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Devils power past Penguins into first place in East

The SportsXchange

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils are making the most of their power-play chances, especially in the third period.

On Thursday, the Devils scored two power-play goals in a 5-on-3 advantage in the final period to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Saturday, it was more of the same, as New Jersey got two late goals with an extra skater to get past the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 and catapult past the idle Boston Bruins into first place in the Eastern Conference standings.

"This win was huge for us,'" said Adam Henrique, whose power-play goal with 9:04 remaining broke a 1-1 tie. "Our special teams have been really big lately. Our power play got the big plays down the stretch and when you get two, it always pays off."

The win was the fourth straight for the Devils (7-1-3), who remained undefeated at home (5-0-1) and avenged their lone loss of the season -- to Pittsburgh last week.

"We didn't play our game against them last week," Henrique said. "We did things to adjust."

Bobby Butler, who had an assist on Henrique's goal, scored a couple of minutes later to secure the win. It was Butler's first goal in almost a full year and his first with the Devils; he last scored on Feb. 15, 2012, when he was playing with Ottawa.

"It feels great to be able to contribute," said Butler, who was signed right before the start of the season. "It was an exciting game. The fans were into it. It was like a playoff game."

The Penguins (8-4-0) saw their five-game winning streak end. The Devils had struggled with Pittsburgh in recent years, losing nine of 13 over the last three years.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Blysma bemoaned the fact that his team gave the Devils the power-play opportunities in the third period.

"We took a lot of penalties," Blysma said. "The majority of the time we were on the ice was eaten up by our penalty kill. We weren't able to get any kind of flow. We didn't get any five-on-five chances. We took too many penalties, and that took us out of the game."

The Penguins were whistled for 13 penalties, with six coming in the third period.

Stefan Matteau, an 18-year-old rookie, scored his first NHL goal in the second period for the Devils, tying the game at 1-1.

"It's an amazing feeling to get my first NHL goal and I got it in a win," said Matteau, who will more than likely remain with the Devils instead of returning to junior hockey. "I hope it's the first of many. I thought I had a really strong game. I had a few chances earlier, so I'm glad I got the one when it counted."

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 25 shots in goal for Pittsburgh. Martin Brodeur was equally stingy, collecting 24 saves for the Devils and notching the 662nd win of his career in his 1,200th game.

Before the game, Devils coach Peter DeBoer said a key to defeating the Penguins was to try to keep away from penalties.

"We have to find a way to slow them down," DeBoer said. "They have a lot of speed, so we have to concentrate on staying out of the penalty box. We can't afford to let them get an easy one and give them some momentum."

Well, it lasted for all of 48 seconds Saturday, as Devils forward David Clarkson drew a tripping penalty, putting the Penguins on the power play in the first minute.

It came back to haunt the Devils, as Brandon Sutter deflected a shot from Simon Despres past Brodeur, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead at the 1:23 mark of the first period. It was Sutter's third goal of the season. Sutter is the son of former Devils coach Brent Sutter.

With 3:29 left in the second period, Matteau took advantage of a great play by defenseman Andy Greene, who made it look like he was taking a slap shot from the right point and slid the puck perfectly to a wide-open Matteau, who slapped the puck past a stationary Fleury for the tying goal.

"It was a perfect seam pass from Andy (Greene)," said Matteau, who was skating most of the time with the Devils' top line. "It was right on my stick, so I had to get that one."

The Devils gained control midway through the third period, right after Tanner Glass went off for roughing. Butler started the play by firing a shot off the right post. The rebound went right to Henrique, who scored his fourth goal in just six games since returning from a thumb injury.

Butler then scored with 6:52 left after Pascal Dupuis went off for elbowing.

NOTES: Brodeur is the 93rd player to reach the 1,200-game plateau, but the first goalie. . . . The Devils were without right wing Dainius Zubrus (upper-body injury). Coach DeBoer said it was doubtful that Zubrus would make the trip to Pittsburgh for Sunday's half of the home-and-home consecutive games. ... Talented Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang did not make the trip to New Jersey, diagnosed with a lower-body injury. Before the game, DeBoer called Letang "a world-class defenseman." ... The Penguins, who defeated the Devils 5-1 last Sunday, owned an 8-4-1 record against New Jersey over the last 13 games and had outscored the Devils 15-5 in the last three games prior to Saturday.
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