Miles Wood and Nikita Gusev scored for New Jersey but the Penguins prevailed 5-2
NEWARK, NJ - The Devils battled back to tie the Penguins in the opening period and again came within one in the third but the visitors proved to be too much, defeating the Devils 5-2 at Prudential Center on Tuesday night.
"I didn't see the same energy," said Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine. "Some of it, you look at who you're playing against. I thought we had a good first 10 and then we went down a bit and never got anyhthing back in the second or third period."
New Jersey had the best chance early on in the game. Nico Hischier was denied at close-range off the rush by Penguins netminder Matt Murray four minutes in.
Midway through the first, Pittsburgh connected for the game's first goal. Evan Rodrigues wristed a shot from the side boards that deflected off the leg of Matt Tennyson on its way to the net, eluding Mackenzie Blackwood to put the Penguins on the board.
Penguins took a penalty, Jack Johnson for delay of game, puck over glass, sending the Devils on the power play for the first time with 8:55 to go in the first.
With 19 seconds left in the man advantage, Nikita Gusev wristed a shot from above the right circle glove side past Murray to tie the game up.
John Hayden was called for tripping to put Pittsburgh on the power play for the first time with less than five minutes to play in the opening period but Devils were able to kill it off.
After one, shots on goal were 7-6 for the Penguins.
Justin Schultz whipped a wrist shot from the right circle glove side past Blackwood to put the Pens back in front 5:15 into the second.
"In the second period, they played how we wanted to play," stated Nasreddine after the Penguins outshot the Devils 10-3 to open the middle frame.
"We didn't get much momentum going today. We didn't shoot enough and too much run and gun. We didn't get enough offensively to test Murray today," noted Travis Zajac, adding that the Penguins also deserve credit for the way they shut things down.
"We had some zone time and to be honest, it looked like they were in some pretty good lanes and were in our face so they did a pretty good job."
Jack Hughes was called for tripping two minutes after the goal, sending the Pens back on the PP but Devils killed it off yet again. When Hughes got out of the box, he found himself alone at center ice with the puck. He skated in alone and fired a shot from the hashmarks. Murray got a piece of that shot and the puck then grazed off the outside of the post.
Shots in the game overall were 20-12 for the Pens.
Sidney Crosby was sent off for high sticking, giving the Devils power play a chance to get back in the game.
Only 18 seconds into the man advantage, Kris Letang was called for slashing to set up a two-man advantage for 1:42. Devils had plenty of chances on the five-on-three but could not convert.
"Anytime you get a five-on-three you want to score," Nasreddine remarked. "It was a one-goal game at that time."
Instead, the Devils did not convert and the Penguins then extended their lead to 3-1 after Blackwood got a piece but not enough of a quick shot by Evgeni Malkin from the right circle. The puck trickled over the goal line to put the Pens up by a pair.
Just past the period's midway point, Miles Wood used his speed to break free after a great flip pass from Nico Hichier. He snapped a rolling puck top corner on Murray.
Malkin netted his second of the game, taking advantage of a turnover and quickly rifling a shot past Blackwood to regain Pittsburgh's two-goal lead.