Penguins' 7-game win streak ends in 4-1 loss to Devils
Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby try to push the puck past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur in Saturday's loss.
Chris Kunitz is stopped by the Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
Evgeni Malkin leaps over Devils goalie Martin Brodeur during Saturday night's loss at Mellon Arena.
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Bill Guerin broke into the NHL with New Jersey, so he knows what a Jacques Lemaire-coached team is all about.
That watching the Devils is not often entertaining. And that beating them is not often easy.
"They don't try to impress anybody," Guerin said. "They just want to win games. I know how that organization is. I know how Jacques is. You don't get points for winning pretty. You just win."
The Devils did that at Mellon Arena last night, defeating the Penguins, 4-1.
The loss ended the Penguins' seven-game winning streak and dropped their record to 9-2.
The only consolation for them -- and it was not much -- was that they did not allow Devils goalie Martin Brodeur to record his 103rd career shutout, which would have tied Terry Sawchuk's NHL record.
Brodeur gave it a good run, however, holding the Penguins without a goal until Alex Goligoski flipped a Pascal Dupuis rebound past him from the bottom of the right circle at 9:36 of the third period.
• Game: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 7:38 p.m. Wednesday.
• TV: FSN Pittsburgh.
That sliced the Devils' lead to 3-1, but was the only puck the Penguins got past Brodeur. He finished with 32 saves and had a strong game, although the Penguins had few quality opportunities and even fewer second chances, thanks mostly to the stingy style preached by Lemaire.
"You have to expect the kind of game that we saw tonight [when facing the Devils]," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's going to be a tight-checking game, a frustrating game where they will keep you outside, protect the middle of the ice well."
The Penguins lost the special-teams battle, which they figured would be a critical variable. They failed to score on four power plays, while New Jersey got a goal on its only try with the extra man.
"When you get those power plays, you've got to capitalize," center Sidney Crosby said. "Really, that was the difference. They didn't have a ton of good quality chances, either, but the ones they got, they put in the net."
The Devils went in front to stay at 9:50 of the opening period, when Mark Fraser took a shot from inside the left circle. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped it, but the puck fluttered into the air and Fleury inadvertently knocked the puck into the net with his glove.
"I just tried to grab it and, on my way up, it hit the back of my glove," Fleury said.
Nicklas Bergfors scored what proved to be the winner on a power play at 14:31 of the second period, when he nudged in a loose puck that was laying in the crease, and Travis Zajac got the Devils' third goal 26 seconds into the final period by throwing in a rebound from the inner edge of the right circle.
"That goal put a number up there that we knew was going to be tough to come back from," Bylsma said.
The Penguins had rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period 24 hours earlier en route to what became a 3-2 shootout victory against Florida, so they were confident they were capable of coming back.
There is a difference, though, between coming back against the Panthers and doing it against New Jersey.
"We have the horses to do it, that's for sure," right winger Tyler Kennedy said. "But they played well. They played a solid game."
Any comeback hopes the Penguins were nurturing disappeared at 16:32 of the third, when Zach Parise flipped a backhander past Fleury to restore the Devils' three-goal edge.
Truth be told, though, there had not been any serious doubt about the outcome for several minutes before Parise got his goal.
"It's very tough to play from behind against any New Jersey team," Guerin said. "And these guys seem to be [protecting leads] real well."
The Devils did that last night and took home two points, but paid a steep price for them. Forward Jay Pandolfo got a dislocated right shoulder when he was checked by Mike Rupp, a former teammate, and defenseman Paul Martin might have gotten a broken arm from being slashed.
Those would be significant losses for the Devils, but not enough to offset the gains they feel they made when Lemaire returned to the organization after spending nine seasons in Minnesota.
He is the coach who led New Jersey to its first Stanley Cup in 1995 and who, for better or worse, made the Devils synonymous with defensive hockey.
"Talking to some of the guys, they're happy to have him back, happy to have the structure back," Guerin said. "They're happy to have the guy back who brought it all there and helped them to become what they are."