By Mark Krulish
What happened: Adam Henrique‘s third period power play goal lifted the Devils to an eventual, 3-1, victory over the Penguins. Brandon Sutter opened the scoring on the power play with the deflection of a shot by Simon Despres. Late in the second period, Stefan Matteau registered his first NHL goal to tie the game off of an offensive zone face off. Henrique and Bobby Butler scored power play goals in the third period to earn the two points.
Star of the Game: Stefan Matteau scored his first NHL goal and it was a great play all around. Matteau made a smart play by digging the puck out of the face off circle on an offensive zone draw to get it back to the point. Andy Greene found him all alone at the bottom of the right circle and Matteau buried his chance.
Goat of the Game: Evegni Malkin had an absolutely miserable game. Two of his three penalties were taken in the third period and they led directly to the goals that gave the Devils a victory. For good measure, Malkin was also robbed by Brodeur in the game’s final minutes, extinguishing any chance that the Penguins might have had to make a late charge.
Turning Point: Henrique’s game-winner was the big turning point. The Penguins melted down in the third period and took six penalties, but it was up to the Devils to make them pay. Henrique was in the right place at the right time to pop home a rebound off of the post. Pittsburgh never recovered and continued to take penalties after that.
Offense: B – The offense, like the team in general, got off to a pretty rocky start in the game. The forwards were slow, passes were not crisp and on the tape and there was a general rustiness to their play. As the game wore on, they got stronger and were dominating on the forecheck by the second half of the game. Butler picked up his first two points as a Devil, including his first goal.
Defense: B – A pretty unspectacular performance overall, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The defense did not stand out, but fans should not want them to. There were no horrifying lapses and very few weak clears or bone-headed turnovers to speak of. Andy Greene had an outstanding game on the back end, picking up two more assists, and has been the team’s best defenseman this year. Adam Larsson also picked up his first assist of the year.
Goaltending: A-minus – Just another solid overall game for Martin Brodeur, punctuated by a ridiculous save on Malkin in the last two minutes. He kept his team close until they could shake off whatever was fatiguing them and take control of the game. Brodeur stopped 24 of 25 shots overall.
Special Teams: A – The penalty kill gave up the first goal, but was its old usual self from there on out, keeping the highly-skilled Penguins off of the board of the rest of the game. The power play came up huge with two third period goals, albeit with the strange combination of Henrique, Butler and Steve Bernier up front. Bernier was instrumental in both of those goals, providing the necessary traffic in front of the net to keep Marc-Andre Fleury off balance.
Instant Analysis: It was another slow start for the Devils, although it’s hard to fault them too much considering they probably had to dig themselves out of their driveways this morning. The Penguins got the first goal, but New Jersey did not allow the game to snowball out of control, as it easily could have with all of the skill the Penguins possess. The final 40 minutes were very well-played, led by the usual combination of a hard forecheck, a few big saves and timely goal-scoring. The Devils were fortunate that the Penguins took so many penalties in the third period, but the Devils took their fair share as well and the Penguins did not make them pay for it. The Devils did, and that made all of the difference this afternoon.