The Penguins (5-3) made it two straight games in which they have dominated a tough division opponent, as they outclassed the New Jersey Devils (3-1-3) on their way to a 5-1 victory Saturday afternoon at CONSOL Energy Center.
After a goal that came about five minutes into the third period from Kris Letang, the Pens took complete control by continuously beating New Jersey to nearly every loose puck. They gave the Devils’ forwards no room to breath, not allowing a New Jersey shot over a 14:09-stretch during the final period.
Sidney Crosby and Robert Bortuzzo added two huge daggers less than three minutes apart in the middle of the third to give Pittsburgh an insurmountable four-goal lead.
Bortuzzo’s goal with just over 10 minutes remaining marked his first career-NHL tally and he received a thunderous applause after his slap shot from the blue line powered past Martin Brodeur.
Bortuzzo said his adjustment to Pittsburgh has been a relatively easy one, since the Pens play a similar system as its American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“That’s a huge factor. I’ve played a lot of games in Wilkes-Barre and the system is almost the exact same and that is a real luxury that I’ve had in my career,” Bortuzzo said.
FIRST AS A PEN
Another first occurred Saturday as Brandon Sutter had his official welcome to Pittsburgh moment a little over two minutes into the second period.
Sutter shoved his way into the crease along with the puck, pushing it into Brodeur where it pinballed its way into New Jersey’s net. The goal was originally awarded to Crosby, but was given to Sutter a few minutes later, and he received a rousing ovation.
“It felt great. I’ve said before I’ve had a few chances the last few games and I’ve been getting robbed a little bit so it’s nice to get the monkey off the back and get the first one,” Sutter said.
Despite feeling under the weather, Chris Kunitz also had a spectacular performance, racking up a goal and two assists.
His goal came midway through the second period when Anton Volchenkov’s pass intended for Bryce Salvador waffled off his stick and right onto Kunitz’s tape. Kunitz had a clear path to the New Jersey net and slammed a shot past Brodeur for his second goal of the season.
Kunitz said he was more than happy to capitalize on Volchenkov’s mistake.
“When you get one turned over right there and put it on net, it felt good for it to go in, but that doesn’t happen too often,” Kunitz said.
The Penguins did an excellent job defensively, allowing just 16 shots. Through the first two periods, they allowed a season-low 10 shots to get through to Fleury. The Pens’ previous low in shots allowed through two periods this season was 17. The four shots allowed in the second period were also a season low.
Pittsburgh’s defensemen frustrated the Devils’ forwards, getting in front of 14 New Jersey shots, led by Brooks Orpik’s three first-period blocks.
Fleury said he thought the Penguins might have had their best overall team effort and that led to the Pens first home victory in three tries.
“I think the Rangers game was pretty solid, and again today at home. Finally, we were able to get those two points,” Fleury said. “It seemed like a lot more than two games, it’s been forever. But it’s nice to finally have a good game and get those two points.
The Penguins’ dynamic-duo of superstar centers continue to produce at a rapid rate. Sidney Crosby added one goal, his fourth of the season, and two assists to his stat line while Malkin put up two assists against New Jersey.
Crosby said he thought his line with Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis played cohesive hockey.
“We were skating well. I think that was a big part of it and keeping it pretty simple, but the first shift out there we were buzzing pretty well,” Crosby said. “I think as a group we all made it easier on each other, not just our line, but as a five-man unit out there.”
Malkin has now recorded at least one point in six of eight games played this year while Crosby has produced at least one point in six of his last seven contests. They both have 10 points, tied for the team lead.
New addition Zach Boychuk said he thought he could bring some grit to the second-line if given the chance and he set out to prove it. While skating with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, Boychuk consistently attacked the net, freeing up Neal for clear one-time passes to Malkin who posted up for a few slap shots near the face off circle.
Boychuk also had shifts alongside Crosby and Kunitz as well as Joe Vitale and Craig Adams.
Author: Sam Kasan