Both Atlantic Division rivals try to put aside close losses Monday when they meet at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
The Devils (5-6-2) opened the season with a nine-game road trip before dropping their home opener to Ottawa on Oct. 27. But New Jersey capped that three-game homestand with wins over Tampa Bay and Toronto, limiting those teams to three goals.
The tight defense continued Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, but the Devils had to settle for one point in a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Rangers. Sergei Brylin scored the lone goal for New Jersey before Zach Parise, Brian Gionta and John Madden all were stymied by Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in the shootout.
“Overall, it was good,” Gionta said. “It’s still disappointing. Our game was on. We didn’t give them that many opportunities. It was a pretty even game for 65 minutes.”
The Devils successfully killed off three Rangers power plays, marking just the second time in their 13 games and first since the season opener they did not allow a man-advantage goal. Overall, New Jersey has killed off just 71.7 percent (15-for-53) of its penalties, including eight of 11 in its three home games.
Pittsburgh (6-6-1) was one of those teams that exploited New Jersey’s weak penalty killing, scoring three times in five opportunities before losing 5-4 to the Devils on Oct. 17. While the power-play unit has accounted for at least one goal in all 13 games for the Penguins, they are trying to salvage a split of their four-game road trip after consecutive defeats.
The Penguins were on the short end of a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday, squandering a two-goal, second-period lead and mustering just six shots in the third period. It was the second straight game Pittsburgh has lost after building a two-goal lead, also losing 3-2 at Colorado on Thursday.
“We had the lead the last couple of games and we let it slide,” Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. “We can’t keep coughing it up, especially when we were going back and forth.
“We played hard to get the lead, and tried to keep it, but just couldn’t.”
One of the reasons for Pittsburgh’s slow start has been the lack of balanced scoring. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora have 18 of the team’s 37 goals, and coach Michel Therrien benched right wing Colby Armstrong on Saturday after netting just one goal in his first 12 contests.
Center Jordan Staal, who had 29 goals in a stellar rookie season, has just one in 2007-08.
Pittsburgh, though, has been impressive killing penalties on the road, allowing just two goals in 28 chances.
Arron Asham scored the winning goal in the first meeting between the teams, and Parise had three assists for the Devils, who lost their final two home games to the Penguins last season. Crosby had two assists in the Oct. 17 loss, and has eight goals and 20 points in 17 lifetime games versus New Jersey.