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Devils defeat Penguins for co-coaches' first win

by Staff

Forward Jordin Tootoo played less than three minutes and didn't get on the scoresheet, but his New Jersey Devils teammates felt he was the No. 1 star in a 3-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Prudential Center on Monday.

It was the first win under Scott Stevens and Adam Oates, who were named co-coaches by general manager Lou Lamoriello on Saturday after firing Peter DeBoer on Friday. New Jersey (13-18-7) lost to the New York Rangers 3-1 on Saturday.

Tootoo engaged in two second-period fights with Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, which energized the Devils. New Jersey scored shortly after each fight to take a 2-1 lead.

"No question, that was a key ingredient," Lamoriello said on MSG Network. "The way [Tootoo] did it and the timing. People don't have short memories. In my mind that was a key factor in the game, a lot of [the media] thought that too because he only played a couple of minutes and you gave him the third star."

The Devils trailed 1-0 when Tootoo engaged Bortuzzo, who delivered a hit to New Jersey forward Jaromir Jagr when the teams played Dec. 2. Two minutes later, this game was tied.

Penguins center Andrew Ebbett was called for boarding at 4:55, and the Devils power play scored on its first shot. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky took a shot from the blue line that was tipped by Dainius Zubrus before Travis Zajac put the rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury at 5:33.

Pittsburgh hadn't allowed a power-play goal in its past 17 times shorthanded.

Tootoo and Bortuzzo fought again 16:16 into the second period, and the Devils controlled play shortly after.

"It's a team effort," Tootoo said. "I do it for the guy I sit next to in the dressing room. …

"This game demands a lot from everyone and everyone has a specific role to do. For me, I wasn't going to go running around looking for it. When the time was right, we engaged and that was it. At the end of the day, we wanted the two points and that is what we got."

Jagr's goal at 18:40 gave the Devils a 2-1 lead. It was his 126th game-winning goal, extending his NHL record.

"He changed the game," Jagr said of Tootoo, who played 2:39. "He stood up for us. He won both fights. He should be the No. 1 star."

Defenseman Jon Merrill made an outlet pass to Jagr, who skated from his blue line to the right circle and took a snap shot which went between defenseman Simon Despres' legs and under Fleury's arm. It was Jagr's 711th NHL goal and 1,776th point. He is six goals behind Phil Esposito for fifth on the all-time list.

It was the fourth win for the Devils in their past 18 games (4-9-5).

"I thought as the game went on, everyone was participating," Lamoriello said. "The players worked real hard for this one tonight. I don't know who didn’t play well, honestly. You have to go right down the lineup. Everyone participated in one way or another."

Adam Henrique extended the lead to 3-1 in the third period. He took a backhand that was stopped by Fleury, and after took two more whacks at the puck, it went in the net at 5:32.

"I don't remember the last time we had a two-goal lead," Jagr said. "2012? I wasn't with the team."

The Penguins (22-9-5) controlled most of the action in the first period but had two shots on goal in the first 12 minutes. They outshot the Devils 9-7 in the first period.

Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby scored a highlight-reel goal at 14:37 of the first period. Forward Chris Kunitz passed to Crosby in the defensive zone, and he skated around New Jersey defenseman Andy Greene before backhanding the puck from inside the right circle behind Cory Schneider for his 11th goal, second in 13 games.

The Penguins had chances to take a 2-0 lead in the first period. Forward Rob Klinkhammer passed the puck into the slot from behind the net, but Kunitz was unable to score from point-blank range with 1:20 left. Half a minute later, forward Evgeni Malkin did a spin-o-rama and fed a cross-ice pass to defenseman Derrick Pouliot, whose one-timer was stopped by Schneider.

"We made a few mistakes," Crosby told the Penguins website. "Give those guys chances, they are used to playing a pretty patient game. It was a much different game when we had the lead. It opened up a lot. We had the lead but unfortunately couldn't build on it."

The Penguins are 0-3-1 in their past four games.

"It doesn't happen to us often so it's very frustrating right now," Fleury said.

Devils forward Stephen Gionta sustained a broken hand after blocking a shot in the second period. Lamoriello didn't give a timetable for his return.

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