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Aftermath: Penguins 1, Devils 0

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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QUICK ANALYSIS
 
Following an embarrassing defeat, Pittsburgh responded with a complete game in both ends of the ice and recorded its first shutout of the season against divisional rival New Jersey. Marc-Andre Fleury came up with a brilliant performance but he had a lot of help up front.

Pittsburgh showed new life, fighting for loose pucks, hustling in both ends of the ice and giving an all-out effort to beat New Jersey, 1-0. The Penguins beat the Devils at their own game. Pittsburgh was discipline defensively and committed fully to protecting their goal. The Penguins collapsed their own net and kept most of the Devils’ 37 shots to the perimeter. The forwards backchecked hard in their own zone and protected the crease.

It was a big road win and the Penguins leaped New Jersey in the Atlantic Division standings. It was also a great rebound effort following an ugly loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. The Penguins did what they had to do and gutted out a victory - a much deserved victory.
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) -Marc-Andre Fleury made 37 saves for Pittsburgh's first shutout of the season, and Ruslan Fedotenko scored midway through the second period in the Penguins' 1-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Fleury, making his fifth straight start after missing 12 games because of an undisclosed injury, had his 12th career shutout. He was sharp throughout, especially in the third period when he stopped Jay Pandolfo's short-handed bid and made a dazzling blocker save against Jamie Langenbrunner.

Scott Clemmensen stopped 17 shots for New Jersey. The Devils were shut out 2-0 by Boston on Tuesday night and have not scored in seven regulation periods.
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Marc-Andre Fleury makes one of his 37 saves en route to his 12th career shutout (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked: Team Defense
The Penguins played a tight-checking game against the Devils and got the best of New Jersey. Pittsburgh did a great job of keeping the crease clear and limiting second-chance opportunities. The Penguins collapsed their own net, the forwards were strong in their own zone and when there were breakdowns, Marc-Andre Fleury was able to keep New Jersey off the board.

What Didn't Work: Power Play
The Penguins went 0 for 5 with an extra attacker, recording only two shots. Goals are difficult to come by against New Jersey. Pittsburgh was lucky that it only needed one score to defeat the Devils tonight. However, the Penguins had chances to extend the lead and finish the game with their power play but came up empty. 
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
Marc-Andre Fleury showed why he is not only a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, but one of the game’s elite netminders. Fleury was his typical athletic self, diving for saves, moving laterally in his crease and frustrating the Devils all night. He made 37 saves in all, including some spectacular saves in the final minutes of the game to help the Penguins hold onto the shutout and the victory. It was Fleury’s first shutout of the season and 12th of his career. He has a .977 save percentage against New Jersey this season, stopping 84-of-86 shots in two games.
 
SCORING SYNOPSIS
 
The Penguins struck first with Ruslan Fedotenko’s ninth score of the season. The sequence began with a great effort by the Fedotenko-Evgeni Malkin-Petr Sykora line in the defensive zone. Malkin battled Patrick Elias for a loose puck behind the Penguins net. Pittsburgh countered with Sykora gaining the blue line and dropping to Fedotenko. The Ukraine native had nowhere to go and left it for Malkin high in the zone. Three Devils players converged on Malkin while Fedotenko slipped into the slot. Malkin gave the puck back to Fedotenko, who was wide open. Fedotenko’s shot sneaked under New Jersey’s Scott Clemmensen’s left arm and trickled across the goal line. Pittsburgh 1, New Jersey 0.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
The Devils started the game with a lot of pressure but Pittsburgh was equal to the task defensively. Marc-Andre Fleury was in perfect position on the early New Jersey opportunities, squaring his body to the shot and cutting down the shooting angles. Pittsburgh did a great job of collapsing towards its net, boxing out and didn’t allow the Devils to get any rebound or second-chance opportunities.

Pittsburgh’s power play switched things up with defensemen Ryan Whitney and Alex Goligoski working the points, and Evgeni Malkin playing up front for the first time this season. Malkin quarterback-ed the power play since the beginning of the season but with Whitney’s return, the Penguins are experimenting with the power play’s makeup. Sidney Crosby and Petr Sykora joined Malkin up front.

