YOUNGSTERS SPARK PENGUINS PAST DEVILS, 4-2
The kids keep having fun.
And, it's paying off for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The triumph vaulted the Penguins (5-3) into sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division with 10 points. The last time Pittsburgh had sole possession of first place in its division this late in the season was during 2002-03, through the games of Nov. 29, 2002 (11-5-3-3, 28 points).
"It's nice. We know it's early, but we still realize that every game counts," Crosby said. "We don't want to follow the standings too much, we have to worry about ourselves. But, first place is nice. We have to continue to take it a game at a time and focus on the next one."
Overall, Penguins coach Michel Therrien was pleased with how every Penguins player on the ice chipped in Tuesday.
"As a coach, you have to be proud of tonight's game because it was a real team effort. Every line brought something," he said. "Crosby's line gave us two goals and Staal's line gave us two goals as well. Guys on the third line like Dominic Moore, John LeClair and Michel Ouellet forechecked well and they played well. The guys on the fourth line gave us a lot of energy out there. The penalty kill did a great job. Marc-Andre was good. I was really satisfied about our team effort."
Scott Gomez put the Devils up, 1-0, 7:40 into the contest. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped Brad Lukowich's shot, but the puck went right to Gomez at the top of the crease. Gomez flipped it into the goal for the lead.
Nils Ekman knotted the score at 1-all with 6:23 on the clock. From the near face-off dot, he wristed the puck under Martin Brodeur's blocker to even the contest. Mark Eaton sent the long outlet pass to Ekman, just inside the blue line, to set up the play and earned the assist.
Crosby put the Penguins up, 2-1, just 1:26 into the second period. He one-timed Malkin's pass into the net. Streaking down the near side, Malkin and Ryan Whitney worked a give-and-go. Malkin carried the puck to the near corner and fired it back across the slot. Crosby, streaking down the far wing, went to his knee and one-timed the puck past Brodeur.
Staal made it a 3-1 game 3:27 later. Ekman carried the puck down the slot, but flipped it into the far corner. Mark Recchi swooped in to get the puck and backhanded it to Ekman on near post. Ekman alertly slid the puck back across the crease to a wide-open Staal, who was skating hard to the far side of the net. Staal flipped the puck into the wide-open net for the first even-strength goal of his career.
New Jersey cut the deficit to 3-2 8:02 into the third period. Sergei Brylin's pass attempt deflected off a Penguins defender and slipped past Fleury.
Malkin sealed the verdict with a highlight-reel goal. Crosby sent a long outlet pass to Malkin at the blue line. He skated in, beat a defender and flipped the puck from his forehand to his backhand and slid it into the goal.
Fleury was sharp in goal again as he stopped 20 of 22 shots.
ICE CHIPS: Karl Stewart, Kris Letang and Andre Roy were the Penguins' healthy scratches...The announced attendance was 13,190...Malkin, Crosby and Ekman were the first three stars, respectively.