The Pittsburgh Penguins entered the game against the New Jersey Devils needing 2 points to keep pace in the Metropolitan Division and looking to get their offense back on trace after managing only 2 goals against the worst scoring defense in the league the day before. They accomplished all they were hoping for and more as the Penguins routed the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in the first game of a 9 game stretch against Metro Division opponents. Evgeni Malkin scored two goals, Bryan Rust had 2 assists, and Matt Murray wasn't tested much in stopping 17 of 18 New Jersey shots on goal.
It was a slow start to the game until Jordan Tootoo and Tom Sestito lined up next to each other on a faceoff midway through the 1st period. Sestito nearly goaded Tootoo to take a penalty before the puck was dropped, but right off the faceoff Tootoo dropped the gloves and went after Sestito and started throwing punches. The problem was that he was the only one who had dropped the gloves, and while both players were sent off with fighting minors, Tootoo got an additional instigator penalty to put the Penguins on the power play. And Evgeni Malkin made the Devils pay for the lack of discipline. Malkin had been dumped into the New Jersey bench earlier in the man advantage, but as Malkin is capable of doing so well he channeled the anger and ripped a onetimer past Keith Kinkaid to give the Pens the 1-0 lead.
While yesterday it was the Flames quickly answering Pittsburgh goals, it was the Penguins who got another one just 38 seconds after the Malkin tally. Matt Cullen picked off a pass in the neutral zone, skated the puck into the New Jersey zone, and snapped a shot over Kinkaid's glove hand to stretch the lead to 2. It would be the lead the Pens took into the intermission, and it didn't take long for them to extend the lead further. Shortly into the 2nd period Nick Bonino snapped a long scoring drought to put the Penguins up 3-0. It had been 32 games since Bonino had last scored, but after Bryan Rust threw the puck on net Bonino was able to grab the rebound and put it past Kinkaid.
It gave the Pens a commanding 3-0 lead, and they nearly scored their 4th goal shortly after. Justin Schultz created a great opportunity when he took the puck into the New Jersey zone and centered a pass from the goal line through the Devils' crease, but none of his teammates were able to get a stick on it to put it into the empty net. Midway through the 2nd period Patric Hornqvist turned the puck over at the top of the New Jersey zone while the Pens were trying to make a change on defense. Palmieri picked the pass off and started on a 2-on-1 rush with Reid Boucher against Kris Letang. A couple passes got Palmieri in alone with Matt Murray, and he was able to shoot the puck past Murray's outstretched right leg to make it a 3-1 game.
A pair of high-sticking penalties midway through the 2nd period gave the Devils 1:22 of a 5-on-3 powerplay and a chance to pull within one. Evgeni Malkin clipped Joseph Blandisi up high, but the refs blew the second call when Devante Smith-Pelly's stick struck Adam Henrique. The refs sent off Olli Maatta on the botched call, but it was Murray who made a number of key saves to keep the Penguins up by 2. With just under 5 minutes left in the period, Jon Merrill tripped over his own blue line with Malkin bearing down on him on the forecheck. Malkin was able to take the loose puck in 1-on-1 against David Schlemko, and he slapped a shot that beat Kinkaid five hole for his 2nd of the game.
The Devils would enter the intermission down 4-1, and they'd need a flurry of goals to get back into the game, but with the worst scoring offense in the league that was too much to ask of them. New Jersey wasn't able to pose much of a threat, and the Pens made it 5-1 off a great pass by Schultz that rust was able to redirect on net and in. It was Schultz's first point as a Pittsburgh Penguin and provided a glimpse of the type of offensive talent that he possesses. The Penguins would add a final goal late in the game when Scott Wilson one-timed a Sidney Crosby feed into the open cage to make it 6-1.
It was a typical Devils game as both teams combined for few shot attempts at even strength. The Devils narrowly edged the Pens in shot attempts on the game (25-24) which corresponds to a score-adjusted 52.4 CF% for Pittsburgh. The win moves the Penguins past the Detroit Red Wings for the 1st wild card in the Eastern Conference, and they will travel next to New York for a big showdown with the 3rd place Islanders.