Devils 2, Penguins 1
Brodeur allowed only a first-period goal after two disastrous starts to help lead the New Jersey Devils to a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.
One of the losses was to Pittsburgh, a 6-3 defeat at The Igloo last Saturday in which Brodeur allowed all six goals on just 16 shots.
Brodeur was pulled from that game and a 6-1 loss to the Islanders at home on Tuesday night. So when Pittsburgh’s Jani Rita scored on a fluke deflection to open Thursday’s scoring, a sense of deja vu overcame the defending Vezina Trophy winner.
“I rolled my eyes about as far back as they would go,” he said. “It was definitely a tough bounce. But it happens, and we overcame it and didn’t let it affect us.”
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 21 shots for the Penguins (16-38-12), including two breakaways by Patrik Elias, but couldn’t overcome his team’s anemic offense. Pittsburgh managed just four shots from the end of the first period to the midway point of the third period, and finished the game with 14.
Much of that was due to the Devils’ commitment to the grinding defensive style that has served them so well over the years but was absent in the last two defeats.
“We knew they were going to play desperate with the way they had been playing,” Penguins winger Colby Armstrong said. “It was a tight game and we broke down a little in the second. We played right into their hands.”
After Madden tied the game in the second period by swatting home a rebound of a shot by Elias, Gionta gave the Devils all the cushion they would need. The diminutive winger controlled a loose puck after a faceoff in the Devils’ zone and sped between Pittsburgh’s defensemen, then beat Fleury with a high slap shot for his team-leading 36th goal.
“He’s done that to all of us in practice,” Devils defenseman Colin White said. “We know he has wheels, and when he sees open ice he can take off.”
Rita had given Pittsburgh the lead midway through the first period, aided by a miscue by Madden, who misplayed a pass by Paul Martin in the Devils’ zone. Rita came in from a tight angle to Brodeur’s right and fired a shot that deflected in off a mass of bodies in front of the goal.
“That first goal he couldn’t do anything about,” Devils coach Lou Lamoriello said. “Marty was Marty; he played well, and he was there when he had to be.”
The Devils are sixth in the Eastern Conference playoff race but are only six points ahead of ninth-place Atlanta with 16 games to play. The two teams meet next Thursday in Atlanta.
“We’re fighting for points every night,” White said. “We gave four points up (in the losses to Pittsburgh and the Islanders) and that always hurts at this time of the year. We can’t get them back, we just have to keep moving forward.”
Pittsburgh entered the game on a two-game winning streak and has yet to win three consecutive games this season. … Devils C Jason Wiemer, acquired last Thursday from Calgary for a fourth-round draft pick, made his first appearance for New Jersey. … New Jersey has not scored more than three goals in regulation in 10 consecutive games. … The Penguins fell to 7-20-5 on the road this season. Entering the evening, only Columbus (23) and Florida (21) had more road losses, and seven NHL teams had not lost 20 games overall.