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Penguins bedeviled in New Jersey again behind early goal, tight defense

Getty Images - The Penguins' Tanner Glass checks the Devils' Mark Fayne into the boards during the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Tanner Glass checks  the Devils' Mark Fayne into the boards during the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
USA Today Sports - Devils right wing Stephen Gionta skates with the puck past Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo during the first period on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Devils right wing Stephen Gionta skates with the puck past Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo during the first period on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
AP - Devils goalie Martin Brodeur makes a save as Mark Fayne defends against the Penguins' Sidney Crosby during the third period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Devils goalie Martin Brodeur makes a save as Mark Fayne defends against the Penguins' Sidney Crosby during the third period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
USA Today Sports - The Devils celebrate a goal by Michael Ryder (17) during the second period against the Penguins on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>The Devils celebrate a goal by Michael Ryder (17) during the second period against the Penguins on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
USA Today Sports - Devils goalie Martin Brodeur looks back as a shot by Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen (not pictured) sneaks past him for a goal in the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Devils goalie Martin Brodeur looks back as a shot by Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen (not  pictured) sneaks past him for a goal in the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
USA Today Sports - Penguins right wing Chris Conner skates with the puck while being defended by Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas during the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Penguins right wing Chris Conner skates with the puck while being defended by Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas during the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
USA Today Sports - Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) celebrates his goal during the second period of their game against the Devils on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) celebrates his goal during the second period of their game against the Devils on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
Getty Images - Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allows a goal by the Devils' Michael Ryder in the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allows a goal by the Devils' Michael Ryder in the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
Getty Images - The Devils' Ryane Clowe celebrates a goal scored by Michael Ryder in the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Devils' Ryane Clowe celebrates a goal scored by Michael Ryder in the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
AP - Devils left wing Ryane Clowe hits the ice after being hit by Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo during the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Devils left wing Ryane Clowe hits the ice after being hit by  Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo during the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
AP - Devils right wing Dainius Zubrus attacks as Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleur qnd defenseman Robert Bortuzzo defend during the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Devils right wing Dainius Zubrus attacks as Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleur qnd defenseman Robert Bortuzzo defend during the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
Getty Images - Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stops a shot by the Devils' Travis Zajac during the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stops a shot by the Devils' Travis Zajac during the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
Getty Images - Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland checks the Devils' Dainius Zubrus in the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland checks the Devils' Dainius Zubrus in the second period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
Getty Images - Devils goalie Martin Brodeur makes a save during the first period against the Penguins on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Devils goalie Martin Brodeur makes a save during the first period against the Penguins on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
Getty Images - The Devils' Andy Greene ties up the Penguins' Sidney Crosby in front of the net during the first period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Devils' Andy Greene ties up the Penguins' Sidney Crosby in front of the net during the first period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
Getty Images - Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save in the first period against the Devils on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save in the first period  against the Devils on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
USA Today Sports - Devils center Reid Boucher (15) skates with the puck while being defended by Penguins center Brandon Sutter (16) during the first period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Devils center Reid Boucher (15) skates with the puck while being defended by Penguins center Brandon Sutter (16) during the first period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
USA Today Sports - Devils center Adam Henrique (14) celebrates his goal on Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the first period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Devils center Adam Henrique (14) celebrates his goal on  Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the first period Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
USA Today Sports - Devils left wing Patrik Elias (26) lies on the ice after being hit during the first period against the Penguins on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Devils left wing Patrik Elias (26) lies on the ice after being hit during the first period against the Penguins on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Newark, N.J.
USA Today Sports - The New Jersey Devils celebrate a goal by center Adam Henrique (not shown) during the first period of their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Prudential Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>The New Jersey Devils celebrate a goal by center Adam Henrique (not shown) during the first period of their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Prudential Center.

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Devil in the details

Bylsma's record on road against divisional opponents:

Team Record

Devils 2-10-1

Flyers 9-2-1

Rangers 10-3-0

Islanders 8-3-2

Washington 1-0-0

Carolina 2-0-0

Columbus 2-0-0

Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 3:50 p.m.
 

NEWARK, N.J. — Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has lost a divisional road game only 22 times in five years.

Nearly half of those losses have come against one team.

New Jersey's airtight defense and goaltender Martin Brodeur again silenced the high-scoring Penguins, winning a 2-1 decision Tuesday at Prudential Center.

The Penguins (29-12-1) mustered a season-low 20 shots, and while they misfired on a couple of golden opportunities, they were generally outplayed in a fashion that has become familiar over the years. New Jersey has kept the Penguins from producing 30 shots in all four meetings this season, with the home squad winning each time.

“It was pretty similar to other games here,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who set up defenseman Matt Niskanen's goal and now has points in 34 of 42 games this season. “We actually had some good chances that didn't go in, but yeah, it was pretty similar.”

The Penguins preach not falling behind against the Devils while playing in Newark. Such a scenario often becomes lethal, given New Jersey's long history of protecting even the smallest leads to perfection. Even so, it took only 98 seconds for Adam Henrique to convert on right wing James Neal's turnover and beat goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, giving the Devils a lead they never would relinquish.

“You never want to come out sloppy, but we did,” Niskanen said. “It's just something that is really a problem in this building. They put the clamps down on you when they have a lead. They're so good with the lead, and they were again today.”

Bylsma acknowledged this game felt essentially the same as so many low-scoring setbacks. Still, he said the Penguins improved as the contest ensued. And they had their chances.

Center Brandon Sutter was unable to convert on a two-on-one in the third period, and center Jussi Jokinen hit the post.

“We really did make a good push in the second half of the game,” Niskanen said. “We started winning battles, playing with some jam. It just wasn't enough.”

It rarely is in Newark for these Penguins.

Bylsma's teams are 35-8-3 on the road against every other divisional opponent since 2009. However, on the road against the Devils, the Penguins are 2-10-1.

Bylsma wasn't delighted with how his team played in the opening 30 minutes — Crosby and Neal, among others, were guilty of glaring defensive zone turnovers — but the Penguins appeared on the verge of evening the game.

Not long after Henrique opened the scoring, Crosby won a battle behind New Jersey's net and, with Brodeur out of the cage, found a wide open Chris Kunitz. However, Kunitz, who collected the puck near his skates, was unable to hit the open target.

Such missed opportunities in New Jersey can serve as a bad omen.

“That was a big one for us,” Bylsma said. “It would have been an answer right back.”

Instead, the Penguins are still looking for an answer against the Devils.

They valiantly fought off all four of New Jersey's power plays — “They could have blown the game open at any of those moments,” Bylsma said — but didn't appear to have much left in the tank when they received their only power play with 4:48 remaining, producing only one shot.

Crosby admitted that going to work with a man advantage for the first time in a 55-minute span is difficult.

“I think it was pretty typical,” he said of the ineffectiveness. “Still, it was an opportunity. You've got to find a way.”

Bylsma simply shook his head following the game, again unable to will his team past the Devils.

“It went to script,” he said.

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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