Penguins' six-game win streak snapped with 3-0 loss to Devils
March 24, 2016 11:09 PM
Sidney Crosby in the closing minutes against the Devils Thursday at the Consol Energy Center.
Penguins centerman Nick Bonino is stopped by Devils goalie Scott Wedgewood in the first period Thursday at Consol Energy Center.
Carl Hagelin battles for loose puck against the Devils.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Do not confuse Scott Wedgewood with Martin Brodeur.
He trails Brodeur by 689 career victories, so it figures to be awhile before anyone dares to make such a comparison.
But for a few hours Thursday night at Consol Energy Center, Wedgewood did a passable impersonation of Brodeur, the former New Jersey goaltender who has been kept out of the Hall of Fame only by its mandatory waiting period.
And who made a habit of tormenting the Penguins.
Wedgewood, making his second NHL start, turned aside all 39 pucks the Penguins threw at him to lead the Devils to a 3-0 victory, ending the Penguins’ six-game winning streak and loosening their grip on an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
The quantity of the Penguins’ shots exceeded their quality much of the time — they could have been more effective at getting bodies to the net to set screens and collect rebounds — but Wedgewood did everything necessary to earn his first career shutout.
“I think we would’ve liked to make things tougher on him,” said Penguins center Sidney Crosby, whose 12-game scoring streak ended.
“That being said, he definitely made some big saves and didn’t really allow us to get much momentum there.”
Despite the defeat, the Penguins (40-25-8) remain in third place in the Metropolitan Division, four points behind the second-place New York Rangers.
They have a game in hand on New York.
New Jersey had lost its previous five games at Consol Energy Center — the Devils’ most recent victory here had been Feb. 20, 2013 — but seized the upper hand just 26 seconds into the game, when Kyle Palmieri beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from inside the left circle.
Palmieri added a power-play goal at 13:08 of the first and Adam Henrique gave the Devils their final margin by scoring at 9:57 of the third, but Palmieri’s first goal was all that New Jersey needed.
For while the Devils have been all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, they remain one of the game’s most accomplished teams at defending a lead.
“They did a really good job of keeping us to the outside [in the attacking zone], I think,” Penguins forward Eric Fehr said. “We played a pretty perimeter game most of the night, and they played a textbook New Jersey Devils game.”
Stingy defense has long been one of that franchise’s defining traits, and first-year Devils coach John Hynes has long stressed the importance of playing responsibly after getting in front.
Players who were with Hynes at the Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate know that all too well.
“They’re a really good team with the lead,” Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “That’s how they’re coached. They’re very structured and they’re hard to play against.”
The Penguins generated some quality scoring opportunities, particularly during the second period.
One of their best came 25 seconds into the period, when Wedgewood denied Crosby during a 3-on-1 break.
“We had some quality chances,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We just couldn’t seem to get a goal.”
The Penguins’ loss came after a three-day break and was administered by a team clinging to the periphery of the playoff race.
Nonetheless, the Penguins insist that the extra time between games wasn’t an issue, and that they didn’t look past New Jersey, even though they are facing high-stakes road games against Detroit and the New York Rangers this weekend.
“We’re not overlooking anybody right now,” Fehr said. “We see where the standings are. We just didn't play the way we were capable of playing the whole game.”
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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