PITTSBURGH -- Kasperi Kapanen had a goal and an assist in his return from a lower-body injury, and the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-1 at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday.
"I felt really good," said the forward, who missed 13 games. "I only had the one full practice (on Wednesday), but regardless, still felt really good. Felt fresh."
Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust and Teddy Blueger each had a goal and an assist, and Tristan Jarry made 30 saves for the Penguins (30-14-3), who have won six of eight. Jarry allowed six goals on 11 shots in the third period of a 7-6 win against the Devils on Tuesday.
"I just think we played a smarter game," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "I said to them after the second period going into the third, 'This is a great opportunity for us to grow as a team. Let's just make sure we control what we can out there to make it hard on our opponents.'"
Pittsburgh is tied with the New York Islanders for second in the eight-team MassMutual East Division, one point behind the Washington Capitals. The top four teams qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Aaron Dell allowed four goals on 15 shots before being pulled in the second period for the Devils (14-26-6), who have lost eight straight. Scott Wedgewood made seven saves in relief.
Dell came in to start the second period Tuesday after Wedgewood allowed four goals on 13 shots.
"Extremely frustrated," Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. "We're at a point where I'm asking them to work and do a lot of things, and continue to work and continue to fight, and continue to battle. Tonight, our hands and our execution didn't match that."
The teams finish the three-game set here Saturday.
Video: NJD@PIT: Crosby forces a turnover and snipes it home
Crosby gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead 41 seconds into the first period, scoring on a wrist shot from the left face-off circle. It was his 19th goal of the season. He can become the first player in Penguins history to have 13 seasons with at least 20 goals.
"That's when you're going to be the most fresh, is that first shift," Crosby said. "I think the adrenaline is flowing. You're trying to set the tempo."
The Devils also allowed an early goal Tuesday, when Mike Matheson put the Penguins ahead 1-0 at 3:49 of the first.
"It shouldn't happen," New Jersey captain Nico Hischier said. "We knew what our job is, first shift. We didn't execute. We did not want that to happen. That was just not good enough."
Matt Tennyson tied it 1-1 with a slap shot at 12:34. It was the defenseman's first NHL goal since Dec. 5, 2015, when he scored for the San Jose Sharks against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Cody Ceci put Pittsburgh back up 2-1 with a snap shot from the point at 17:46.
The Penguins scored on three straight shots in the second period, starting with Rust and Kapanen 25 seconds apart. Rust was set up by Jake Guentzel on a 2-on-1, making it 3-1 at 12:03; Kapanen skated around Jonas Siegenthaler for a wrist shot to push the lead to 4-1 at 12:28.
Video: NJD@PIT: Rust hammers a feed into the back of the net
Blueger scored a shorthanded goal on a snap shot to make it 5-1 at 15:59. It was the first shot Wedgewood faced.
"We've got a good work ethic," New Jersey defenseman Damon Severson said. "Guys are working hard. Trying to do the right things. But it's just little things at certain times that are catching up to us."
NOTES: Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood was unavailable for a second straight game with an upper-body injury. He participated in the morning skate. … New Jersey forwards Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt each returned from a lower-body injury. Zacha had one shot and six hits in 14:22 of ice time after missing five games; Bratt had one shot and one blocked shot in 16:35 after missing four games.
Video: Crosby has a goal and assist in 5-1 win over Devils