The Pittsburgh Penguins may have been playing for their season for nearly two minutes in the middle of the third period. After captain Sidney Crosby earned a high sticking penalty, Penguins defenseman Kris Letang took a selfish slashing penalty on New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood, who goaded him into it. The Penguins were clinging to a one-goal lead and faced a two-man disadvantage for nearly two full minutes.
Teddy Blueger won a couple of faceoffs. Matt Murray made a few difficult saves, and the Penguins killed the penalties. Then Evgeni Malkin scored two third period goals as the Penguins beat New Jersey 5-2 at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night.
Malkin had three points (2g, 1a). And the Penguins earned their 40th win of the season.
Two minutes after the significant penalty kill, Malkin (24) charged into the New Jersey zone and used his long reach to shovel an off-wing wrist shot to the far post and past New Jersey goalie MacKenzie Blackwood.
“The (penalty kill) was awesome. Teddy (Blueger) had a huge block. “Rusty” had a huge block. “Petey” (Marcus Pettersson) had a couple of huge blocks,” Murray said. “All of us were blocking shots out there and doing what it took to get the job done. That’s what you need to win, and that’s what we did.”
Later in the third period, Malkin’s line swarmed New Jersey in the offensive zone. Malkin (25) swept into the slot to steal a pass and quickly snapped it past Blackwood.
It was a much better effort than the Penguins listless losses last weekend to Washington and Carolina.
The Pittsburgh Penguins backchecking and puck pressure paid dividends midway through the first period. It took the Penguins more than eight minutes to get a shot on goal, but their first shot lit the lamp.
Jared McCann stole a loose puck at center ice and made a simple pass to new Penguins forward Evan Rodrigues (6), who skated to the midwall and timed his shot to hide behind traffic. New Jersey goalie Mackenzie Blackwood didn’t see the long wrist shot.
“(Hornqvist) did a great job of going to the net and taking two, three guys with him. They left me alone,” Rodrigues said. “I saw a lot of traffic. I just tried to put it there. I don’t think the goalie every saw it.”
However, the Penguins again could not expand their lead, but instead yielded the next goal a few minutes later. After Jack Johnson earned a delay of game penalty, the Penguins penalty kill broke down. And Penguins goalie Matt Murray’s glove-hand troubles reemerged as he whiffed on a wrist shot by Nikita Gusev (13) from the right-wing dot.
The teams created a whirlwind second period with end-to-end action. While New Jersey hit a few goal posts behind Murray, the Penguins buried one of their chances.
After defenseman Justin Schultz disrupted the New Jersey rush at the defensive blue line, then joined the Penguins rush. Schultz paused, then raced into the slot to receive a pass from Evgeni Malkin. Schultz (3) ripped a bardown shot over Blackwood’s glove.
The teams combined for just 13 shots in the first period, but the Pittsburgh Penguins fired 13 shots on New Jersey in the second period and eventually controlled more territory, even as the teams played at full speed.
Murray got some help from the posts behind him. He stopped 21 of 23. Blackwood took the loss as he stopped 28 of 32 shots before New Jersey coach Alain Nasredine pulled him for the extra attacker.
Letang (15) scored the empty net clincher.