The Penguins entered their matchup with New Jersey on Tuesday at Prudential Center one point ahead in the standings with a game in hand, and both teams fighting for their playoff lives. The Devils came away with a 5-2 victory to leapfrog Pittsburgh in a four-point game.

Marcus Pettersson and Bryan Rust got on the board in what had been a one-goal game until the Devils broke it apart on a tough sequence in the third period, scoring twice in 14 seconds around a minute under the halfway point. Both netminders - Jake Allen, making his New Jersey debut after being acquired from Montreal at the deadline, and Tristan Jarry - saw 38 shots.

"I think they were just playing a fast game,” Jarry said. “I don’t think we kept up and they obviously got some chances out of it, and we weren’t able to defend it."

"We allowed them to kind of forecheck and win some pucks there," Pettersson said. "We were looking to take over a little bit in a third and we didn't manage that. The looks they got were too good. So, disappointing third."

The Devils were buzzing from the drop of the puck and put together an excellent first shift that featured a chance from Nico Hischier clanging off both posts before deflecting out. A fast and furious opening few minutes cumulated with New Jersey taking a 1-0 lead at the 5:35 mark.

From there, Pettersson said that the opening frame was a little too back-and-forth for their liking. Coming out of the intermission, they dictated the terms early, and got rewarded with an early goal from Pettersson 7:16 into play, with the 27-year-old defenseman establishing a new career high with his fourth tally of the season.

At that point, Pittsburgh was outshooting New Jersey 8-2, and they got the game’s first power play at the 8:34 mark. The Penguins didn’t convert, but didn’t lose momentum either… at least, not until Evgeni Malkin got called for hooking. Timo Meier tipped a shot in out of mid-air less than a minute in, and the Devils retook the lead.

"We feel like we should have gotten a few more goals in the second there and put ourselves in a better position," Pettersson said.

Pittsburgh went back to the penalty kill 51 seconds into the final frame, and the team got the job done – thanks in large part to a highlight-reel save from Jarry. But that 14-second sequence started with Dawson Mercer getting his second of the night before Meier got his second of the night, again on the power play, with Mike Sullivan not pleased with the way his team defended.

Here’s what the Penguins Head Coach had to say after the game.

What made it so difficult to recover from that sequence in the third?

Obviously, they got a couple of quick goals. We gotta defend harder. We didn’t defend hard enough. We had inside position; we didn’t control our netfront nearly as much as we should have when you look at some of the goals they scored. The penalty kill, their power-play goal was a point shot where they get a deflection. That’s just too easy. We gotta get into people and be stingier at the netfront. I don’t think we were nearly as hard enough at the netfront as we needed to be tonight.

How do you account for the start?

Well, the start was disappointing, you know? They come out with a lot of pace. We didn't match the urgency. I thought we grabbed ahold of it after the first whatever it was, 7, 8, 9 minutes. The first bit of the first period, they certainly had momentum.

In the second period, when it was tied at 1, you guys had taken control of the game and Geno took that penalty. Hardly blaming him for everything that happened, but how pivotal of a moment was that? Kind of an unnecessary penalty, too.

Well, it was. It started with our lack of puck management in the offensive zone. We make a hope play in the high ice instead of putting the puck back down below the goal line, and that feeds their transition game. Then we end up spending whatever it was, 25-30 seconds in our defensive zone defending, and then we get tired. When you get tired, that's when you make mistakes, and you tend to take penalties, and that was a result of that. So, it's a snowball effect. It's not just any one thing. It's a combination of events, or an accumulation of events, that result in those types of things. And we have control over that, and we didn't control that situation. I thought the second period, we were the better team. We had a number of really good looks, and the puck didn’t go in the net for us. Give their goalie credit, he made a couple of big saves for them. Having said that, I thought Jars made some big ones for us. So, that was a big part of the game, without a doubt.