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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

RECAP: Pens Give New Jersey A Devil Of A Time

In years past, a game that saw MarcAndre Fleury giving up a goal 9 seconds into a hockey game would not end well.

In years past, the Devils opening up a two-goal lead on any Penguins team meant that the game was as good as done.

Last night, the Penguins provided the most definitive evdience in this early portion of the season that "years past" no longer applies, downing the Devils 8-3.

Just 9 ticks after the opening faceoff, the Penguins found themselves trailing. After losing the draw to the Devils zone, the Pens forechecking tandem of Nick Spaling and Steve Downie aggressively pursued the puck when Devils defenseman Damon Severson found Jaromir Jagr along the right boards in the neutral zone. Two quick passes and a Dainius Zubrus laser beam later, the Devils had the 1-0 lead at Consol.

Things were not looking good, as far as early season trends go as the Devils, to that point were 3-0-1 when opening up the scoring. Whether is is the solid defensive style of play the Devils employ or simply their reputation, trailing early against this division rival is not where the team wanted to find themselves.

No chance to stop Comeau
But midway through the first stanza, a misplayed puck would allow the Pens to even up the score as Cory Schneider left his net and didn't get quite the result he had hoped for. After the puck trickled past Schneider's stick, Pascal Dupuis, in pursuit of the play, pounced on the puck and through it to the front of the goal where Blake Comeau was able to get a whack at it and put it into the open cage at 7:17 of that first period.

The period would end knotted at one and the game had all the markings of a tight fought battle.

But the Devils would jump out in front early in the second.

Less than a minute into the second period, Marcel Goc drew a holding call out of New Jersey's Travis "No, I'm Not Related to Pat" Zajak, giving the Pens and their League-leading - by a MILE - power play their first opportunity of the night. The opportunity would not end without controversy, though as Sidney Crosby nearly scored his 6th of the season, squeezing the puck under Schneider's left pad.

Nothing to see.
The goal was initially waved off, however, and play continued to the other end, when Jacob Josefson poked the puck to center ice, used his speed through the neutral zone and scored a short-handed breakaway against Fleury, lifting a backhand shot over his left pad beyond the reach of his glove. The goal was Josefson's first on the season, officially scored at 2:12 of the second period.

Upon review, Toronto decided that the shorthanded goal would count because Crosby's now-no-goal couldn't be definitively and without a doubt contrary to the original call of "no goal." This despite video evidence available to everybody else to the contrary.

Three minutes later, Tuomo Ruutu gave the Devils the two goal advantage. To cap off the 3-on-2 sequence for the Devils, Marc-Andre Fleury left a fat rebound off of a Stephen Gionta shot, allowing easy pickings for Ruutu's second of the season.

It was at this point that the usual New Jersey lockdown seemed inevitable. And for three and a half minutes, Pens fans fretted over this possibility.

Then the two-headed monster awoke, with Evgeni Malkin, on the power play, taking a pass from Patric Hornqvist, who was down low. Malkin ripped a shot over Schneider's left shoulder, off the crossbar and in for his fourth of of the season. Kris Letang got the secondary assist on the play.

To pull within one is nice. But the team would still need at least one more to secure a point in this division matchup.

That next one would come off of Hornqvist's stick. Defenseman Simon Despres, whose hot-then-not-then-hot-again style of play is as unbearable as it is unbelievable, took the puck along the right boards and spotted Hornqvist in the neutral zone. After taking the pass, Hornqvist took a few strides and fired a rope over the shoulder of Schneider and inside the near post for his 5th goal of the season.

With the lead negated, the Penguins would not let up.

After taking a completely unnecessary and lazy boarding penalty, Craig Adams did what he does (just not very often) and beat the New Jersey goaltender on a breakaway. The breakaway happened when Adams was not picked up coming out of the box and Brandon Sutter found him with a pass that split the two defenseman, Severson and Jon Merrill. With the puck on its end, Adams found the back of the cage for what would prove to be the game winner.

Just a minute later, Despres would carry the puck into the zone and send a shot towards the net. Hornqvist would get a stick on it but it would miss. As a sign that things were going Pittsburgh's way, however, it would end up in Crosby's wheelhouse and he would get his goal, effectively ending Cory Schneider's night.

Scott Clemmensen would fare no better as the third period would see the Penguins continue to open up a can on the Devils.

Pascal Dupuis would score his 4th of the season on the power play, as a result of a Bryce Salvador hold.

Steve Downie got his first of the season - and his first as a Penguin - midway through the third, also on a power play, courtesy this time of a rare "Abuse of an Official" bench penalty.

And Sidney Crosby would add a second goal late in regulation with a big slap shot after stepping into a passing lane at center ice and taking the puck the other way.

Although it didn't look it at the beginning of the night, this game was all Penguins as the team posted a season-high eight goals, seven of which were unanswered.

The Pens next game takes place Thursday, Oct 30 at Consol Energy Center as the Pens host Anze Kopitar and the Los Angeles Kings for a 7:00 PM tilt.


Kris Letang led all skaters with 26:31 of TOI. In that time, he registered 1 A, 1 shot, 6 htis and 2 blocked shots.
Craig Adams' second period tally was his first regular season goal since scoring in Winnipeg on 4/3/2013. Dating back to last season, the Pens are 4-1-1 when Adams scores a goal.

The Penguins Power Play keeps on going. The team was    and has now converted 13 of 32 power play opportunities. Their 40.63% conversion rate is easily tops in the NHL with 2nd-place Arizona sitting at 26.67%. The Penalty Kill has vastly improved, killing all three Devils power plays last night. The effort brings them to an 81.82% success rate, 13th in the league.

Jaromir Jagr was a held to a single assist on the night in 15: 04 of ice time. The ageless wonder has played in 1482 games over his career, scoring 707 goals, 1055 assists. In 48 games against the Penguins, he has scored 23 goals, 22 assists and recorded 179 shots.

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