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3 Stars and Recap: Penguins Beat Devils 4-2; Claim 1st Place (for now)

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Pittsburgh Penguins game, Teddy Blueger

The Pittsburgh Penguins continued to beat the New Jersey Devils. The Penguins marked a pair of first-period goals and again had just enough to beat New Jersey, who mounted another third period charge. The Penguins woke up in time and held on to a 4-2 win on Saturday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena.

The Penguins won the season series against New Jersey, 6-1-1.

It started very well for the Penguins, again. The team outscored New Jersey 14-2 in the first two periods over the three-game set.

Jeff Carter scored his second goal in three games and second with the Penguins. Midway through the first period, the Penguins had a rare chance on the rush. Jason Zucker cut into the slot with Carter (10), who snapped a shot from the right-wing circle past MacKenzie Blackwood. 1-0.

A few minutes later, the Penguins’ power play needed just 24 seconds to convert its first chance. Kasperi Kapanen drew a tripping penalty. Then Jared McCann (13) dove to poke a loose puck past Blackwood. 2-0.

While shots were nearly even in the first period, 15-14 Penguins, the Penguins offensive zone possession time was significantly higher, even earning ovations from the “sellout” crowd. Even the Penguins fourth line was involved.

The Penguins, of course, had some injury misfortune in the second period. Of course. Kapanen cut to the slot and collided with his center, Teddy Blueger. Kapanen’s face hit the ice awkwardly, and he left to the locker room with a towel over his face.

Kapanen returned in the third period.

Early in the third period, the hockey gods gave Bryan Rust a little bit of good fortune after the officials gave him two separate minor penalties. Cody Ceci’s point shot hit Jake Guentzel in the slot, then caromed off Rust (20). 3-0.

It’s Rust’s second consecutive 20-goal season, and to accomplish the feat in just 48 games probably speaks well.

However, 2019 first-overall pick Jack Hughes picked up trash near the Penguins net as three Penguins whiffed on a loose puck. Hughes (11) poked it into a yawning cage to get the Penguins honest. 3-1.

Later in the third period, New Jersey made the game very interesting. Miles Wood (15) finished the sequence which featured, great puck movement by New Jersey with a hard one-timer from the RW circle. 3-2.

In the third period, Zucker flattened New Jersey’s Marian Studenic then immediately fought Nick Merkley.

New Jersey pushed hard in the final minutes with the goalie pulled, but Crosby (20) scored an empty netter with 0.1 seconds remaining. With the goal, Crosby earned his 13th 20-goal season, which surpassed both Mario Lemieux and Evgeni Malkin for the most in Pittsburgh Penguins franchise history.

Sidney Crosby also joined elite company with his 16th point-per-game season. Only Wayne Gretzky (19) and Gordie Howe (17) have more.

PHN’s Pittsburgh Penguins 3 Stars:
  1. Casey DeSmith

The Penguins goalie was solid. When tested, he answered. New Jersey hung around, especially in the third period, and DeSmith made the necessary saves. DeSmith stopped 34 of 36 shots.

  1. Jared McCann

One of the two best Penguins players on Saturday. McCann was flying, and the puck seemed to follow him. His power-play goal forced New Jersey to open the game. His work on the walls and speed through the neutral zone kept the Penguins’ second line on the offensive.

  1. Jason Zucker

Zucker had his best game in some time. He led the Penguins with six shots on goal and was a vacuum cleaner on the walls. Zucker pushed the play and pushed New Jersey’s defense. He also flashed the physical side, too.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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