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Fleury, Penguins shut out shorthanded Devils

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin scored 2:32 into the third period to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 1-0 win against the New Jersey Devils at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday.

After a pass from Jayson Megna, Blake Comeau delivered a spinning pass past Devils defenseman Andy Greene and onto Malkin’s tape for his 12th goal of the season.

Malkin backhanded the shot under the glove of diving goalie Cory Schneider.

"We talked to our team before the game, it might just be one of those games where we just will it out in the third period," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "And it was one of those games. It just turns out that’s the way the script was tonight and we hung in there with it. We stuck with it. We guarded against frustration for the most part and I thought we did a good job in a real tough game."

The Devils had an opportunity to tie the game after Malkin got a 10-minute misconduct penalty along with a minor for roughing Marek Zidlicky with 4:33 remaining. New Jersey recorded one shot on the power play.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves for his NHL-leading fifth shutout. Fleury tied his career high, matching his shutout total from last season and 2006-07.

"It’s nice [to have five shutouts in December]," Fleury said. "It hasn’t happened too often in my career. It’s nice, but I’m just happy we got the win tonight and won a close game like that."

New Jersey (9-12-4) had back-to-back power plays early in the second period, but Pittsburgh came away with the best scoring chances. Penguins forward Brandon Sutter found himself alone in front of the Devils net and got off two wrist shots 4:42 into the period.

Megna had another shorthanded opportunity for the Penguins 7:30 into the second, but Schneider made a pad save.

Devils forward Jaromir Jagr was sent into the boards by Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo with 2:03 remaining in the second period. Jagr remained on the ice for minutes after the hit and was attended to by team trainers. He did not return to the game.

"Just playing hard," Bortuzzo said. "He’s obviously a high-end talent. If I can play hard on him and try to make his night a little harder, that’s what I’m going to do against any team’s top players … I think that’s just part of my game. We have some high-end skill on our team that sometimes takes some abuse out there. Obviously, they’re targeted, so I feel like if we can dole out a little bit of that going the other way, that’s what we’re doing."

Devils forward Stephen Gionta left the game early in the first period after blocking a shot. New Jersey forward Patrik Elias did not return following the first intermission for undisclosed reasons, and Penguins forward Scott Wilson, who was making his NHL debut, left during the second period.

"I thought we played about exactly how we needed to play, given the circumstances," Schneider said. "Guys injured to start the game, we lost two or three guys along the way. And we did everything we had to in order to pull a win out of a tough building and the puck just wouldn’t go in.

"It [stinks] to lose again. It’s tough, tough losing. Just the way three lines battled and worked their butts off tonight, I think we all deserve a little bit better result."

The teams combined for 11 shots in the first period and neither legitimately threatened to score until the final minute.

New Jersey had a chance to take a late lead with Damien Brunner charging at Fleury. Brunner tipped the puck away from defenseman Olli Maatta, skated in on Fleury, deked to his right and wrapped the puck around Fleury. The puck hit the left post with 47.2 seconds remaining and was cleared from the crease. The Penguins (17-5-2) had a 6-5 advantage in shots.

Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he was impressed by his team’s effort.

"We wanted to put our fastest lineup on the ice tonight against that team," DeBoer said. "And I thought right from the drop of the puck, we skated with them. We worked and gave ourselves a chance to win the game."

Sidney Crosby played 7:03 in the first period after missing the morning skate because of an undisclosed illness, along with Bortuzzo. Penguins forward Chris Kunitz, who skated in Crosby’s place as the first-line center during the morning skate, did not play.

Johnston announced Kunitz will miss a few weeks with a fractured foot. The coach also said defenseman Kris Letang was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury.

Devils forward Scott Gomez had one shot and 22:10 of ice time in his season debut after signing a one-year contract with New Jersey on Monday.

"I put in the work," Gomez said. "It’s an honor to play in the NHL and to come back, whether it’s 20 minutes or five minutes, it’s good to be out there."

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