The New Jersey Devils did not blow their chance to make amends for their worst game of the season. In fact, they did it twice.
David Clarkson scored two goals as the Devils beat the Penguins for the second straight day, 3-1, on Sunday night at the Consol Energy Center.
New Jersey also downed Pittsburgh by a 3-1 score on Saturday afternoon at the Prudential Center in Newark.
The Devils played their worst game of the season Feb. 2 when they were routed 5-1 by the Penguins at Consol. That admittedly gave them motivation to play better against their Atlantic Division rivals in the weekend back-to-backs.
"That team over there, when you look at that roster, it should really instill some fire in your belly when you play them and we didn't have that the last time we were here," New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer said. "I think our guys had a lot more fire to play them this time and we went out and beat a really good team two days in a row, which is really hard to do."
The back-to-back wins enabled New Jersey to supplant Pittsburgh atop the division standings. Winners of five straight, the Devils are 8-1-3 and have 19 points, three more than the Penguins (8-5-0).
Clarkson raised his goal total to nine through 12 games. During his 30-goal season of a year ago, he did not get No. 9 until the 26th game.
Clarkson had never scored more than 17 goals in his first six seasons and there plenty skeptics who felt 2011-12 was a fluke.
"I'm sure a certain number of people thought that I couldn't score 30 goals again but I don't really read what people write or listen to what people say," Clarkson said. "I just look it at like I'm very fortunate to be playing the game I love for a living. I'm not worried about proving people wrong. I'm just trying to help my team win."
New Jersey goaltender Johan Hedberg shut out the New York Islanders in his previous start one week earlier and nearly had a second in a row as he stopped 23 of 24 shots.
"Our forechecking was really good and our guys did a great job of helping keep the puck on the right side of the net," Hedberg said.
Ilya Kovalchuk also scored for the Devils. James Neal had the Penguins' lone goal.
"For us to beat the Penguins, we need to control the pace of the game, the tempo," New Jersey center Ryan Carter said. "They want to fly up and down the ice from one end to the other and we don't play that way. We were able to get them out of their rhythm two days in a row and kind of frustrate them."
Though the Penguins outshot the Devils, 24-23, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said that was not indicative on how the game was played.
We had some scoring chances, we had some opportunities but the thing they did really well was played in the offensive zone, extended shifts in the offensive zone," Bylsma said. "We spent a lot of time playing defense. You spend 30 seconds, 40 seconds in the D zone, you just have the energy to get off the ice -- and that's what they did really well."
Clarkson opened the scoring when he beat Pittsburgh goaltender Tomas Vokoun on a two-man rush with Adam Henrique at 13:05 of the first period.
New Jersey scored twice in a two-minute span in the second period to push its lead to 3-0. Kovalchuk scored his fourth goal of the season at 11:27 and Clarkson on a power play at 13:20.
The Penguins finally broke through against Hedberg when Neal scored on the power play 15 seconds in the third period. It was Neal's eighth goal.
The 39-year-old Hedberg won for the first time as a visiting goalie in Pittsburgh in six career starts. He broke into the NHL with the Penguins in 2000 and spent three seasons with them.
The Penguins had gone 88:52 without scoring against the Devils since Brandon Sutter had a goal 1:23 into Saturday's game as the 40-year-old Martin Brodeur shut them out over the final 58:37.
"Our goalies look like they're 20 again," Clarkson said with a smile. "They're making some phenomenal saves."
NOTES: Carter and Pittsburgh defenseman Robert Bortuzzo dropped the gloves immediately after the opening faceoff and were assessed five-minute majors for fighting. "We had some words yesterday and some business left to finish," Carter said. ... New Jersey rookie center Stefan Matteau was credited with five hits. ... Penguins center Sidney Crosby won 16 of 21 faceoffs. ... The Penguins recalled defenseman Joe Morrow from their Wilkes-Barre/Scranton farm club in the American Hockey League to provide depth on the blue line, but he was a healthy scratch along with centers Eric Tangradi and Joe Vitale. Morrow had two goals and eight assists in 39 games with the Baby Pens ... Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen participated in the morning skate Sunday, the first time he had practiced since suffering a lower body injury Jan. 27 in a game at Ottawa. The Penguins have no timetable for Niskanen's return, sticking to the original prognosis that he would miss 2-4 weeks. ... Devils center Dainius Zubrus missed his third straight game with an upper body injury while defensemen Henrik Tallinder and Peter Harrold were healthy scratches.