The New Jersey Devils have won with defense for more than a decade. Under new coach Brent Sutter, they’re proving they can win with run-and-gun hockey, too.
Four nights after a goal-filled 6-5 victory in Atlanta, the Devils won another track meet when Arron Asham’s goal at 9:22 of the third period gave them a 5-4 victory in Pittsburgh, the sixth stop on their nine-game, season-opening road trip.
“It's not the way we draw things up,'' said defensive-minded forward John Madden, who had a goal and an assist Wednesday night as the Devils improved to 3-3-0. ''But nonetheless, we're getting wins.''
The defense and goaltending that have been the Devils’ trademark since the mid-1990s hasn’t been much in evidence in their last two games.
High-scoring games “don't happen too often with us,” reigning Vezina Trophy winner Martin Brodeur said. “That's two in a row we have gone through. It's just the way it is right now. We're getting two points, so we'll take it.”
Asham’s goal was a tap-in of a pass from Zach Parise, who finished with three assists. Travis Zajac scored twice for the Devils, who’ve scored 11 goals in their last two games after getting just seven in their first four. They’ve allowed nine in the two games after giving up nine non-empty-netters in the first four.
“It’s definitely different, a different look, very entertaining for the fans,” forward Brian Gionta said. “But I’d like to be keeping the puck out of the net a little more and keep scoring the goals we do.”
After two wild periods, the Devils looked more like themselves after taking the lead for good – they limited the Penguins to five shots in the third period after allowing 25 in the first two.
“We talked about it and we just wanted to settle down and get back to doing the things we needed to do,” Sutter said. “Keep our composure and stay poised and stay with what we do best.”
The Penguins scored three times on the power play, but weren’t very happy with the officiating – they were called for six straight penalties in the second period, had a goal disallowed by a too many men call and thought a New Jersey goal should have been disallowed.
The game was tied 3-3 when Evgeni Malkin beat Brodeur on a two-man breakaway at 12:24 – only to have the goal disallowed when the Penguins were called for having too many men on the ice during a line change.
“I think we had seven, they might have had seven,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who had two assists. “They had too many guys on the ice, period. I don’t know how that works.”
Fans littered the ice after the call and were upset again about 2½ minutes later when Zajac shoveled the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury after a wild scramble that saw Gionta bump into the goaltender with the puck in the crease.
“(Gionta) pushed me right into the back of the net, and the guy shot and scored,” Fleury said. “I thought that was illegal.”
Malkin tied the game during a 5-on-3 power play with 1:18 left in the period.
The Penguins allowed four or more goals for the fourth time in five games and continue to struggle in their defensive zone, much to the consternation of coach Michel Therrien.
"It seems like every time there is a breakdown, the puck is in our net," he said.
Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report.