Playing their most consistent hockey in over two months, the New Jersey Devils try to extend their winning streak to five games when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins in the back end of a home-and-home series.
New Jersey, needing one win to reach 40 victories for the ninth straight season, has allowed just six goals during the streak, which includes wins over Ottawa, Buffalo and Philadelphia. Prior to this stretch, the Devils hadn’t won three in a row since a nine-game run from Jan. 3-21.
One of several teams battling for the final four playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, New Jersey is nine points ahead of ninth-place Atlanta with seven games left.
The Devils, though, have a tough remaining schedule. They’ll face both Montreal and Philadelphia twice, and also have matchups left with the New York Rangers and Carolina. New Jersey is 9-8-1 against those teams this season.
The Devils nearly lost at Pittsburgh on Sunday, but got a game-tying goal from Patrik Elias with 20 seconds left after pulling goalie Martin Brodeur. Brian Gionta then scored at 2:22 of overtime to give New Jersey a 3-2 victory.
Gionta, four goals shy of tying Pat Verbeek’s franchise record of 46 set in 1986-87, beat goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with a slap shot for his seventh goal against the Penguins in seven games this season.
The 27-year-old winger has six goals and five assists during an eight-game point streak.
”(Sergei Brylin) made a nice play to get me the puck,” Gionta said. “When you come in at that angle, you know where to shoot it.”
Brodeur made 24 saves to improve to 24-16-0 with four ties and a 2.68 goals-against average in his career against Pittsburgh.
“The last two days, to get four points is a great feeling,” Brodeur said. “All year we haven’t been able to come back much with a pulled goalie so it’s nice to make it happen.”
Penguins rookie Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist in the loss to up his team-leading point total to 85. Crosby, whose 51 assists lead all first-year players, has five goals and five assists in seven games against the Devils this season.