Despite another injury surprise minutes before faceoff when winger Brandon Tanev was scratched, the Pittsburgh Penguins (19-11-1) ended their two-game losing streak, squashed the New Jersey Devils (10-14-4) power play, and otherwise contained New Jersey in a 3-1 win at the Prudential Center on Saturday afternoon.
Sidney Crosby has two assists, and Bryan Rust had a goal and assist.
“I think we just want to do to defend harder. I think that’s what we did. Obviously, when you go down 1-0, you kind of tighten the bootstraps a little bit,” Bryan Rust said
The Penguins won the game in typical Penguins fashion. They fell behind, then made it interesting in the end as a controversial no-goal call aided the Penguins. After an eight-player scrum near the crease, officials blew the whistle as one thought goalie Casey DeSmith had control. DeSmith didn’t have it, and the puck trickled over the line, but after a review, officials determined the whistle ended the play.
Back to the game.
“We competed hard. I really liked our first period, even though we gave up the first goal. I feel like we come out with a strong period. We had great energy,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought we controlled territory. So I think I think the players understand the circumstances…”
Pittsburgh Penguins are accustomed to comebacks. In fact, 15 of their 18 wins this season included a Penguins deficit. Make that 16 of 19.
The Penguins fell behind in the first period, again, on Saturday, and they came back to take a lead again.
In the first period, the Penguins fought through a clogged offensive zone to win the shots battle 9-4, but New Jersey had the scoreboard lead. During a Penguins offensive attack, a blocked shot became a four-on-two New Jersey rush. Goalie Casey DeSmith made one great save, but Kyle Palmieri (5) buried the rebound.
The Penguins returned fire twice in the second period.
First, five minutes into the second period, Zach Aston-Reese and Sam Lafferty plowed forward into four New Jersey defenders. The pair backed off the defenders, and Aston-Reese (6) had the puck and a bit of space for a good wrist shot from 15 feet past goalie Scott Wedgewood. 1-1.
Then the Penguins scored a power-play goal, but it was a dandy individual effort from Bryan Rust. Just 96 seconds after the Penguins tied the game. Rust won a puck battle on the midwall. Rust spun off the defender and beat everyone to the net. Rust (11) quickly flipped over to the backhand and chipped it past Wedgewood. It was a goal scorer’s goal. 2-1.
The Penguins held New Jersey to 14 shots through two periods. Or did New Jersey hold New Jersey to 14 shots?
The Penguins game was about skating forward and attacking, but New Jersey’s game was about staying in front of the Penguins. New Jersey tried to rely on mistakes to counterattack but otherwise skated backward.
The Penguins didn’t make a lot of mistakes.
Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson led all players with six shots on goal. However, Sidney Crosby was clearly the Penguins’ best player. Crosby charged around the ice and controlled the puck for most of the game.
The Penguins top line finally lit the lamp with five minutes remaining. Sidney Crosby lept to keep the puck in the offensive zone and wristed it towards the net. Jake Guentzel (12) stealthily deflected for a 3-1 lead.
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Penguins Crosby line had 78% of the shot attempts while they were on the ice.
DeSmith stopped 23 of 24. The Penguins PK was also very effective. The team allowed just one shot on three New Jersey power plays.
“I thought specifically we did a pretty good job limiting their success on their entries. We made the entries difficult. We made possession difficult,” Sullivan said. “When we do that, we can limit their own time. And that’s such an important aspect of killing penalties.”