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Pens lackadaisical in loss to N.J.

Getty Images - Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury keeps his eye on the puck against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. His relationship with goaltending coach Mike Bales has resulted in some of the finest, steadiest play of Fleury’s career.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury keeps his eye on the puck against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. His relationship with goaltending coach Mike Bales has resulted in some of the finest, steadiest play of Fleury’s career.
AP - A shot by Penguins left wing Matt Cooke (24) gets past Devils goalie Johan Hedberg for a goal during the first period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>A shot by Penguins left wing Matt Cooke (24) gets past Devils goalie Johan Hedberg for a goal during the first period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Getty Images - Penguins defenseman Douglas Murray hits the Devils' Tom Kostopoulos during the first period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Penguins defenseman Douglas Murray hits the Devils' Tom Kostopoulos during the first period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Jussi Jokinen (36) celebrates his power-play goal at 14:01 of the first period with Evgeni Malkin against the Devils on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Jussi Jokinen (36) celebrates his power-play goal at 14:01 of the first period with Evgeni Malkin against the Devils on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Getty Images - The Devils' Anton Volchenkov hits the Penguins' Pascal Dupuis during the first period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Devils' Anton Volchenkov hits the Penguins' Pascal Dupuis during the first period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Getty Images - Penguins defenseman Kris Letang checks the Devils' David Clarkson during the first period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Penguins defenseman Kris Letang checks the Devils' David Clarkson during the first period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
AP - Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Beau Bennett, left, collides with New Jersey Devils' Eric Gelinas during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, April 25, 2013, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Beau Bennett, left, collides with New Jersey Devils' Eric Gelinas during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, April 25, 2013, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Getty Images - Penguins defenseman Douglas Murray checks the Devils' Adam Henrique during the second period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Penguins defenseman Douglas Murray checks the Devils' Adam Henrique during the second period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Getty Images - Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes a stop in the second period against the Devils' Ryan Carter on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes a stop in the second period against the Devils' Ryan Carter on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
AP - Penguins center Brandon Sutter (left) and Devils left wing Ilya Kovalchuk compete for the puck during the first period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins center Brandon Sutter (left) and Devils left wing Ilya Kovalchuk compete for the puck during the first period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
AP - Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury watches a puck shot by Devils center Travis Zajac (not pictured) enters his net for a goal during the second period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury watches a puck shot by Devils center Travis Zajac (not pictured) enters his net for a goal during the second period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
AP - Devils left wing Ilya Kovalchuk (17) watches his goal get past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Simon Despres during the third period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, in Newark, N.J. The Devils won, 3-2.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Devils left wing Ilya Kovalchuk (17) watches his goal get past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Simon Despres during the third period on Thursday, April 25, 2013, in Newark, N.J. The Devils won, 3-2.
Getty Images - NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 25: Eric Gelinas #32 of the New Jersey Devils skates in his first NHL game against Tyler Kennedy #48 of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Prudential Center on April 25, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 25:  Eric Gelinas #32 of the New Jersey Devils skates in his first NHL game against Tyler Kennedy #48 of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Prudential Center on April 25, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty Images - The Devils' Travis Zajac is stopped by Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The Devils beat the Penguins, 3-2.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Devils' Travis Zajac is stopped by Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The Devils beat the Penguins, 3-2.

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By Josh Yohe
Thursday, April 25, 2013, 10:09 p.m.
 

NEWARK, N.J. — There was little compelling about Thursday's game between the Penguins, who had nothing to play for, and the New Jersey Devils, who have been eliminated from the postseason.

In the hours before the Penguins fell to the Devils, 3-2, however, there remained plenty of intensity on veteran Steve Sullivan's face. Sullivan, now a Devil, was a Penguin last season when, as Stanley Cup favorites, they were stunned in the first round by the Philadelphia Flyers.

When sizing up these Penguins, Sullivan shook his head emphatically. He was convinced there will be no first-round departure and that the Penguins will play deep into the spring, perhaps winning the Stanley Cup he so desperately craved last season.

“I'd be extremely surprised if something like that happens to them again,” Sullivan said. “Extremely. You know, you learn from your past experiences. They've learned their lesson. Look at how they've played all season. They are a team with a chip on its shoulder, and it shows. They aren't going to get stunned by anything again.”

The Penguins have become so accustomed to winning that an irrelevant setback in the standings actually left them seething.

“It's no excuse,” defenseman Mark Eaton said. “Going into tonight, we were two games away from the playoffs. We shouldn't be letting our guard down with the playoffs this close.”

The salty mood in the locker room is precisely what Sullivan said he believes will set the Penguins apart this spring.

Sullivan, incidentally, set up New Jersey star Ilya Kovalchuk's game-winner.

He foresees plenty of game-winners for the Penguins in the postseason. Whereas the Penguins might have become overconfident at times last season, Sullivan sees the loss to the Flyers last spring — and even lesser losses, like this one in New Jersey — as fuel for a playoff run.

“We should have done some damage last year and didn't,” Sullivan said. “It's too bad. But this team is built a little differently.”

The Penguins have lost twice in a row for the second time in April. Of course, those mini-losing streaks have followed 17- and seven-game winning streaks, respectively.

They saw positives against the Devils. The third line, comprised of Brandon Sutter, Brenden Morrow, and Matt Cooke, was a physical force in the offensive zone. Cooke scored his seventh goal of the season to give the Penguins an early 1-0 advantage.

“That's the type of line they will be for us,” Bylsma said. “Physical. A push-forward line, a line that's hard to play against. It's a line that can play in the offensive zone. They can be effective.”

The Penguins also saw encouraging signs from the league's reigning MVP, Evgeni Malkin.

For the second straight game, Malkin exhibited a skating burst that hasn't been evident most of the season. He didn't register a point but started to show chemistry with right wing Jarome Iginla and generated considerable opportunities.

“Maybe his timing wasn't there,” Bylsma said. “He certainly had that jump to his game.”

The Penguins didn't have their customary jump. Goals by Travis Zajac, David Clarkson and Kovalchuk gave New Jersey a comeback win.

But the Penguins know the playoffs will be their ultimate measuring stick.

“This was a tough game to play,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “We weren't real intense. You've got to be careful. You can't just turn on the intensity all of a sudden, so I think we need to do a better job.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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