The goal was the 1,000th NHL point for Nieuwendyk, who netted his 500th tally earlier this season against Carolina. He became the 65th player to reach the plateau and second this season, joining former Dallas teammate Mike Modano.
“Those things are pretty special to me down the road,” Nieuwendyk said. “I’ll hang on to that puck, for sure. … It’s special to me like the other ones. It always feels better when it comes in a victory. To come back and get the tying goal is a good feeling. I still enjoy scoring goals and playing the game. Getting a Stanley Cup would be special, too.”
With the Devils trailing by a goal, Nieuwendyk fired a wrist shot from the high slot past rookie goaltender Sebastien Caron as Jamie Langenbrunner drew both Pittsburgh defensemen toward him at 9:04 of the third.
“Jamie and I usually work a little criss-cross there, but he took both defenders with him and gave me room for a shot,” Nieuwendyk said. “I was fortunate to get good wood on that.”
“He’s scored a couple of goals like that,” linemate Jeff Friesen said. “He’s a big-time player.”
After the game, Nieuwendyk was congratulated by former Calgary teammate and Penguins assistant coach Joe Mullen.
“He’s a good buddy of mine,” Nieuwendyk said. “He was one of my leaders when I first broke in.”
Mired in a 10-game goalless drought, Gomez tapped in the rebound of defenseman Brian Rafalski’s slap shot from above the right faceoff circle at 9:41, improving New Jersey’s record against divisional opponents to 7-1-3.
“It’s discouraging after getting the lead to give up two quick goals,” Penguins captain Mario Lemieux said. “I don’t think that you stop playing defense after scoring, but it’s still discouraging.”
Friesen extended his goal-scoring streak to four games and Turner Stevenson returned from a knee injury to net his sixth of the season for the Devils, who captured their second victory in a row after a three-game winless streak.
After a scoreless first period, the Penguins turned a New Jersey scoring chance into a 1-0 lead early in the second.
Caron stopped John Madden from alone in front and Pittsburgh quickly switched to offense, culminating in Lemieux’s one-timer from the left faceoff dot that beat Martin Brodeur on the short side at 4:18. It was Lemieux’s 131st career point against the Devils, tying them with the New York Rangers as the opponent “Super Mario” has scored upon most.
Rookie Tomas Surovy set up Lemieux’s goal and added an assist on Straka’s tally for his first career multi-point game. He has five points in six NHL contests.
“Surovy seems to be fitting in nicely,” Lemieux said. “For a kid playing in his first games in the NHL, he plays smart. He knows where to be on the ice.”
Stevenson, who missed four games, unleashed a slapper from the right circle that sneaked between Caron’s pads at 9:51. Just 99 seconds later, Friesen put a shot from the edge of the left circle past the goalie’s stick side, giving him points in six straight games and the Devils a 2-1 lead heading into the final period.
The Penguins turned the tables early in the third, scoring twice in a 96-second span to grab a 3-2 advantage.
Fata streaked by a defender on the left side, took a feed from Jan Hrdina and beat Brodeur at 2:54 for his second goal in as many games. Goalless since January 15, Straka unleashed a shot from the right circle that changed direction after hitting the shin of defenseman Scott Niedermayer and got by Brodeur.
“They got a couple goals, but then we came back,” Friesen said. “Joe scores and then we get the big one from Gomez for the lead.”