Penguins shut out in loss to Devils
NEWARK, N.J. — Winning — heck, scoring — at Prudential Center has proven a difficult chore for the Penguins during the past two seasons.
That was the case with centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Take those former NHL scoring champions out of the lineup — injuries forced them to miss a regular-season game together for the first time Thursday night — and perhaps it all but assured a 2-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
Still, this loss for the Penguins (29-15-4, 62 points) represented one of their poorer performances of the season.
"The way we started that one, even the way we finished, wasn't good enough," Penguins center Jordan Staal said. "We made them look like a great team."
The Devils, who recorded only their 14th win, aren't a great team.
However, their goaltender is one of the greatest to ever play his position — though the Penguins didn't feel New Jersey's Martin Brodeur had to work too hard (23 saves) for his eighth career shutout against them.
"It's funny, they didn't try to create much," Brodeur said. "They just dumped the puck, and they tried to grind it out. That's what they did all night. They didn't change the way they were playing. Some guys will say, 'Well, it's a weaker team and if you do that enough, they'll make mistakes.' That's what they did, and we just played well."
Only former Philadelphia goalie Bernie Parent has more shutouts against the Penguins (10).
Penguins right wing Pascal Dupuis attempted before the game to tout the Penguins' depth as reason to believe against Brodeur, noting that Staal had scored a goal in each of the Penguins' three previous wins.
Dupuis failed to mention this was Staal's ninth game of the season; that he hasn't worked his legs into ideal regular-season shape; and that, although he is a prized component of a would-be Stanley Cup contender, his 87 career goals are only three more than Crosby and Malkin combined to score last season.
The Penguins' other centers against the Devils were two rookies (Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey) and a veteran (Max Talbot) who hasn't scored in 22 games.
The Penguins also were without their third-best player. Starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was on the bench in favor of backup Brent Johnson, who had been previously scheduled to play.
Fleury was 9-15-4 with a 2.75 goals-against average and .913 save percentage against New Jersey. However, he had allowed two or fewer goals in 20 of 28 previous appearances this season.
That is not to suggest Johnson didn't provide the Penguins with a good chance to leave here with two points for a second time in as many games.
He stopped 18 shots but surrendered a goal to left wing Brian Rolston on the Devils' first shot.
That would be the same Rolston every NHL team passed on when the Devils sent him through waivers not long ago.
Rolston's goal at 1:22 of the opening period gave the Devils a 1-0 lead. A behind-the-cage turnover by Penguins defenseman Paul Martin — signed as a free agent last summer from New Jersey — set up a scoring opportunity for right wing Nick Palmieri, who backhanded a puck behind Johnson at 9:51 to give the Devils a 2-0 advantage.
"We didn't put ourselves in any situation to have success in this game with the players we had on the ice," coach Dan Bylsma said of the Penguins, who have scored only six goals in five games at New Jersey dating to last season.
"In the third period, we started to win some battles, execute in the offensive zone ... but it wasn't until after the 12-minute mark of that period when we desperately needed a goal in that situation. We didn't have that for the first 45-50 minutes of the game."