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Aftermath: Devils 4, Penguins 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  
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QUICK ANALYSIS
 
Pittsburgh is in the midst of its worst losing stretch this season. The Penguins dropped their third straight game with a loss to the Devils. Pittsburgh didn’t play a poor game. The bounces just didn’t go their way. The Penguins will have to put this loss behind them quickly because they have another divisional showdown with the New York Islanders the next day.

The Penguins are in the middle of a rough portion of their schedule with four games in six days. Pittsburgh is also really banged up right now with seven regulars currently out of the lineup.

The Penguins are facing some adversity right now and need to stay afloat during this rough stretch because after that fourth game, the team will have four days off to rest and possibly get some injured players back in the lineup.
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) -Scott Clemmensen made 26 saves, Travis Zajac scored the first goal and the New Jersey Devils kept rolling with a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.

Clemmensen, who has emerged as the Devils go-to goalie with Martin Brodeur sidelined until March with a biceps injury, improved to 7-1 in his last eight starts.

Zajac, Zach Parise, Dainius Zubrus and Patrik Elias provided the scoring for the Devils, who won for the eighth time in nine games. They avenged the lone loss in that span, a 4-1 defeat in Pittsburgh on Nov. 29.

Matt Cooke scored for Pittsburgh, ending Clemmensen's shutout bid with 3:58 remaining. Evgeni Malkin, the NHL leading scorer, bulled his way past two defenders to flip the puck across the slot to Cooke for the tap in.

The Penguins' losing streak reached three as they were beaten in regulation in New Jersey for the first time in seven games (5-1-1).
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Jeff Taffe hits Bryce Salvador along the boards (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked: Never Say Die
It was a frustrating night for the Penguins. They hit three goal posts early and couldn’t get the bounces they needed around the net. When there were loose pucks around the Devils crease, they never ended up on a Penguins’ stick. But Pittsburgh never gave up and ruined the Devils shutout bid with 3:58 left in the game. They sustained pressure on the New Jersey goal until the final whistle.

What Didn't Work: Goal Posts
The Penguins hit three goal posts before the Devils broke a 0-0 tie to get on the board first. If any one of those three posts had gone in, Pittsburgh would have gotten that important first goal (especially important against a defensively disciplined team like New Jersey). Instead, the Penguins didn’t score their first goal until after the Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
Kris Letang didn’t land on the scoreboard but he played a gutsy game on the blue line for the Penguins. He batted a loose puck out of the Pittsburgh crease with his glove in the first period. He blocked a game-high seven shots with five in the first period (New Jersey blocked five shots in the entire game). He shook off a tough check from Bobby Holik and was great on the penalty kill. Letang logged 24:06 minutes of ice - most on the team - and recorded two shots on goal. He also added a save on an attempted empty-net shot.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
Kris Letang cleared a bouncing puck in the Pittsburgh crease to prevent a goal in the first period. Dany Sabourin got a piece of Zach Parise’s shot but the puck dropped right on the goal line. Letang threw the puck to safety before the Devils could get a crack at it. Moments later Jordan Staal dinged a puck off of the goal post.

Sabourin made a great sliding save midway through the first period to keep the game scoreless. Letang’s attempted clear off the boards was intercepted by Patrick Elias. Elias and Brian Gionta were in the high slot when Sabourin came out high to challenge. Elias setup Gionta for a one-timer but Sabourin came sliding to his left in anticipation.

The Penguins fourth line (Jeff Taffe-Maxime Talbot-Tim Wallace) stirred the pot with the Devils. The trio threw their weight around and got in the Devils faces. David Clarkson and Talbot exchanged pleasantries along the Pittsburgh bench and mixed it up. They both received roughing penalties. Bobby Holik and Jay Leach went after Talbot after he gave Devils goaltender Scott Clemmensen an ice spray as he whacked for a covered puck.

For the Penguins second power-play unit, Therrien used Jeff Taffe, Miroslav Satan and Matt Cooke up front with Letang and Ben Lovejoy on the backend.

Letang absorbed a mean shot from Holik to the side of his own net. Letang corralled the puck to the left of his goal and Holik ran him over at full speed. Letang collected himself and rejoined the play.

Rob Scuderi made the defensive play of the game while killing a penalty with the game scoreless. Brian Rolston blasted the puck from the point. Sabourin made the initial save but remained down in the butterfly. The puck was knocked around in a scrum and slid across the crease where Leach was approaching with the entire net to shoot into. However, Scuderi spun around and cleared the puck as he was falling to the ice.

Crosby missed a wide-open net when he nailed the goal post with Clemmensen out of position on a great cross-ice feed from Pascal Dupuis. It was the third post of the game for Pittsburgh.

