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Aftermath: Penguins 6, Devils 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  
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QUICK ANALYSIS
 
The wins just keep coming for the Penguins. Pittsburgh rolled to a 6-1 victory over the slumping New Jersey Devils to cap their franchise-long eight-game homestand with a victory. The Penguins finished 6-1-1 on that home stretch and are threatening to capture the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference – currently they’re tied with Philadelphia at 92 points but the Flyers have one game-in-hand.

The Penguins (13-1-2 in their last 16 games) got a complete effort from the entire lineup and overwhelmed New Jersey. Pittsburgh controlled the majority of the play, holding a decisive edge in possession time, and blitzkrieg-ed the Devils’ net. Pittsburgh broke out to an early 3-1 lead and never looked back.

Pittsburgh won’t have much time to rest on its laurels as a showdown with Carolina looms Saturday evening. The Hurricanes (one point behind Pittsburgh in the standings) have been just as impressive as the Penguins lately, with a 10-1-2 mark in March. The contest will have playoff implications as the squads fight for postseason positioning, and the fourth seed in particular.
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) - Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby scored power-play goals and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended one of the best homestands in franchise history, twice scoring two goals in a matter of seconds against Martin Brodeur during a 6-1 rout of the skidding New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Brodeur and the Devils extended a late-season slump (0-5-1) that is jeopardizing their high playoff seeding. Brodeur had allowed six goals against the Penguins only once previously, on March 11, 2006, in Pittsburgh during a 6-3 Penguins victory.
 
PLAYOFF CHASE
 
 
Pos. Team GP Record Pts
4. Philadelphia 76 41-25-10 92
5. Pittsburgh 77 42-27-8 92
6. Carolina 77 42-28-7 91
7. NY Rangers 77 40-28-9 89
8. Montreal 76 39-27-10 88
9. Florida 77 38-28-11 87
10. Buffalo 76 37-30-9 83

                     
Team Notables:
Buffalo: Lost at Atlanta, 3-2 in OT
Carolina: Hosts NY Rangers, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Florida: Hosts Atlanta, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Montreal: Play at NY Islanders, Thursday at 7 p.m.
NY Rangers: Play at Carolina, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Philadelphia: Lost at Toronto, 3-2
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Kris Letang fights for position in front of the Penguins net (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked Well: Beating Brodeur
Martin Brodeur may go down as the greatest goaltender in NHL history but the Penguins made him look like a mortal. It’s not every day that Brodeur gives up six goals in a game. Pittsburgh burned the Hall of Famer early, late and often. It was a great performance by the Penguins’ offense against a dominating netminder.

What Could Have Gone Better: Nothing
The Penguins played a pretty flawless game from start to finish. Anytime you defeat the New Jersey Devils, one of the best teams in the league, by a 6-1 score, there isn’t much more you can ask for. 
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
There were many heroes in the 6-1 victory over New Jersey with 13 players picking up at least one point. But the unsung hero of the game may have been defenseman Hal Gill. Not only did Gill tally two assists in the game but finished with a game-high (tied) plus-4 rating in over 18 minutes of ice time. He also made a beautiful lead pass to help the Penguins score their fifth goal. Gill was on the ice for all four of Pittsburgh's even-strength scores.
 
SCORING SYNOPSIS
 
Matt Cooke got the Penguins on the board early in the first period with his 11th score of the year. Maxime Talbot collected the puck behind the New Jersey net. Talbot skated in front of the net and got a shot off that netminder Martin Brodeur stopped. Cooke picked up the loose puck and slipped it between the pads of Brodeur. Pittsburgh 1, New Jersey 0.

The Penguins netted their second goal of the game 36 seconds after their first. Bill Guerin carried the puck into the Devils zone with a three-on-two advantage. He dished it to Chris Kunitz at the near boards for a give-and-go. Guerin re-collected the puck in the near faceoff dot and wristed a shot over the left shoulder of Brodeur. Pittsburgh 2, New Jersey 0.

The Devils cut into the Pittsburgh lead with a score halfway through the first period. Dainius Zubrus sent a shot onto the Penguins net. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made the save but the rebound deflected off of Brian Gionta, positioned atop the crease, and trickled across the goal line. Pittsburgh 2, New Jersey 1.

Pittsburgh increased its lead with a power-play tally late in the first period. Evgeni Malkin, the NHL’s leading scorer, stick handled around John Madden at the near side before ripping the puck under the right arm of Brodeur. Pittsburgh 3, New Jersey 1.

The Penguins netted another man-advantage score halfway through the second period to up their advantage. Kris Letang skated down the near side and threw a pass across the crease to Sidney Crosby. The Penguins captain had his stick tied up but the puck deflected off of Crosby’s skate and into the goal. Pittsburgh 4, New Jersey 1.

