PITTSBURGH (AP)—In a matter of minutes, the New Jersey Devils went from leaving with no points to earning two.
“I’m sure a lot of people were counting us out with 2 minutes left,” defenseman Colin White said. “We had been in this situation before and always seem to come up a little bit short. The timing could not have been better to get two points.”
The Devils, who also got a goal from Jay Pandolfo, moved into sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference with fourth straight win and fifth in their last six games.
“It was a great win to finish a great week,” winger Jamie Langenbrunner said.
“We were 20 seconds away from being able to say what a great game we played,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said.
The Devils’ chances for a comeback were nearly lost when Crosby had a breakaway on Martin Brodeur with 2 1/2 minutes remaining in regulation during a 4-on-4 situation. However, Brodeur said he noticed while studying game film that Crosby liked to shoot high during penalty shots. Sure enough, the Penguins’ rookie star attempted to flip a shot to the goalie’s glove side, and Brodeur made the save.
“I read it pretty well,” said Brodeur, who had 24 saves for his 36th win of the season. “I just got a good piece of it with my glove.”
That play allowed New Jersey to make its late-game heroics. The tying goal came while the Devils had two extra skaters after pulling Brodeur during a power play following a hooking minor to Pittsburgh’s Josef Melichar with 1:26 left in the third.
After the Penguins twice missed open nets on long shots, Elias scored while in the slot when he got his stick on a puck that had been shot by Brian Rafalski at the right point. The puck hit goalie Marc-Andre Fleury but spun over his head into the net. It was Elias’ 10th goal of the season and only his third in the last 14 games.
“I saw (Rafalski) make a shot-pass and I had a lane in front of me so I wanted to get a stick on it,” Elias said. “It took a long time to get into the net.”
The Devils almost won it at the end of regulation when John Madden hit the post as time expired. However, Gionta got the game-winner when he scored his 42nd goal of the season after picking up a loose puck at his own blue line, skating down the left wing and firing a slap shot past Fleury.
”(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.”
The game’s first three goals were scored in a span of 2:18 from the closing 2 minutes of the first period through the initial moments of the second.
Crosby gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead when his wrist shot from the right circle went into the upper left corner of the net with 1:55 to play in the opening period.
“I think were a better team with the lead,” Crosby said. “We play with a lot more confidence when we do have that so its important to try to get that first goal or first couple and just try to carry the play from there on in.”
Crosby then assisted on the next goal, making a nifty backhand pass from behind the net to Colby Armstrong.
Armstrong’s shot appeared to go into the net, but the goal light did not go on. The referees, however, stopped play and pointed to the net, signaling a goal was scored.
The play was reviewed by the video officials, and Armstrong’s 13th goal was allowed to stand.
“Other than the first period, I thought we played a solid game,” Langenbrunner said. “We snapped out of making those mistakes we made in the first period and played better during the second and third.”
The Devils, who beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 less than 24 hours earlier, closed within 2-1 early in the second period on Pandolfo’s goal.
“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 its nice to make it happen.”
Gonchar, who assisted on Crosby’s goal, has at least a point in five consecutive games, tallying four goals and four assists in that time. … The Penguins moved to within two points of idle St. Louis for 29th place overall in the league. … Crosby is second among rookies in points (85) and goals and is first in assists (51).