The Devils got the game's first goal with a little over two minutes left in the second period thanks to an odd bounce. Travis Zajac sent a shot wide of the net with Sabourin out high. The puck hit the backboards and nearly hit Sabourin as it came back into the slot. Zajac knocked his own rebound across the goal line. The Devils appeared to be offside on the play, but regardless, the goal stood.

Brooks Orpik became the third Penguins defenseman to clear a free puck in the Pittsburgh crease. Sabourin made a save on Dainius Zubrus. The puck caromed off of Sabourin, off of Orpik and into the heart of the crease. Orpik batted the puck away before a New Jersey's Paul Martin could get there.

Parise deflected a Bryce Salvador shot from the point over the shoulder of Sabourin for a 2-0 New Jersey lead. Letang made a good defensive check on Jamie Langenbrunner to rub him out of the play but Langenbrunner appeared to trip Letang as he went for the puck. That allowed the Devils to keep the puck in the Penguins zone and eventually get the tip-in goal.

Crosby used a great spin move to get around Zajac and then setup Sykora for a one-timer opportunity. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Sykora were paired up in the third period and nearly converted on their first shift.

Zubrus gave New Jersey a mountainous 3-0 lead with his seventh goal of the season. His shot deflected off of Alex Goligoski and slid past Sabourin’s left pad with less than 10 minutes left in regulation.

Crosby and Gionta had a tussle late in the third period. Crosby took out some frustration with a tackle and hold on Gionta. Both players battled on the ice and each received a roughing penalty, with Crosby getting an extra two for holding.

Pittsburgh avoided the shutout with a great effort from Malkin. He skated towards the New Jersey goal with Paul Martin all over him. Malkin’s presence in the crease drew Salvador. With both defensemen on Malkin, the Russian sent a backhand pass to Cooke, who knocked in his third goal of the season to make it a 3-1 game.

There was a scary moment late in the third period when Salvador was hit in the face on a Goligoski shot. He immediately crumpled to the ice and was attended to by the Devils trainers.

The Penguins were coming at the net hard in the final three minutes. Letang nearly stuffed in a puck by the right post but Clemmensen held his pad tight against the post. The Devils were running around their own zone but Pittsburgh couldn’t get the puck into the net.

Letang made a save on Gionta with the Penguins goal empty. Elias would eventually score the game-sealing empty-netter with a flip shot from the neutral zone.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh dropped to 15-9-4 on the year, with a 8-5-2 mark on the road. Pittsburgh is 10-5-2 in its last 17 games and has lost its last three games.

> Travis Zajac scored the game’s first goal at 17:39 of the second period for a 1-0 New Jersey lead. Zach Parise’s 16th goal of the season gave the Devils a 2-0. Dainius Zubrus extended the lead, 3-0, with a goal at 10:12 of the third. Matt Cooke’s third goal of the year at 16:02 made it a 3-1 game. Patrick Elias notched an empty-netter to seal the game at 19:19.

> Pittsburgh was outshot, 32-27, by the Devils. Pittsburgh has only been outshot five times in its past 17 games.

> Pittsburgh has killed 10 straight penalties. The Penguins have surrendered only one power-play goal in their last 21 times shorthanded.

> Evgeni Malkin recorded an assist against New Jersey to increase his NHL lead with 46 points (11G-35A). Malkin’s 35 assists are also a league best. Malkin is on pace for a 100-assist season (103). Only three players in NHL history have recorded 100-assist seasons (Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzkey and Bobby Orr). Malkin has four goals and 11 assists for 15 points in his last eight games.

> Sidney Crosby did not record a point against New Jersey, snapping a seven-game point streak. Crosby had six goals and 10 assists for 16 points during that span. Crosby climbed the rankings and is now second in the league in scoring with 41 points (13G-28A). His 28 assists are second most in the league, behind only teammate Malkin’s 35.

> The Penguins have the top two scorers in the NHL in Malkin (11+35=46) and Crosby (13+28=41). The last time Pittsburgh had the top two scorers in the league was the 1995-96 season when Mario Lemieux (first) and Jaromir Jagr (second) topped the NHL. The team also had that distinction when Lemieux (first) and Kevin Stevens (second) did it in 1991-92.

> Dany Sabourin made his sixth consecutive start, the longest stretch of his career. He made 28 saves in a losing effort against the Devils.

> Cooke scored his third goal of the season. It was his first goal in 10 games.

> Fedotenko notched an assist in the game. He has three goals and one assist (four points) in his last four games.

> Tim Wallace played in his first career NHL game.
 
THREE STARS QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
   
1. Scott Clemmensen, NJ
2. Travis Zajac, NJ
3. Zach Parise, NJ
"We had a few bad breaks on both sides of the puck. They got
a few  bounces on their goals and we had a few posts."
- Sidney Crosby told FSN Pittsburgh
 

 

Author: Sam Kasan

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