Crosby, Penguins dominate Devils for first home win
There was little style at Consol Energy Center on Saturday.
Just substance. Lots of substance.
In a workmanlike and nearly flawless performance, the Penguins dominated the Devils, 5-1.
The Penguins have spoken adamantly for the better part of two weeks regarding their desire to simplify their game, playing a more honest style instead of relying on their superior talent.
On Saturday, they finally showcased such a performance.
“The way we got them (five goals) is more indicative of how we played,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “It wasn't a free-wheeling game. It wasn't chance for chance. I thought we did a really good job of playing the offensive zone, putting the pucks in areas, going to work. We got rewarded.”
The Penguins have been burned by their habit of preferring the perfect play in the early going, especially at home. Their goals against the Devils told a different story, perhaps evidence that the Penguins have toned down their attack.
• The Penguins took a 1-0 lead when Brandon Sutter and Sidney Crosby barged to the net and whacked at a loose puck before it finally caromed over New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur. Sutter received the goal, his first with the Penguins. There was nothing fancy about it.
• Kris Letang's goal in the third period gave the Penguins a 4-1 lead. Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz ferociously forechecked on the play, forcing a Henrik Tallinder turnover. A moment later, Letang produced his second goal of the season.
• On the Penguins' final goal, Crosby outworked Krystofer Barch behind the net, ultimately stripping him of the puck and finding Robert Bortuzzo for his first NHL goal.
• The other two goals — Crosby's rocket on a two-on-one and Kunitz's gift after a turnover from New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov — were also plays that developed because of the Penguins creating a turnover.
“We need to do more of that,” Crosby said. “Part of it is that we came with more speed through the neutral zone. And part of that is keeping the puck away from (Brodeur). He's so good handling the puck. We just did the job today.”
The performance can't be labeled as perfect, not when the Penguins failed to score on three power-play opportunities and permitted a league-leading second short-handed goal.
Still, it marked a step in the right direction.
Having allowed scoring opportunities in bunches at home, the Penguins held the Devils to 16 shots. The game was similar to two March performances last season that saw the Penguins beat the Devils, 5-2, on each occasion.
“They're a heck of a hockey team,” New Jersey forward David Clarkson said. “They do a lot of good things. They're fast, they pressure you when you're in the other team's zone, you have no time. We didn't play our best, and they were great today.”
The Penguins dominated in the faceoff circle (34-21), shots (30-16) and hits (23-17).
Crosby scored his fourth goal and produced two primary assists for his first three-point game of the season. Kunitz also earned a goal and two assists. Crosby and Kunitz were each a plus-4.
The Penguins (5-3-0) play Sunday in Washington (2-5-1).
“We did so many things well today,” Bortuzzo said. “I just feel like we played the right way.”