby said. "We had a little more patience ... We stuck with things, and this is something to build off of."
Sutter almost had his first goal in his new home arena during the first period, but Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov made a "save" on him while sprawled out in the crease. Volchenkov gave that goal right back to the Penguins in the second.
Volchenkov whiffed on a pass to defense partner Bryce Salvador in front of his own net, Kunitz picked up the puck and wristed a forehand along the ice that beat Brodeur for his second of the season. Kunitz has been ill in recent days and was questionable for the game as recently as two hours prior to faceoff.
At that point, Pittsburgh was rolling -- and had a power play and an opportunity to really take control of the game. Instead, the Devils seized the momentum back with the first shorthanded goal of Greene's career.
With Malkin at the point of the Penguins' new-look power play, Greene beat him to open ice and accepted a pass from Dainius Zubrus as he skated alone down the slot. Greene went to his backhand and slid the puck under Fleury for his first goal since March 17, 2012.
But Letang made it 3-1 two-and-a-half minutes into the third, beating Brodeur after accepting a pass from Kunitz while wide open in the high slot.
Crosby added his fourth of the season -- but first in four games -- with 12:49 left. Less than three minutes later, Crosby set up Bortuzzo's first career goal -- a slapper from the point through traffic. Pascal Dupuis earned his second assist of the afternoon on the play.
"The way we got [our goals] is more indicative of how we played the game," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "It wasn't a freewheeling game, it wasn't chance-for-chance. We didn't but give up but  shots in the game. I thought we did a really good job."
Like the team he plays for, Devils winger David Clarkson was held without a point for the first time this season. The franchise record for a New Jersey player's scoring streak to begin a season remains 10 (Tim Higgins, 1984-85). The 1993-94 Devils remain the only team in franchise history to earn a point in each of their first seven.
"For me," DeBoer said, "if you're going to play the way we did today, you might as well get beat 5- or 6-1 rather than 2-1 and fool yourself. It's a good lesson for us. We've only lost one game in regulation but we have to get back to work here."
New Jersey had a game end before overtime for the first time in its past five contests.
"[The Penguins] are a heck of a hockey team," Clarkson said. "They do a lot of good things. They're fast, they pressure you -- when you're in the other team's zone, you have no time. They do a lot of good things. We didn't play our best, but they were great tonight."