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Bedeviled No More: Penguins Rally Past New Jersey, 6-3

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NEWARK, N.J. — Maybe this was a must-win game for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Or perhaps it was closer to a can’t-lose.

Doesn’t matter what it’s called, though, because their 6-3 come-from-behind victory over New Jersey at Prudential Center Tuesday night was exactly what they needed to keep them longshot playoff hopes alive.

The victory — made possible when they scored five unanswered goals during the third period — raised their record to 34-30-11 and extended their run of games with at least one point to six (4-0-2). It also snapped a 0-6-1 streak against the Devils.

Rickard Rakell capped the Penguins’ comeback from a 3-1 deficit at the second intermission by tipping in a Marcus Pettersson shot to put them in front, 4-3, at 16:16 of the third, and Evgeni Malkin added an insurance goal at 16:38.

Sidney Crosby piled on with an empty-net goal at 17:07 to put the Penguins in front by three.

Alex Nedeljkovic made his sixth consecutive start in goal for the Penguins. And with Tristan Jarry still unavailable to play because of illness, Joel Blomqvist was recalled from their farm team in Wilkes-Barre to serve as backup.

Defenseman John Ludvig also missed his second game in a row because of illness. His spot alongside Jack St. Ivany again was filled by Ryan Shea.

The Devils had the better of play early, as evidenced by their 5-1 edge in shots.

What might have been New Jersey’s best scoring chance during the early minutes of play didn’t even produce a shot on goal, however, as St. Ivany broke up an odd-man rush.

Nonetheless, the Penguins took a 1-0 lead, courtesy of a lucky bounce.

The sequence began when Erik Karlsson picked off a clearing attempt by Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler.

Karlsson threw the puck toward the New Jersey net from the top of the right circle, but his shot was blocked. It caromed toward the crease, where Michael Bunting was tied up with New Jersey’s Simon Nemec.

The puck glanced off Nemec’s left skate and past goalie Jake Allen for Karlsson’s ninth goal of the season and first in 19 games.

New Jersey got the only power play of the period at 19:21, when Reilly Smith was penalized for holding Devils defenseman John Marino.

It didn’t take long for the Devils to capitalize on that opportunity, as Timo Meier beat Nedeljkovic from above the right dot 16.6 seconds before the intermission. Meier’s shot deflected off Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson en route to the net.

At the start of the second period, Drew O’Connor replaced Smith at left wing on the No. 1 line with Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust and Smith dropped to the third line with Lars Eller and Valtteri Puustinen.

Smith had moved up to the top line for the Penguins’ 5-2 victory against the New York Rangers Monday, when O’Connor was slowed by illness.

New Jersey got its second chance with the extra man at 6:44 of the second. P.O Joseph was sent off for slashing at the end of an extended flurry by the Devils in the Penguins’ end.

The Penguins made it through those two minutes unscathed, although Nedeljkovic had to make an excellent stop on Erik Haula from close range.

The reprieve proved to be temporary, however, as Curtis Lazar scored from the front lip of the crease 58 seconds after Joseph’s minor expired.

Meier took an interference penalty in the offensive zone at 10:11, but the Penguins failed to capitalize. Seconds after Meier’s penalty ended, Smith tackled a New Jersey player in the neutral zone when the Devils had an odd-man break.

The penalty didn’t become official until 12:57 because the Devils maintained possession of the puck until then.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were able to kill Smith’s minor, and Nedeljkovic kept them within a goal by denying Devils forward Dawson Mercer, who was unchecked in front of the net, at 15:02.

Nedeljkovic, though, was powerless to prevent Jesper Bratt from making it 3-1 on a breakaway at 17:47.

The Penguins got one back during a power play at 6:48 of the third — their second opportunity with the extra man in that period — as Crosby knocked a puck past Allen from the right side of the crease.

Assists on the goal, Crosby’s 38th, went to Malkin and Bryan Rust, whose cross-ice feed struck Malkin before Crosby got possession of the puck.

The points for Crosby and Rust extended their scoring streaks to six games.

Malkin pulled the Penguins even at 7:55, as he tipped a St. Ivany shot past Allen for his 22nd. Bunting got the second assist.

Malkin took a nasty, dangerous boarding minor when he knocked Nemec into the boards from behind at 11:23, but the Penguins killed that penalty and put the game away a few minutes later.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a scheduled day off Wednesday. They will face Washington at Capital One Arena Thursday evening.

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W Thome
W Thome
10 days ago

What a finish! It feels like forever since we’ve had something to cheer about. High flying hockey is fun to watch, but so is grinding and hard fought puck battles. Let’s go pens!

Pete
Pete
10 days ago

Ned is the man! Wonder where Jarry will play next year?