After all, the new Prudential Center hosted its smallest turnout of its first season, and the Devils didn't provide any spark for the few fans to latch on to.
Suddenly, that changed.
Patrik Elias and David Clarkson scored less than two minutes apart in the third to tie it and Zach Parise tipped in the winner 37 seconds into overtime to lift the Devils to a 4-3 victory Monday night, creating a three-way tie atop the Atlantic Division.
Instead of heading to Buffalo on the heels of a 1-4 homestand, the Devils will carry a two-game winning streak into their one-game trip Wednesday before four more in Newark.
"It wasn't reinventing the wheel," said Parise, who had two assists to go with his 20th goal. "We had to put forth a better effort and we did in the third. Hopefully we saw the way we need to play."
Parise won it by tipping Elias' drive past Ty Conklin on the only shot of overtime. New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia all have 63 points in the five-team Atlantic.
"We let that extra point slip away and it feels like we gift-wrapped two points for them," Conklin said. "It's not something you want to do, especially against a divisional opponent."
Martin Brodeur earned his 28th win of the season and was credited with an assist on the winning goal. That made up for his tripping penalty in the third period that led to Jordan Staal's power-play goal.
The Devils, who recorded only 14 shots through two periods, mounted a quick comeback in the third that they didn't seem to have in them.
"We got outcompeted and outworked in the second period," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "In the third we played the way we need to play and the way we expect to play."
After Staal pushed Pittsburgh's lead to 3-1 4:30 into the third, Elias and Clarkson connected 1:44 apart.
Elias got the rally going at 9:37 when he sent a shot toward the net that hit Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang in front and caromed past Conklin. Clarkson tied it with his seventh of the season and second in two games, getting to a rebound of Johnny Oduya's point shot and popping it in at 11:21.
That gave the crowd of 13,012 fans something to cheer about. Until then, the loudest roar was in the first period when the Devils posted a congratulatory message on the scoreboard to the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
|The Devils Zach Parise celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime on Monday against Penguins goaltender Ty Conklin. New Jersey won 4-3. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)|
Each club had 10 shots in the third period and both seemed content to play conservatively and get to overtime.
"We definitely played the third period and overtime like we cared and wanted to win," Sutter said.
The road team had won an NHL-record tying nine straight in this series, including the first five this season with New Jersey winning three times in Pittsburgh. The Penguins extended the run last Tuesday by beating the Devils 4-2 in Newark.
Petr Sykora and Ryan Malone also scored for the Penguins, who fell to 3-2-2 since captain Sidney Crosby's ankle injury.
"It's unacceptable to lose a hockey game like this," coach Michel Therrien said.
Evgeni Malkin had two assists to tie Crosby for the team lead with 63 points.
The Penguins snapped the scoreless deadlock when Malone connected for the fifth time in six games 2:26 into the second period.
Pittsburgh nearly doubled its lead during power play No. 4, but referee Don Koharski immediately and emphatically ruled that Erik Christensen kicked the puck past Brodeur just over a minute later.
That elusive second goal came with 8:10 left in the period when Sykora took a pretty pass that Malkin sent through his legs over to his fellow forward. The former Devils player, who spent his first seven seasons in New Jersey, carried the puck between two defenders and let a shot go from above the left circle. It was Sykora's 17th goal this season and 600th NHL point.
"It was something I was looking forward to doing. It feels special to get it done here where it all started, especially against Marty," Sykora said.
Jamie Langenbrunner, who sat out last Tuesday's matchup with the Penguins because of the flu, cut the Devils' deficit to 2-1 with 41.7 seconds left in the middle period.
"We played better at the end of the second. It gave us a little momentum, but we shot ourselves in the foot giving up the power-play goal right away," Langenbrunner said. "We showed a little character, battling back and playing our best period in a long time. We've got to figure out a way to play that third period game in and game out."
Notes: The road team won nine straight in the St. Louis-Edmonton series between December 1995 and December 1997. ... Malone also has three assists in his past six games. ... Devils forward Jay Pandolfo returned after missing 28 games due to an abdominal injury. ... Elias also had two assists.