Penguins offense bedevils Brodeur in 5-1 win
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby splits the Devils defense in the first period against New Jersey Feb. 2 at the Consol Energy Center.
Penguins defenseman Kris Kunitz is mobbed by teammates after scoring in the third period against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 2 at the Consol Energy Center.
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The situation felt familiar to the Penguins, and it should have.
When a team resides in the Atlantic Division, as they do, chances are good it will be in a lot of one-goal games involving New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur. And chances are even better that most of those are not going to turn out well.
Brodeur is one of the finest goaltenders in NHL history, worthy of moving directly from the Devils' depth chart to the Hockey Hall of Fame if not for the mandatory three-year waiting period.
And he's headed there, in large part, because he performs so well under pressure. Give Brodeur an opportunity to win a game, and he usually will.
So the Penguins, who took a 2-1 lead into the third period against the Devils Saturday at Consol Energy Center, simply refused to allow Brodeur to be the difference-maker.
They patiently stuck to the game that had enabled them to have things their way most of the first 40 minutes and were rewarded with three unanswered goals that yielded a 5-1 victory.
"We just kept playing the same way and waited for our chances," center Sidney Crosby said.
The victory was the Penguins' first in three tries on home ice and raised their record to 5-3.
More significant is that it was their best 60-minute performance this season.
Not flawless, to be sure -- a short-handed goal they allowed midway through the second period assured that -- but it was the most solid overall effort in their first eight games.
They ran up a 30-16 edge in shots on goal, a fair reflection of how they controlled play.
They were able to establish a forecheck which caused turnovers that were converted into scoring chances. And, on several occasions, goals.
"They made us make mistakes," Brodeur said. "Not a fun game to play when you have breakdowns like that."
Zach Boychuk, claimed on waivers from Carolina Thursday, had his first audition on the left side with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. There was nothing spectacular about his performance or personal stat line -- one shot, no points and three hits in 12 minutes, all at even-strength -- but Boychuk said he was satisfied with his local debut.
"I kind of brought exactly what I said I was going to bring," he said. "That was speed and some tenacity. I feel like I played my style of game.
"I wasn't thinking too much out there, and I didn't change my game just because I was playing with two of the best players in the world."
Malkin, who had two assists, was the only member of that unit to make it onto the scoresheet, but the Penguins got a lot of production from Crosby's line. He and Chris Kunitz each had a goal and two assists, while Pascal Dupuis had two assists.
Although Crosby was the dominant presence, winning 14 of 21 faceoffs to complement his offensive output, Kunitz's contribution might have been the most unexpected. Coach Dan Bylsma had said a few hours before game time that Kunitz was questionable because of illness, but Kunitz put his 15 1/2 minutes of ice time to good use.
He turned an Anton Volchenkov turnover into the winning goal at 9:56 of the second period, beating Brodeur from above the left hash mark, and picked up the primary assists on third-period goals by Kris Letang and Crosby.
Kunitz said later that he was in better shape than he had been a couple of days earlier, when he had been questionable for the Penguins' 3-0 victory against the New York Rangers.
"I felt a lot better out there today," he said. "I got some rest [Friday], and some fluids and a couple of days of antibiotics make you feel better."
New Jersey, which lost in regulation for the first time this season, likely began to feel a bit under the weather when Brandon Sutter put the Penguins up, 1-0, at 2:27 of the second period and likely got downright queasy when Kunitz exploited the Volchenkov giveaway at 9:56
Andy Greene revived the Devils with a short-handed goal at 12:23 -- "We don't want to make a habit of that," Crosby said -- but the Penguins regained their equilibrium and got goals from Letang (2:31), Crosby (7:11) and Robert Bortuzzo (9:51, his first in the NHL) in the third to put the game away.
"It looked like their speed gave us a lot of issues," Brodeur said. "They were patient defensively. They just kept pounding. You could tell they wanted that game."
First Published February 3, 2013 12:00 am