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Penguins clinch second place in Metro

Secure home-ice advantage in first round of playoffs with win against Devils

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins clinched second place in the Metropolitan Division with a 7-4 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Thursday.

The win moved the Penguins (50-19-11) five points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who lost 5-4 to the Winnipeg Jets. Pittsburgh will have home-ice advantage against Columbus in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

 

WATCH: All Penguins vs. Devils highlights

 

"We're happy playing on home ice and we know we are playing a team that really liked playing at home," Penguins forward Nick Bonino said. "Knowing we can have as many as four games at home, if needed, is always nice because we're familiar with bounces in the rink. You need every advantage you can get."

The Penguins were 31-6-4 at PPG Paints Arena this season. Their final two games are on the road.

Video: PIT@NJD: Rust forces turnover, buries nifty goal

Bonino had a goal and two assists, Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel, Josh Archibald, Conor Sheary, Patric Hornqvist and Matt Cullen scored, Sidney Crosby had two assists, and Matt Murray made 34 saves for the Penguins, who have won four straight.

"I think home ice is big for us," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "It's important because we've had success at home. Securing home ice is a great accomplishment for our team and we're encouraged by it."

Stefan Noesen, John Moore, Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri scored, and Cory Schneider made 21 saves for the Devils (28-38-14).

"They are a high-skilled offensive team," Schneider said. "For me as a goalie, if you don't have your 'A' game against this team that's what can happen to you. We did some good things offensively, scored some goals and put pressure on them, but I didn't hold up my end of the bargain."

The Penguins and Devils combined for six goals in the second period.

Video: PIT@NJD: Cullen scores SHG to finish odd-man rush

Moore tied it 2-2 10 seconds into the period before Archibald scored at 2:09 and Sheary at 3:05 for a 4-2 lead.

Hall scored a power-play goal at 5:34 to make it 4-3 before Hornqvist scored a power-play goal to give Pittsburgh a 5-3 lead at 7:45. Palmieri scored his 99th NHL goal at 18:36 to pull the Devils within 5-4.

Cullen scored a shorthanded goal 1:56 into the third period to extend the Penguins lead to 6-4. Bonino made it 7-4 at 16:53.

"Any time you get contributions throughout your lineup it increases your chances of winning games and I think it's a sign of a real competitive hockey team," Sullivan said. "I thought [our young players] were really good. They brought energy once again for us. They're establishing a forecheck and scoring big goals."

Guentzel gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead 17:07 into the first period off a give-and-go with Bonino. Rust scored off a pass from Bonino at 14:24 to tie it 1-1. Noesen gave the Devils a 1-0 lead 4:59 into the first.

Video: PIT@NJD: Guentzel finishes great pass from Bonino

 

Goal of the game

Sheary's 23rd of the season from the right circle came off a no-look, between-the-legs backhand pass by Crosby from the slot.

"I just kind of knew he was there," Crosby said. "The play took a while to develop, so I had some time to see where everyone was."

Video: PIT@NJD: Sheary finishes Crosby's outstanding dish

 

Save of the game

With the Penguins holding a 6-4 lead, Murray denied Hall on a breakaway attempt 10:02 into the third period.

"I'm just trying to be aggressive, get some backwards motion, trying to be patient, and letting him make the first move," Murray said.

Video: PIT@NJD: Murray shuts down Hall's breakaway bid

 

Highlight of the game

Noesen gave the Devils the lead in the first when his attempt from the slot was inadvertently banked over the goal line off the inside of the right pad of Murray by forward Carter Rowney.

Video: PIT@NJD: Noesen scores after defender tips puck in

 

Unsung performance of the game

Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin had an assist, six hits and three blocked shots in 20:24 of ice time.

Video: PIT@NJD: Bonino redirects Dumoulin's shot for PPG

 

They said it

"[Crosby] sees the game on another level. We sometimes marvel at what he does on a nightly basis but he's an elite player and he makes elite plays that most can't make. Most would not have seen that play but he has the vision, wherewithal and skill level to make that play. My reaction was no different than anyone else in the building." -- Penguins coach Mike Sullivan

 

"I actually knew [the puck] was coming. I saw [Crosby] look at me, or at least he knew I was there. I've actually gotten a couple of those from him this year, so you have to be prepared for that." -- Penguins right wing Conor Sheary

 

Video: PIT@NJD: Hornqvist taps home loose puck for PPG

 

Need to know

Murray has won his past four starts, making 135 saves on 145 shots. ... Crosby has six points (one goal, five assists) in his past four games. ... Guentzel has a goal in four straight games and six points (four goals, two assists) in that span. ... Schneider has lost his past four games (0-3-1) and has allowed 16 goals. ... The Devils have allowed 12 shorthanded goals, most in the NHL.

 

What's next

Penguins: At the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, ROOT, NHL.TV)

Devils: Host the New York Islanders on Saturday (6 p.m. ET; MSG, MSG+, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Bonino leads Penguins past Devils, 7-4

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