Devils snap Pens' 5-game win streak
NEWARK, N.J. — Penguins coach Dan Bylsma didn't need to look at a stat sheet to know why his team's five-game win streak went by the wayside Saturday.
“We took a lot of penalties,” he said after the Penguins surrendered two power-play goals in the third period to lose, 3-1, to the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. “The majority of the time we were on the ice was eaten up by penalty kills. We weren't able to get any kind of flow. We didn't get many chances to play five on five. We took too many penalties, and that took us out of our game.”
The Penguins (8-4-0, 16 points), who surrendered first place in the Atlantic Division to the Devils (7-1-3, 17 points), were whistled for 13 penalties — six in the deciding third period.
The Penguins managed to kill the first eight penalties, keeping the puck away from the Devils while goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury collected save after save.
“Our penalty kill and Marc were really very strong,” Bylsma said. “But we weren't able to turn the kills into five on fives, and we had no offensive flow.”
The Penguins' third-period troubles began when left wing Tanner Glass was called for hooking midway through the final stanza, and Adam Henrique scored off a rebound that hit the post, his fourth goal in six games since returning from a thumb injury.
Evgeni Malkin then was whistled for tripping. With Malkin in the penalty box, Bobby Butler scored his first goal in almost a year and his first as a member of the Devils with 6:32 remaining.
The Penguins return home to face the Devils at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Consol Energy Center, hoping they can eliminate their penalty woes.
“We had two games like this in the beginning of the season,” Bylsma said. “We seem to be getting a lot of boarding calls that are different from the others.”
Center Joe Vitale twice was called for boarding in the first two periods, but the Penguins killed those penalties. They weren't as fortunate in the third period.
The Penguins wasted little time taking control early, gaining a power play in the first minute and then capitalizing on it.
Devils forward David Clarkson drew a tripping penalty 48 seconds into the game, and the Penguins got on the board at the 1:23 mark when Brandon Sutter deflected in a shot from Simon Despres for his third goal.
The power-play goal was the first allowed by the Devils after 19 consecutive penalty kills.
Before the game, Devils coach Peter DeBoer said staying as penalty free as possible was paramount.
“They have a lot of speed,” DeBoer said. “We have to find a way to slow them down. We have to stay out of the penalty box to stay in it.”
DeBoer's fears became reality in the first minute, but the Devils — the top penalty-killing team in the league last year — kept the Penguins scoreless over their final five power-play chances.
The Devils also ended Sidney Crosby's streak of consecutive games with a point at six.
The Devils tied the game, 1-1, on rookie Stefan Matteau's first goal with 3:29 left in the second period. But the Penguins gained a power play late in the period, one that was enhanced when future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur lost his stick and had no chance to recover it for almost a minute. The Penguins had two shots on the stick-less Brodeur, who made pad saves on both.
Then, with the puck near Fleury, Malkin spotted Brodeur far out of the crease trying to retrieve his stick. The shot hit the right post, then Brodeur's skate. The 40-year-old Brodeur watched the puck dance along the goal line before the stumbling goaltender managed to dive on it.
“I guess all those dancing lessons I had over the summer paid off,” Brodeur laughed.
Penguins defenseman Paul Martin couldn't believe the penalty total.
“The last few games, we played better hockey than this,” Martin said. “We took too many penalties. That's the way we were playing earlier in the year. It takes the flow away from the game. The key for us is to stay out of the box and be smarter. We also have to be smarter with the puck.”
“We knew that going into today and (Sunday) we would have tough games,” Bylsma said. “They took the first one here. We have to bounce back and play better (Sunday).”
Jim Hague is a freelance writer.