PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins scored three first-period goals Friday. Marc-Andre Fleury made sure that was all they needed.
Fleury made 37 saves in his NHL-leading 18th win, and the Penguins held on to defeat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 at Consol Energy Center.
With Pittsburgh protecting a one-goal lead in the third period, Fleury made several acrobatic saves to keep the Penguins in front.
Devils forward Steve Bernier sent a wrist shot on net that turned around Fleury 5:19 into the third. Bernier collected his rebound and backhanded a shot toward the net, but Fleury swung his stick and made enough contact with the puck to clear it from the crease.
"I thought we started the game so well and everything was going well," Fleury said. "But we knew they weren't just going to quit there. They came out hard in the second, a lot of guys going to the net and shooting pucks. Even though they scored two goals, we were still focused on the game."
New Jersey's Damien Brunner had an even better chance 2:35 after Bernier on a breakaway. The forward charged at Fleury and deked to his right, forcing the goalie off his skates and sprawling to his stomach. But Fleury whipped his glove upward to rob Brunner of a game-tying goal.
Fleury made 13 saves in the scoreless third period.
"We weren't ready to play," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "That's on me. We have to be ready to go at the start of the game. The first period killed us."
Down 3-0 in 14:40, the Devils scored two goals in 56 seconds early in the second period.
Shortly after Pittsburgh killed New Jersey's first power play, Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov shot the puck from a difficult angle and Patrik Elias deflected it past Fleury for his seventh goal of the season, making it 3-1 at 3:24.
The Devils scored again when Jaromir Jagr's shot snuck through Fleury's pads and crept toward the goal line. Dainius Zubrus dove and tapped it in to make it 3-2 with 15:40 to go.
New Jersey outshot Pittsburgh 19-5 in the second period after trailing 12-7 after the first.
The first period was one of the Penguins' best of the season. They cycled the puck effectively, limited the Devils' scoring chances, and capitalized on New Jersey mistakes.
Pascal Dupuis pounced on a miscue by Devils goalie Cory Schneider to score 41 seconds into the game. Penguins forward Chris Kunitz dumped the puck on net from the neutral zone; Schneider seemed to freeze it, but it sat uncovered between his pads. Kunitz followed and took a whack at it. He was steered to the side by New Jersey defenseman Mark Fayne, but Dupuis drove to the net and tapped the puck past the goal line before Schneider could recover.
"It was an inexcusable goal," Schneider said. "That can't happen at this level and it's not fair to my teammates to put them down like that 40 seconds into the game. I've always prided myself on not trying to give up goals like that. I don't think that's ever really happened before.
"It's a game [decided] by a goal, and there it is."
Pittsburgh's Brandon Sutter set up Chris Conner to extend lead to 2-0 at 7:55. Penguins forward Joe Vitale chipped the puck ahead to Sutter in the neutral zone, and Sutter fed Conner before Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas checked Sutter into the boards. Conner's wrist shot beat Schneider's blocker for his second goal of the season.
In the absence of suspended forward James Neal, Jayson Megna continued to impress playing next to Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen. Megna scored his fourth goal of the season, second in his past four games, after corralling a rebound off defenseman Simon Despres' slap shot. The shot bounced off Schneider's pad to Megna, who had his back to the net. He whipped a shot around his side to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead with 5:20 remaining in the first period.
"I think we are starting to develop more and more chemistry," Megna said. "I guess it comes over time. The more opportunities we get with each other, I think the more we find each other out there."
The three goals were the most the Penguins have scored in first period this season. Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said he was pleased with the start to the game but said the Penguins need to play more consistently to avoid surrendering early leads.
"I would say for the first 10 minutes, first 15 minutes of the first we had the best opportunities, best chances," Bylsma said. "Chris Conner getting the second goal off of the neutral-zone turnover and then we turn back quickly and get an opportunity with Jayson Megna that gives us a 3-0 lead.
"For about six or seven minutes there at the end of the first period, I thought our play dropped. Marc-Andre had to make a handful of excellent saves, not to mention the end of the game where there were flurries of pucks at the net."
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