Brodeur, Devils inch closer .500 with win over Penguins

Dave Lozo, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEWARK, N.J. -- Defenseman Adam Larsson picked a pretty good time to break what was nearly a two-year drought without a goal.
The 21-year-old's first regular-season goal in 96 games proved to be the winner, as the New Jersey Devils dispatched the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 at Prudential Center on Saturday night.
Larsson snapped a 1-1 tie with 1:38 left in the second period by beating Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with high wrist shot to the blocker side. Larsson joined the rush and finished a nice cross-ice pass from center Adam Larsson for his goal since Nov. 26, 2011.
"For sure, it was pretty important for us," said Larsson, who scored during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs and was unaware of his regular-season dearth of goals. "I got a nice pass from (Travis Zajac) and was trying to get it to the net. I was lucky it went in."
Devils winger Jaromir Jagr added a pair of late goals in the third period -- one off a turnover by Penguins defenseman Kris Letang with 5:54 remaining and another into an empty net with 1:17 to go. Jagr leads the team with seven goals in 20 games and is on pace for about 29 goals this season at age 41.
The all-time mark for goals by a player age 41 or older is held by Detroit Red Wings legend Gordie Howe, who had 31 goals in 76 games during the 1969-40 as a 41-year-old.
Coupled with the performance of 41-year-old goaltender Martin Brodeur, who made 27 saves to improve to 6-1-0 in his past seven starts, it's been a pretty interesting season for the over-40 set in New Jersey.
"We've had fun from the first day we start playing together. We just had a tough start," said Jagr, who was referencing the Devils' 0-4-3 start to the season. "I feel like we have a good enough team to beat anybody. We just work too hard to score goals some games. Once we do that, we're going to be a tough team to beat."
The Devils are now a game under .500 (7-8-5) and 4-1-1 in their past six games. A big reason for the push is Brodeur, who allowed five goals in his past six starts, stopping 128 of 133 shots for a .962 save percentage.
Some of Brodeur's best stops came during the first period, when the Devils were being outshot 10-2 before defenseman Andy Greene gave the Devils a 1-0 lead with 18.4 seconds remaining.
"It's big for us. We're looking to try to get to .500 and go from there, go forward," Brodeur said. "We're not there yet. We've been kind of trading the last couple days with wins and losses and now we're a win away. Hopefully we'll get it and move on from there. We had a tough start, but now I think the last five, six games, it's been really good. We've been in every game and scoring a few more goals and getting some wins because of that."
The Penguins, meanwhile, lost for the fourth time in five games. Left winger Chris Kunitz scored his ninth goal of the season early in the second period to pull the Penguins into a 1-1 tie, but the team went 0-for-4 on the power play and could not get a second puck past Brodeur.
In their four most recent losses, the Penguins have a total of four goals.
"At the end of the day, you've got to score and if you're getting chances, I mean, I don't know what you really change," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "You try to go to the net just as much, work on those little things like stop at the net, get a screen, competing down at those areas. But ultimately it's a matter of putting it in when you get a chance."
"You have to look at other things other than just the puck going in the net to see if there is cause for concern and if you're getting opportunities," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Tonight, the situation for us, we had three or four good chances in the second period and we didn't shoot the puck. We passed on those opportunities and they were good people with good opportunities to shoot the puck and we didn't take them."
NOTES: Penguins C Zach Sill made his NHL debut. The 25-year-old from Truro, Nova Scotia, was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and played in 272 career AHL regular-season games before being called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday. ... Sill took the place of C Joe Vitale, who was a healthy scratch. Vitale has zero goals and four assists in 18 games this season. ... Devils D Anton Volchenkov missed his second straight game because of a lower-body injury. ... The Devils will embark on a three-game Western trip starting Wednesday in Anaheim, with stops in Los Angeles on Thursday and San Jose on Saturday.

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