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Recap: Penguins find a better way to beat the Devils.

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After making last game too interesting, the Penguins again get a big lead against the Devils, and this time close the game down more successfully

NHL: APR 22 Devils at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pregame

Kasperi Kapanen is back for the first time since March 24th, otherwise the Penguins lines are the same as last game, including giving Tristan Jarry the chance to get back into the game.

First period

How would the Pens respond after a third period collapse? Favorably! On the very first shift of the game Pavel Zacha basically skates a puck right to Sidney Crosby and, um, sure, that’s an interesting strategy. Crosby shoots and it hits a Devils defender and takes a weird path past Aaron Dell. 1-0 Pittsburgh just 41 seconds in.

New Jersey isn’t going to go away, of course. They hit a cross-bar and then a bit later tie the game. Matt Tennyson takes a while to get a shot away, from right next to the wall and it...somehow goes in? There’s some traffic in the area but you don’t see a shot from here go in that often, especially for Tennyson who gets his first NHL goal since 2015. 1-1 game.

The Pens get their lead back from an unlikely enough source too. Nice subtle play by Kapanen to overload the puck side and step over and intercept a Jersey passing attempt. Kapanen moves it back for Brian Dumoulin who passes over for Cody Ceci. Ceci does well to pull the pass out of his skates and fires. There’s some traffic and Dell never tracks the puck, which is perfectly placed to fly over his shoulder and into the net. 2-1 Pens.

Shots in the first period are 12-9 Penguins.

Second period

Quiet start to the period where the Pens kill off a couple of penalties and then strike twice within 25 seconds to open up the game.

The first goal of the second period is supplied by the first line. Crosby gets the puck up quickly for a 2-on-1 for his wingers. Jake Guentzel shows patience and makes a great pass over and Bryan Rust quickly lifts to the back of the net. 3-1 Pens.

Then, on the next shift, Kapanen turns on the jets after getting a bump pass from Teddy Blueger. Kapanen uses his speed and draws Dell out a bit and then shoots five hole on him. Not really great goaltending there and it’s 4-1 in a flash.

New Jersey has seen enough of Dell and puts Scott Wedgewood in, looking for a goalie change to give them a boost like it seemed to on Tuesday when Dell came into replace Wedgewood in that contest.

It doesn’t go as swimmingly. Crosby goes to the box to give NJ their fourth power play of the game, but it’s Pittsburgh who score. Teddy Blueger gets a puck in his own end and the Devils aren’t back so Blueger just keeps skating it. Turns into a 2-on-1 but he looks off the pass and rips a shot short-side past the cold Wedgewood. 5-1 Pens.

Shots in the second period are 11-7 NJ, but it’s the Pens who grab control of the game with all the goals.

Third period

The Pens have learned their lesson and are sitting with four and even five players in the neutral zone to keep the Devils in front of them this period and keep them to the outside and away from the net.

The clock keeps moving and the Pens do well to make it a quiet third period this time around and a much more solid effort to send the Devils away with a resounding defeat.

Some thoughts

  • Great night and a happy return for Kapanen. The goal was cool and his legs sure looked 100% as he burst down the right side as we’re getting accustomed to seeing. But I really liked his play on the Ceci goal in the first period. It was great hockey IQ to anticipate where the puck was going and move from the middle of the ice towards the wall to get there. Just a small play, but that’s consistently seeing the game and executing like that is what players like Kapanen do that Sam Lafferty and other replacement level players that have been in the lineup all season for the Pens typically aren’t capable of regularly doing...
  • The hands that Rust showed on his goal was so impressive. Especially since for about the first 3.5 years of his NHL career he didn’t score on plays like that very often. Now in the last 1.5 seasons, he can’t stop finishing. Great turn of events there.
  • Choppy game for Crosby. It was great he set the tone with a goal on the first shift, really put his mark on the game after how poorly his team finished last game. Had an assist too. But several times he ended up getting knocked over, Guentzel’s stick caught him in the cheek, he took a penalty. It was just kinda a weird and rough all-around game for Sid. Glad he presumably got through it OK.
  • Light night for Evan Rodrigues. He only played 4 shifts in each of the first and second periods. Kapanen basically took his spot on a line with Zach Aston-Reese-Blueger during the game, as the team no doubt is trying to get Kapanen geared up. Pittsburgh had some penalties to kill too, but for as good as Rodrigues has been, that’s a tough spot to have Rodrigues draw the short straw, for as good as he has been.
  • Rodrigues and the Pens probably won’t have this problem if/when the team gets more health and they don’t have a very sheltered and seldom-used fourth line (until blowout time, anyways). But for now, early on, Kapanen played well and got more time and Rodrigues was relegated to basically sit the bench with Mark Jankowski and Colton Sceviour.
  • The Devils aren’t exactly power play specialists, but the Pittsburgh PK going 4/4 (and even scoring a SH goal!) was a big reason that this game unfolded in the fashion it did. The Pens PK hasn’t really been great this season, but it was tonight.
  • After the third period meltdown featured a few lapses on the goalie’s part, this game was everything you’d want to see for a bounceback. Jarry stopped 30/31. He was good on the PK, he kept everything in front of him, he played the puck well, he made good decisions everywhere. Tuesday night, as expected, was more just a random bump in the road then any sort of lingering problem for the Pens’ no. 1 netminder.

Pittsburgh and New Jersey has one more meeting, coming up fairly quickly on Saturday afternoon to put a bow on this season series. The Pens are up to 5-1-1 on NJ this year and put two more points in their pocket as they move that much closer to the playoffs.