Pittsburgh scored its fifth goal of the game just 13 seconds after its previous tally. Hal Gill made a beautiful breakout pass to spring Ruslan Fedotenko ahead of the play. Fedotenko carried the puck wide down the near side and took a shot on net. Brodeur kicked out the rebound right to Jordan Staal, who easily stuffed in his 21st goal of the year. Pittsburgh 5, New Jersey 1.

Pittsburgh continued its offensive onslaught with its sixth goal of the game. Crosby drilled a slap shot on net from the near blue line. Brodeur pushed the rebound into the slot. Kunitz threw a backhander far side past the sliding Brodeur. Pittsburgh 6, New Jersey 1.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
There were some hard feelings between Dainius Zubrus and Brooks Orpik near the end of the first period. Zubrus skated the puck through the neutral zone, where Orpik was eyeing up a big hit. Zubrus saw Orpik coming at the last second and tried to jump out of the way but both players’ knees collided. Zubrus, incensed, went after Orpik and a scrum ensued.

Orpik continued his irritation of the Devils when he got in Bobby Holik’s face at the conclusion of the second period resulting in a skirmish. Devils head coach Brent Sutter was so livid that he chewed out the referees for an extensive period of time before leaving for the locker room. Sutter was slapped with a two-minute bench penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for his excessive tirade.

Bill Guerin isn’t known for his fighting prowess but he dropped the gloves with New Jersey’s David Clarkson. Guerin got the better of the brawl by landing two punches before the linesmen broke up the bout.

Kudos to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for their late-game efforts. Late in the third period with the game already decided, Crosby sacrificed his body to block a shot. He skated hunched over to the bench but returned shortly after. Malkin landed a big hit on an unsuspecting Devil and the crowd reacted with an “MVP! MVP!” chant.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh improved its record to 42-27-8 on the year with a 24-12-3 mark at Mellon Arena. The Penguins are 13-1-2 in their last 16 games and finish 6-1-1 on their franchise-long eight-game homestand.

> Pittsburgh is 15-2-3 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach.

> 13 Players tallied a point against New Jersey.

> Scoring Summary:
PIT, M.Cooke (11), 5:55 1st period: Penguins 1, Devils 0
PIT, B.Guerin (20), 6:31 1st period: Penguins 2, Devils 0
NJ, B.Gionta (19), 11:22 1st period: Penguins 2, Devils 1
PIT, E.Malkin PP (34), 17:11 1st period: Penguins 3, Devils 1
PIT, S.Crosby PP (30), 9:35 2nd period: Penguins 4, Devils 1
PIT, J.Staal (21), 9:48 2nd period: Penguins 5, Devils 1
PIT, C.Kunitz (23), 7:08 3rd period: Penguins 6, Devils 1

> Evgeni Malkin tallied a goal against New Jersey to increase his NHL lead in points to 108 (34G-74A). Malkin’s 108 points sets a new career high (previously 106) and his 74 assists are a league-best and a new career high.

> Malkin has tallied 30-plus goals (34) in three straight seasons and has broken the 100-point barrier (108) for the second consecutive season.

> Sidney Crosby notched a power-play tally for his 30th goal of the year and added an assist against the Devils. He is third in the league in scoring with 99 points (30G-69A) and his 69 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 74.

> Crosby has a point in his last 16 games, tallying 27 points (9G-18A) over that span. He’s on a 12-game scoring streak since returning from an injury.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves in the game to record his 33rd win of the season, sixth most in the NHL. He is 12-1-2 in his last 15 games.

> Fleury tallied an assist, his first since Nov. 15, 2007 vs. the New York Islanders.

> Chris Kunitz scored a goal and assist for a two-point night.

> Ruslan Fedotenko tallied an assist New Jersey. He has four points in his last two games with one goal and three assists.

> Matt Cooke scored his second goal in as many games.

> Kris Letang has two goals and four assists for six points in his last seven games.

> Sergei Gonchar notched two assists vs. New Jersey.

> Hal Gill tallied two assists, his first two-point game since Jan. 16 vs. Anaheim (G+A). The blueliner has notched one goal and three assists (four points) in the last five games.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 106th straight game with a standing room only attendance of 17,132. Pittsburgh is 68-29-9 in during that span.
 
THREE STARS QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
   
1. S.Crosby, PIT
2. E.Malkin, PIT
3. H.Gill, PIT
"I think right now we just trust each other. We’re playing and skating
forward as well as backward and we’re having fun doing it.
That’s the key."
- Matt Cooke
 

 


Author: Sam Kasan

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