Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury forces the Devils' Steve Bernier to shoot the puck wide off the net as he comes in on a breakaway during the second period.
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press
Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, left, makes a save on a shot by the Penguins' Chris Kunitz as he is checked by the Devils' Peter Harrold during the first period.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
NEWARK, N.J. -- It can't be the building because the Prudential Center isn't a terribly intimidating place.
And it probably isn't New Jersey's personnel, either, because the Penguins' collection of talent generally is more imposing, at least on paper.
None of that seems to matter when they venture into North Jersey.
No matter how many factors seem to be in their favor, the Penguins invariably manage to overcome them and, in the process, lose a game.
Their 4-1 loss against the Devils Saturday night -- a game in which New Jersey generated all of one shot on goal in the first 19-plus minutes of play -- was the Penguins' seventh in their past eight trips in Newark, and dropped their record to 2-9-2 in the past 13.
While there are a few wrinkles in the plot every time, the basic story line doesn't change.
Generally, it involves the Penguins generating chances, but not exploiting them, and then giving up a couple of untimely goals that could -- often should -- have been prevented.
Like New Jersey defenseman Adam Larsson's winner at 18:22 of the second period last night, which capped one of several odd-man breaks the Penguins gave up over that period. His goal from inside the left circle not only broke a 1-1 tie, but was his first in 97 games.
Larsson was, clearly, an unlikely hero.
The No. 1 star, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, was not.
He turned aside 27 of 28 shots and came up with several quality ones when the outcome was in doubt.
All of which helps to explain why he is 9-2 in his past 11 home starts against the Penguins.
Still, it has to be noted that Brodeur benefits from New Jersey's defense-oriented style. The Devils are stingy in their own end and usually find a way to get the goals they need to squeeze out of a couple of points whenever the Penguins stop by.
"They play well here," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said.
"They play a pretty tight game. Those games have been pretty close, for the most part.
"But, for whatever reason, they've found ways to win tight games."
Early on, though, it didn't look as if the Devils would win. Or that the game would be particularly tight, for that matter.
With less than a minute remaining in the opening period, the Penguins had a 10-1 advantage in shots on goal.
But, by the time intermission arrived, they faced a 1-0 deficit, because with 18.4 seconds to play, New Jersey defenseman Andy Greene threw the puck toward Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from the left point.
His shot deflected off Penguins right winger Craig Adams before eventually squirting between Fleury's legs.
"It seems like there's always a bounce of a goal that finds its way in, like they had on that first one," coach Dan Bylsma said.
The Penguins, though, got that one back on an excellent individual effort by Chris Kunitz at 4:18 of the second.
He chased down a loose puck near the left point in the Devils' end, then took it to the net and chipped a shot over Brodeur as he moved out to challenge Kunitz.
The goal, Kunitz' ninth of the season, was unassisted.
It was also the only one the Penguins would score.
They relinquished the early grip they had on this game not only because of the opportunities they began to give the Devils, but because of the ones the Penguins had failed to exploit.
"We had three or four good chances in the second period and didn't shoot the puck," Bylsma said. "They were good people with good opportunities to shoot the puck."
That wasn't an issue for the Devils and, after the Penguins were unable to convert on a couple of power plays in the middle of the third to pull even, Jaromir Jagr beat Fleury at 14:06 and added an empty-netter at 18:43 to give New Jersey its margin of victory.
And give the Penguins their latest defeat in Newark, although defenseman Brooks Orpik pointed out that their struggles in the Prudential Center might not be the most significant problem the Penguins are facing now.
"I'm not too worried about the building," he said. "I just don't think we've played too well lately, as a team, no matter where we're playing."
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