Penguins win 11th in row, scare the devil out of New Jersey
Chris Kunitz, left, and Sidney Crosby celebrate a goal by Evgeni Malkin, right, in the second period Saturday in Newark, N.J. Crosby recorded an assist on the play.
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NEWARK, N.J. -- The Penguins understand, of course, that this can't go on forever.
That they are going to lose another game sometime. Maybe as early as this afternoon, when they visit Philadelphia. Or perhaps Tuesday, when Winnipeg visits Consol Energy Center.
Or possibly at some point early in, say, 2018.
The point is, there's absolutely no reason to think their winning streak -- which reached 11 with a 5-2 victory Saturday against New Jersey at the Prudential Center -- can continue indefinitely.
- Matchup: Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers, 12:38 p.m. today, Wells Fargo Center.
- TV, Radio: WPXI-TV, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Ilya Bryzgalov for Flyers.
- Penguins: Have gone 1-1 at Wells Fargo Center, including 6-4 victory Feb. 18. ... C Sidney Crosby does not have goal in nine games, matching the longest drought of his career. ... Have overcome a multiple-goal deficit in nine of their 44 victories.
- Flyers: Are 5-10-2 in games starting before 7 p.m. ... RW Jaromir Jagr has been credited with just seven hits in 62 games. ... Have more victories on road (23) than at home (18).
- Hidden stat: Penguins have allowed first goal in 13 of their past 15 visits to Philadelphia.
Not unless you watch them perform, anyway.
"If we play like we did today," defenseman Brooks Orpik said, smiling, "I don't know."
The simple -- and, for the rest of the NHL, scary -- reality is that, if the Penguins (44-21-5) have a significant flaw, they're doing an awfully good job of concealing it now that their lineup of choice is intact for one of the few times in the past two seasons,
They are dominating opponents while playing five-on-five.
Their power play is menacing, their penalty-kill stifling.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is giving away goals like the pucks are made of Krugerrands.
And the secondary scoring that every team craves is coming in bunches.
It's fitting that on the day the Penguins' winning streak became the longest in the league this season, Matt Cooke scored twice to push his total to a personal-best 16, while Pascal Dupuis got one to match his career-high with 20.
Oh, the guys who drive the offense made it onto the scoresheet, too -- Evgeni Malkin and James Neal each had a goal, and Sidney Crosby picked up three assists -- but the Penguins have been getting contributions from throughout their lineup lately.
"It's one thing to know that Neal and Malkin and Crosby are good, but I think their support cast is tremendous," New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur said. "There's a lot of depth on that hockey club, and it's tough to defend."
His teammates certainly didn't have much luck trying. The Penguins launched 44 shots at Brodeur, and likely could have reached double figures in goals if he hadn't been so sharp.
"They've got a good lineup," Devils forward Zach Parise said. "And, if you stand around, if you don't compete hard against them, they'll pick you apart."
Parise's team not only wore throwback red-and-green uniforms that inspired memories of the franchise's early years, but performed in a way that invited comparisons to the 1980s, as well.
"You cannot show up against, I think, the best team that I've seen this year with less than your 'A' game," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said.
DeBoer watched his team get trampled during much of the first period. Just four seconds after Brodeur denied Chris Kunitz on a penalty shot at 1:55, Malkin won a faceoff cleanly to Neal, who scored his 32nd from near the top of the left circle.
Although Andy Greene got that back for New Jersey on a 3-on-2 break at 16:57, the reprieve was a mirage.
For even though only one of the Devils' previous eight opponents had managed to get more than one goal against them; the Penguins rang up three in a span of two minutes, 32 seconds midway though the second period.
"We made a few mistakes," Devils forward Patrik Elias said. "And, all of a sudden, it felt like the game was over."
Perhaps because, for all practical purposes, it was.
Dupuis put the Penguins in front to stay with a slap shot from the top of the left circle at 10:10. A Crosby pass went off Cooke's skate and past Brodeur at 11:44 and Malkin hammered a cross-ice feed from Crosby by Brodeur from the right dot ON a power play at 12:42.
There were a few stretches after that when the Devils held their own, or better, but New Jersey never seriously threatened to get back into the game.
Whatever flicker of a pulse was triggered when Petr Sykora converted an Elias rebound at 2:26 of the third period was snuffed by Cooke's second of the game precisely 3 1/2 minutes later.
And so the Penguins move on to Philadelphia, knowing they still haven't caught the New York Rangers for first place in the Eastern Conference and that they certainly haven't shaken the Flyers.
"It's just on to the next game," Orpik said. "And try to keep it rolling."