There were great chances for both teams in the final 30 seconds of the first period. Zach Parise took a shot from the middle of the near circle. Fleury kicked out the rebound to Jamie Langenbrunner. Fleury made a second save but this time the puck caromed right to the stick of Travis Zajac, who had an entire open net to shoot into. Luckily for the Penguins, Zajac’s shot went wide. Malkin countered with speed. He dropped the puck to Sykora in the far dot and went to the net. Sykora’s shot was stopped by Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen. Malkin tried to settle the rebound but the puck bounced out of his reach.

Mark Eaton made two spectacular saves while killing a New Jersey power play. The Devils took a shot from the point and bodies fell in the crease. Brian Gionta was down in front of Fleury with Philippe Boucher on top of him. Eaton fell to the ice and was sprawled out near the goal line behind Fleury. The puck was loose in front of Fleury and David Clarkson shot the puck through the Penguin netminder’s pads and hit Eaton’s stick. Then the puck caromed off the post and was gradually heading over the goal line when Eaton reached back with his skate to sweep the puck away before it could completely cross the line. Fleury made a diving save on Langenbrunner earlier in the power play. Fleury lunged to his left and got his left arm on the puck.

I don’t know what inspired Miroslav Satan but he played one of his best games in a Penguin uniform. Though he didn’t get his name on the scoresheet, Satan played hard and aggressive in the defensive zone and refused to concede puck possession on a number of shifts in the game. He was relentless in his forecheck and backcheck and his sweat resulted in some extended attacking chances for Pittsburgh.

Paul Bissonnette returned to the Penguins lineup on the fourth line with Dustin Jeffrey, who made his NHL debut, and Eric Godard. Bissonnette made a great heads up play in the third period for Pittsburgh. While fighting for a puck behind the Devils net Bissonnette was knocked off his skates, drawing a penalty. New Jersey tried to insight a response from Godard to draw an even-up penalty. But Bissonnette grabbed Godard and calmed him down to ensure that the Penguins had a man-advantage chance.

The game ended with a curious sequence of events. Whitney played the puck with a broken stick to give New Jersey a power play with 1:04 left in the game. With the goaltender pulled, the Devils had a 6-on-4 advantage. Jordan Staal won the crucial faceoff and only 10 seconds after Whitney’s penalty, Gionta was assessed a penalty for whacking Brooks Orpik’s stick out of his hands to negate the power play. Fleury stopped Langenbrunner on a slap shot from the far circle with six seconds left and Pittsburgh held on for the win.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh improved to 19-12-4 on the year, with an 11-6-2 mark on the road.

> The Penguins earned their first shutout of the season thanks to Marc-Andre Fleury’s 37 saves.

> Ruslan Fedotenko scored the game-winning goal and only score of the game at 12:51 of the second period. 

> Evgeni Malkin notched an assist against the Devils to increase his NHL points lead to 59 (15G-44A). Malkin has eight goals and 20 assists for 28 points in his last 15 games. Malkin finished the game with a plus-1 rating. He currently has a plus-23 rating on the season, the best mark in the NHL.

> Malkin’s 44 assists are a league best. Malkin is on pace for a 100-assist season. Only three players in NHL history have recorded 100-assist seasons (Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzkey and Bobby Orr).

> Sidney Crosby was held scoreless against New Jersey. Crosby has eight goals and 17 assists for 25 points in his last 17 games. He is second (tied) in the league in scoring with 47 points (14G-33A). His 33 assists are second most in the league, behind only teammate Malkin’s 44.

> The Penguins have the top two scorers in the NHL in Malkin (15+44=59) and Crosby (14+33=47). 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.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 37 saves against New Jersey, recording his first shutout of the season and 12th of his career. Fleury is 7-2-0 in his last 10 starts in goal.

> Fedotenko scored the game’s only goal - his ninth of the season. In his last nine games, the Ukraine native has four goals and five assists for nine points.

> Petr Sykora notched an assist against the Devils. He has 15 points in his last 11 games (7G-8A). In his past seven games, Sykora has five goals and six assists for 11 points.

> Dustin Jeffrey played his first career NHL game.
 
THREE STARS QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
   
1. Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT
2. Ruslan Fedotenko, PIT
3. Scott Clemmensen, NJ
“I just saw (the puck) out of the corner of my eye. It was a reflex reaction.”
- Mark Eaton told FSN Pittsburgh about his save
 

 

Author: Sam Kasan

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