EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—The New Jersey Devils had the perfect game plan against Pittsburgh: limit the scoring chances for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and let Martin Brodeur take care of the rest.
“We played pretty solid,” Brodeur said. “We didn’t create tons of offense but we stuck to our game plan. We made sure Malkin and Crosby weren’t a big part of that game.”
Crosby had only two shots, both in the third period.
Brodeur earned his fifth shutout this season and moved into sole possession of third place on the career list, one ahead of Glenn Hall.
“Brodeur is one of the best ever,” Crosby said. “We had only a few chances and couldn’t take advantage. In a tight game like that, you have to take advantage of every opportunity. Every time we play these guys, it’s tough.”
The Devils got a goal from Zajac early in the second period, and Pandolfo and Gionta added insurance goals late in the third.
The win was only the third in eight games for the Atlantic Division-leading Devils, who ended a three-game losing streak on home ice.
It was a frustrating night for Crosby and the Penguins. The NHL’s leading scorer had his 10-game point streak snapped as Pittsburgh lost its fourth straight.
“Offensively, we didn’t generate anything,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “Our second effort was not there. They don’t give you much. You have to fight for your scoring chances.”
Zajac staked the Devils to a 1-0 lead at 1:23 of the second on a nice puck-control rush by his line. Zajac, Jamie Langenbrunner and Zach Parise crisscrossed in the Penguins zone with Zajac winding up with the puck in the right circle for a shot that beat Marc-Andre Fleury.
The assist was Langenbrunner’s 100th with the Devils.
The Penguins, limited to only four shots in the first period, got their first power play at 8:01 of the second when Pandolfo was whistled for tripping. Although they didn’t score, the Penguins were energized by the man advantage and pressed the attack more aggressively the rest of the period.
Pittsburgh had its best chance with 6 minutes remaining when Crosby whipped the puck to Ryan Malone on a 2-on-1 break only to have Malone ring the puck off the crossbar.
In the third, Pittsburgh got close-in power-play chances by Crosby and Michel Ouellet in the opening minutes, but Brodeur preserved the shutout with sprawling saves.
With time running out, the Penguins started to press and the Devils took advantage.
Pandolfo gave the Devils some breathing room when he scored with 4:02 remaining, and Gionta whipped a backhander past Fleury with 2:02 left for his team-leading 15th goal.
“We had pretty good control the whole game,” Devils coach Claude Julien said. “The guys were making good decisions. We had a good grasp of that lead and the other team has to take chances to tie it up. We made the most of it.”
A major brawl nearly broke out in the closing seconds when Penguins rookie Jordan Stall kicked out Brodeur’s skates, sending the goalie tumbling to the ice. Players from both teams came together but were quickly separated.
Devils defenseman Colin White sat out with a groin injury, missing his first game of the season. To fill the gap, the Devils recalled defenseman Alex Brooks from Lowell (AHL). … The 89 goals allowed by the Devils are the fewest in the Eastern Conference. … The Penguins failed to capitalize on three power plays and are 2-for-35 over the last five games. … The goal was Gionta’s 100th. … Crosby had seven goals and 16 assists during his scoring streak.