Devils grab division lead from poorly disciplined Pens
NEWARK, N.J. -- With so many opportunities on the power play Saturday afternoon, the New Jersey Devils were bound to come through eventually.
They did -- twice.
Adam Henrique and Bobby Butler each scored power-play goals in the final 10 minutes of the third period to lift the Devils into first place in the Atlantic Division with a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in a game that included 16 power-play opportunities thanks to 20 minor penalties committed by the two teams.
The Devils, who had 10 of the power-play chances in the game, have won four in a row to take over first place in the division from the Penguins, who had their five-game winning streak snapped largely because they were guilty of 12 minor penalties.
Pittsburgh and New Jersey are back at it Sunday at Consol Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) for the rubber match of their three-games-in-nine-days stretch.
The Penguins beat the Devils, 5-1, a week ago in Pittsburgh.
"We stuck to our game," Henrique said. "We kept pressuring, started getting momentum, getting chances, getting pucks back and it finally paid off."
Henrique, who missed an open net during a power play in the second period, scored off a rebound from the left circle with 9:04 left in the third. Butler got his first goal for the Devils 2:12 later with a snap shot from the right circle.
Butler also had the primary assist on Henrique's goal as his shot from just above the right circle rang off the near post and bounced out the other side, right onto Henrique's stick.
Rookie forward Stefan Matteau scored his first career NHL goal late in the second period as the Devils were able to erase an early 1-0 deficit thanks in large part to the repeated power-play opportunities Pittsburgh gave them.
"We're pretty aware with what is being called and I think in this case, [Saturday], the way we played is a big reason why we were forced to take some penalties," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "We were caught behind, chasing, having to cover for mistakes, and when you do that you put yourself in a position to take penalties."
For a while it looked like the Penguins penalty killers and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (25 saves) would let them get away with all the penalties.
New Jersey was 0-for-3 on the power play with one shot in goal in the first period. The Devils got dangerous in the second, but still failed on two chances despite seven shots on goal.
However, it was in the second period that the Devils figured out what they needed to do on the power play. With the Penguins willing to oblige them with five more opportunities in the third, it became just a matter of time until the Devils got a few past Fleury.
New Jersey's power play finished 2-for-10. It has contributed six goals over the four-game winning streak.
"Whenever you give another team repeated power plays it gets harder as you go along," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Our PK and Marc were real strong early on and we weren't able to turn this into a 5-on-5 game after that point. We weren't able to get to any kind of flow to the game or get to the offensive zone. Then we were forced with more penalty kills and eventually, as it was [Saturday], they're able to break it through."
The Devils also got the lone 5-on-5 goal of the afternoon. It's one that Matteau will never forget.
He tied the game at 1-1 with 3:29 left in the second period after defenseman Andy Greene found him with a perfect diagonal slap pass from the left point to the lower part of the right circle. Greene appeared to fool Fleury as the Penguins goalie came out to challenge the defenseman's slap-pass and couldn't get over in time to stop Matteau from depositing the puck into the open net.
Matteau, whose entry-level contract kicked in when he played his sixth game of the season Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, came into the game with no points and three shots on goal.
Until Matteau's goal, Brandon Sutter's power-play goal 83 seconds into the game was the difference.
"It's your first NHL goal. It only happens once," Matteau said. "It's kind of like your first NHL game. It's your first NHL goal and not many people in the world are going to be able to say that they had an NHL goal, so I'm really fortunate. I've been working hard and I'm really happy to get that first one out of the way."
Pittsburgh appeared nearly inches away from taking the lead again just before the end of the second period thanks to a potentially costly decision by Martin Brodeur (24 saves) to go retrieve his stick in the corner after the Devils' penalty killers cleared the zone.
As Brodeur was getting his stick, Fleury raced the puck up the ice to Malkin, who tried to shoot into the open net from the right point. The puck first hit Brodeur's left skate as he was trying to get back to the crease. It then bounced off the left post and rode down the goal line before Brodeur was able to play it from his knees on the right side.
Brodeur was laughing as the period came to an end, but Malkin's long-range shot would not have counted as a goal because the Penguins were offside.
Brodeur didn't know that.
"I had no idea it was offside," Brodeur said. "I guess all the work I put in the offseason paid off. I have quick feet and I'm a good dancer."