Once again the Devils traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins and once again the lost to the Penguins. This time there was no dramatic comeback, just a routine 5-1 loss to Sidney Crosby and company.
With the win tonight, the Pens moved into second place in the East Division, leapfrogging the loser of the Capitals-Islanders game (should that game not go to overtime). The Devils, meanwhile, were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with Tuesday’s loss.
The Devils had their leading scorers back tonight as Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt returned from injury. The lineup mostly stayed the same as PK Subban remains on COVID protocol, Ty Smith, Mackenzie Blackwood and Mikhail Maltsev all remain out.
Pregame the MSG Network crew talked about Mackenzie Blackwood’s mask for warmups the other night. It was also designed by an RWJBarnabas Health employee who got to see his creation on an NHL rink.
And speaking of goaltending, Aaron Dell got the nod tonight, making 11 saves on 15 shots for a .733 save percentage. He stopped both Pittsburgh power play shots (the Pens were 0-for-1 on the man advantage) and was 9-for-13 at even strength. He was pulled in the second period following the fourth Pittsburgh goal. Scott Wedgewood came in and stopped 7-of-8 for an .875 save percentage. He let in the only shorthanded Penguins shot he saw and was 7-for-7 at even strength.
In goal for the Pens, they went right back to Tristan Jarry despite Tuesday’s third period. He stopped 30 of the 31 shots the Devils peppered him with for a .968 save percentage. He turned aside all six Devils power play shots (the Devils were 0-for-4) and stopped 24-of-25 at even strength.
The Penguins were in their yellow alternate jerseys resembling a uniform from an outdoor game a few years ago.
You knew it was going to be a rough night for the Devils when Crosby scored just 41 seconds into the game. After a turnover in the Devils zone, Bryan Rust gave to Crosby, who stepped up and shot, beating Dell upstairs to give Pittsburgh the early 1-0 lead. Kris Letang caused the turnover that led to the goal and got the secondary assist.
Some life for the Devils occurred a little less than 12 minutes later at 12:34 when Matt Tennyson broke his goalless drought of 104 games by beating Jarry to tie the game. Ryan Murray shot the puck wide of the net and it wrapped around the boards to Tennyson at the right point. He bombed a shot that beat Jarry cleanly to knot things up. Jesper Boqvist had the secondary assist.
But things were not to remain that tidy for long. At the 17:46 mark of the first, Cody Ceci made it 2-1 Pens in what would go down as the game winner.
Kasperi Kapanen got the puck up top and Brian Dumoulin went D-to-D with Ceci. Ceci shot and beat Dell to make it 2-1.
The game was still close and the Devils had a chance until the second period started. Then the wheels fell off.
It began with Bryan Rust at 12:03 when Jack Hughes turned the puck over to Crosby. Crosby sprung Guentzel and Rust on a 2-on-1. Guentzel passed to Rust and he finished to make it 3-1 Pens.
Just 25 seconds later, Kapanen scored to make it 4-1. Teddy Blueger banked the puck off the boards to Kapanen who was off to the races up the right wing. He cut in on Dell and shot five-hole, scoring and ending Dell’s night. Zach Aston-Reese had the secondary.
After that goal, Wedgewood was on in relief.
And the hits were not done. At 15:59 Blueger scored shorthanded to give us our final of 6-1. The puck was dug out of the far corner in the Penguins’ zone by Letang. Blueger picked it up and was again off up the right-wing boards. He had Colton Sceviour as a decoy and shot, scoring to make it 6-1. John Marino had the secondary assist.
And that was that.
The Devils outshot Pittsburgh 31-23, won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs, had more hits at 29-25 and had less giveaways at three to the Pens’ six. Each team had ten blocked shots.
Michael McLeod led the centers with a 69-percent winning clip on faceoffs. Damon Severson led the team in time on ice with 23:29 of TOI. Nico Hischier led the forwards with 18:46. Hischier also led in power play time with 4:59.
Shots were led by Hughes with four, hits by Nate Bastian with eight, blocks by Connor Carrick and Tennyson with two each and takeaways by Hughes with three.
Next up the Devils end the season series with Pittsburgh on Saturday at 12:30 PM. The Devils will try to snap their eight-game losing skid and we will have all of the details for you right here.
Until then, stay safe everyone!