In the New Jersey Devils’ first day game, it looked like they’d rather have been sleeping.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had lost their first two games at CONSOL Energy Center by a combined score of 9-3, yet they changed that in a big way, scoring three third-period goals, beating New Jersey 5-1 in Pittsburgh.
New Jersey fell in regulation for the first time this year. Andy Greene scored New Jersey’s only goal– the second by a defenseman this year. New Jersey also relinquished first place for the first time, as the Pens hopped the Devils with their second straight win.
Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz each had three points for Pittsburgh– both notching a goal and two assists. The Penguins won for the first time at home this season.
If there was a bright spot for the Devils, it was the penalty kill.
Just two days removed from surrendering three power-play goals to the Islanders, the Devils killed all three Pittsburgh power plays Saturday.
“In this league, special teams win and lose you games,” Greene told Deb Placey during the second intermission. “Against the Islanders, we weren’t very good. We want to make sure we tighten that up.”
Greene scored his first of 2013, from Dainius Zubrus, on a stellar play. Zubrus found Greene cutting to the net, and the defenseman beat Marc-Andre Fleury between the pads.
“(Zubrus) made a great pass there,” Greene told Placey. “I just kind of saw him open five-hole and tried to slide it in there.”
The Devils also put forth their best sustained effort in the minutes after Greene’s goal.
It’s hard to believe, but the final score could have been even more lopsided.
Despite surrendering five goals, Martin Brodeur was good, stopping 22 shots.
Penguins forward Matt Cooke blocked a sure Pittsburgh goal midway through the first, and Brodeur was on top of his game in the first. The Penguins threw eight first-period shots on net, but Brodeur did not relinquish one.
Though the shot count was close through one period– 8-6– Pittsburgh dominated every other facet, leading in hits and faceoffs.
No matter how much they’re hated by the rest of the NHL, if you’re a hockey fan, you have to enjoy watching Crosby and Evgeni Malkin play on the same line.
Malkin had two assists, using his big body to win a wall on Kris Letang‘s third-period marker. Malkin also had an incredible cross-ice touch pass that led to Brandon Sutter‘s second-period tally.
Crosby was unquestionably Pittsburgh’s best player. He drew a penalty– one that Patrik Elias took umbrage to– and led the Pens with five shots on goal. He also had the primary assist on both Sutter and Robert Bortuzzo’s goals.
Every time he’s on the ice, Crosby makes you ooh and ahh. Now that he’s healthy, it’s really special to watch him.
We’ve been hard on Marek Zidlicky, but on Saturday, he wasn’t alone.
Both Zidlicky and Henrik Tallinder were a minus-2, as was Bryce Salvador.
Salvador, unfortunately, got a minus rating, though, thanks to Anton Volchenkov’s egregious turnover, which led to Kunitz’s goal.
Adam Larsson was not particularly good either, as his defensive misplay led to Sutter’s goal.
The Devils’ defense has been dreadful, allowing 10 goals in two games. I don’t know how many more combos Pete DeBoer can go with, but he’s got to figure something out soon.
The loss dropped the Devils all the way to seventh place in the East.
New Jersey also was the only team to lose on Saturday.
The Atlantic Division standings looked like this after Saturday’s action:
W L OTL PTS
5 3 0 10 PITTSBURGH
4 2 1 9 N.Y. ISLANDERS
3 1 3 9 NEW JERSEY
4 4 0 8 N.Y. RANGERS
3 6 0 6 PHILADELPHIA
Up Next: No rest for the weary, as the Devils play their third game in four days on Long Island against the Islanders at 3 p.m.
Pat Pickens is a lifelong Devils-fan and New Jersey native. To pay the bills, he works as a sports reporter for Hearst in Connecticut. Send him an email at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter here.