PITTSBURGH — The New Jersey Devils won three of four games against the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. Hulking new Jersey center Brian Boyle deflected a pair of shots past Matt Murray and one-timed another. The Penguins struggles against speedy New Jersey continued, and the Penguins lackluster efforts continued as Boyle’s hat trick and New Jersey beat the Penguins 5-1.
The backbreaker came in the final seconds of the second period. After 40 minutes of auditioning as zombie extras for the Walking Dead, the Penguins sprang to life with several scraps including captain Sidney Crosby and Jack Johnson tag teaming New Jersey forward Mirco Mueller.
However, New Jersey quickly scored on the resulting power play when Boyle (4, 5, 6) beat Penguins goalie Matt Murray with a one-timer from the right circle. New Jersey claimed an insurmountable 4-1 lead and questions for the Penguins mounted.
Uncharacteristic but not necessarily unearned boos rained down from the rafters as the horn brought a merciful close to the second period. In the third period, even a small “Here we go Steelers” Bronx cheer could be heard.
Just two minutes into the game, the Penguins fourth line, notably Daniel Sprong, left the point uncovered. New Jersey Defenseman Will Butcher (1) used the open ice to beat Penguins goalie Matt Murray, who was screened from cross-ice pass.
New Jersey defenseman Will Butcher (1) stepped into the shot before Penguins goalie Matt Murray could adjust.
The Penguins defense exacted their own revenge midway through the first period. Big defenseman Jamie Oleksiak blasted a point-shot past New Jersey goalie Keith Kincaid’s glove hand. It was a fleeting bright spot for Oleksiak who with defensive partner Olli Maatta often found themselves in the eye of the storm, Monday.
However, the Penguins equalizer was short lived. Three minutes later, New Jersey center Brian Boyle (4) deflected defenseman Ben Lovejoy’s soft wrister from the point. Former Penguins farmhand J.S. Dea, who was claimed on waivers at the start of the season, also earned an assist.
Boyle’s second verse was the same as the first. Boyle was able to establish good position in the slot and deflected Kyle Palmieri’s shot over Murray’s leg pad.
Penguins coaches mercifully allowed Murray to sit out the third period and tossed Casey DeSmith to the wolves. New Jersey forward Travis Zajac warmly greeted him after yet another miscue by defensemen Olli Maatta and Jamie Oleksiak. After the Penguins fumbled their breakout, Zajac (4) was alone near the crease for the easy tap-in.
The heat maps, the shot counters, the Corsi ratings, and the scoring chance stats showed the Penguins were competitive at 5v5 and even slightly outplayed New Jersey, at least through the first two periods. All of those stats were lies and damn lies. The Penguins are just 2-4-1 at home this season.