The Penguins faced a team that’s been gathering steam on Sunday, as the New Jersey Devils have been rolling since play resumed following the All-Star break.
And the Devils continued their strong play with a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh, giving them their fourth straight decision since their six-day hiatus.
Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk has been a thorn in the Penguins’ side all season, and he continued that Sunday by scoring a goal and adding two assists. He’s now got nine points (3G-6A) in four games against Pittsburgh and 10 points (3G-7A) in his last four games overall.
Captain Zach Parise added a goal and an assist, Anton Volchenkov and David Clarkson rounded out the scoring for New Jersey and Martin Brodeur improved to 3-0 on the season against the Penguins.
The Penguins dug themselves an early hole when they took a 2-0 deficit into the first intermission, then surrendered a shorthanded tally from Kovalchuk that put them behind 3-0 early in the second.Matt Niskanen
and Evgeni Malkin
scored Pittsburgh’s goals, both of which came on the power play, but they wouldn’t be enough to mount a comeback.
“It seems like nothing was going the right way, really,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
said, who was replaced by Brent Johnson
after New Jersey’s third goal. “The guys tried to come back in it, but they’re a tough team to come back on.”
The Pens weren’t happy with their effort, and it’s just kind of game they’ll need to put behind them quickly in order to begin preparing for Montreal on Tuesday.
“I think we’d just as soon pretend this one didn’t happen,” Niskanen said. “Learn from it, but we weren’t very good today. Just kind of squash it and start looking forward to Tuesday.
The Penguins’ road power play has been rolling – and it struck again on Sunday at the Prudential Center against what had been the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill entering the game.
Pittsburgh finished the afternoon an impressive 2-for-4 with the man-advantage, meaning they’ve netted at least one power-play tally in nine of their last 13 road games.
During that span, they’ve gone 12-for-44 on the power play for a 27.3-percent success rate.
The Penguins’ second power-play unit struck first just 3:02 into the second period to cut New Jersey’s lead to 3-1.
On the play, Cal O'Reilly
wired a perfect pass to Niskanen in the slot – who wasting no time blasting a shot into the cage before Brodeur could slide over with seven seconds left on the man-advantage.
It was a much-needed response by the Penguins, as Kovalchuk scored a shorthanded goal on the same power play just 34 seconds earlier.
Pittsburgh’s first power-play unit would get on the board with just 8:17 remaining in the third to get within 4-2.
For the first minute or so, the Pens absolutely barraged Brodeur with a flurry of shots – but he came up with a flurry of saves.
But Malkin would change that when he got the puck at the point and faked a shot before doing a gorgeous curl and drag around Andy Greene before snapping one home.
O’Reilly’s assist on Niskanen’s goal marked his first point as a Penguin in his second game with the team since being acquired on re-entry waivers from Phoenix on Jan. 30.
It was a gorgeous feed that required the hockey sense and vision that the Penguins said was attractive to them in bringing O’Reilly to Pittsburgh, and the type of play fans can expect to keep seeing from the 25-year-old.
“I’ve always been more of a passer. I’m always looking for that open guy,” he said.
The Penguins’ aggressive systems tend to be hard for new players to adjust to right away, but O’Reilly said he’s feeling better every day.
“It’s still an adjustment learning some things,” he said. “But I think each game, I’m getting more comfortable with it.”
With just over two minutes left in regulation, Kennedy was taken down by a Devils defender as he went to the net hard and crashed into the boards.
He struggled to get up and skated gingerly to the bench – not putting weight on one leg – and went straight down the runway to the locker room.
When asked if he had an update on Kennedy’s status, head coach Dan Bylsma responded “I don’t. I know he was getting evaluated and we’ll see.”
Author: Michelle Crechiolo