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Penguins vs. Devils Recap: Pittsburgh finally beats New Jersey this season!

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Took four tries, but the Pens finally best the New Jersey Devils

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups

Tanner Pearson is back in the lineup at the expense of Teddy Blueger who is made a healthy scratch.

First period

Well because it’s the Devils, they just have to be difficult against the Penguins. And they strike just 2:15 in when Matt Cullen gets kicked out of the faceoff circle and New Jersey wins it clean, they pass the puck around and Jesper Bratt one times it by Matt Murray to make it 1-0.

Luckily the Pens get it back pretty quickly, Sidney Crosby makes a great play from behind the net (phrase that’s been written a time or two before) to find Zach Aston-Reese to hammer home by Keith Kinkaid.

Then a not-so-great moment when Phil Kessel is forced to play defense and he can’t handle the puck cleanly and Marcus Johansson pounces on him, turns it over, quickly goes backhand to lift the puck in. 2-1 NJD.

The Pens get a power play (nice job by Pearson to draw a call) and tie the game - after some sloppy play from the first group, the second line gets out there and Nick Bjugstad absolutely wires one in. 2-2.

Shots for the period end up 12-11 NJD through one.

Second period

The Pens come out strong with an excellent period here. Shots are only 9-8 Pittsburgh but it seemed like chances were about 14-2 and almost all the play was in the Jersey end. Finally half way through the period, Pittsburgh cracked the defense.

Jake Guentzel skated the puck coast to coast, starting a rush behind his net and dipping and dodging all the NJ players, centering a pass to Bryan Rust. Rust quickly released a shot that somehow hit off the top of Kinkaid’s pad and trickled into the net. After making seemingly a thousand nice saves against the Pens this season, nice to see his luck finally run out. 3-2.

2:30 before the end of the period, they get another key goal for some breathing room with Chad Ruhwedel hammering a point shot that turns into a knuckler and somehow finds a way to avoid Kinkaid and stay under the bar. 4-2.

Great going in that middle period by the Pens to take control of the game and get out in front.

Third period

Presented without comment

Pretty quiet period for a while, Kessel takes a penalty - it’s killed off rather easily though Nico Hischier does have one decent look at the net but rings a shot off the outside of the post.

With about 5 minutes later the Devils get one back after winning a faceoff, Miles Wood and Brian Dumoulin battle all the way down the ice, Wood barely puts a changeup on net that somehow sneaks under Murray’s stuck. Yuck. 4-3

Jersey has some momentum but that gets cut out when Dumoulin is tripped away from the play with 2:51 left. Gutsy call by the ref to only take the Devil in that situation, the Pens don’t score but they’re able to drain more time away and that about does it.

Pittsburgh skates away with a 4-3 road win.

Some thoughts

  • Pearson’s inclusion in the lineup was controversial, but after two healthy scratches it was probably about time to see what he had learned and could offer. And to his credit- he was good! Pearson back-checked hard with a timely stick-lift to break up a chance against and start a 2-on-1 rush for Pittsburgh. He drew a penalty that led to Bjugstad’s crucial PPG. Some nice moments for a bottom six guy.
  • In fact, the fourth line was all over the ice and standing out in a positive way. Liked the game from Cullen and Dominik Simon too.
  • Bjugstad created another goal from the left wall on the power play for the second game in a row. Kessel is struggling to make a lot of positives things happen on the top power play...Tough to take a guy with so much success (and one of the league’s leading PP scorers) off the ice, but Bjugstad is playing so well at the moment one would think it has to be some sort of consideration.
  • Aston-Reese’s return from the lineup couldn’t have been going better than it is right now. Also related, it’s great to see his family (from Staten Island) make just about all the games in the NY/NJ area and it darn sure seems like he scores in front of them every time, too.
  • As seen from the Ruhwedel goal, the Pens were using their points all night long. The left shot- right shot really seems to be working and helping for quick and accurate passes in the offense zone and changing the angle of the attack. The low-to-high aspect is always crucial to break down defenses - but especially for a Pittsburgh team with star centers that have the playmaking and vision to often use their defensemen.
  • So happy to not have to see NJ for at least 8 more months until next season. Pens finish 1-3 on the season against a bad team that just seems to compound them. Thank goodness it’s all over now.
  • 10 different points for the Pens by 10 different players. Don’t see that every day. Nice, balanced team effort in this game.

Nice to pocket the 2 points in the standings, no one got obviously hurt and time to move on. Quietly the Pens have now won 4 of their last 5 games. But it will be a tough test next time out as they return home and see the strong San Jose Sharks team on Thursday night.