Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins finally found their stride at home.
Crosby and Chris Kunitz each had a goal and two assists, and Pittsburgh picked up its first victory of the season on home ice by beating the New Jersey Devils 5-1 Saturday.
The Penguins used a relentless forecheck to overwhelm New Jersey in the third period, scoring three times on 10 shots while turning a one-goal game into a rout.
“We were skating a lot and I think that was a big part of it – keeping it simple,” Crosby said. “As a group, I think we made it easier on each other, not just our line, but as a five-man unit. Our D were retrieving pucks and allowing us to get speed through the neutral zone.”
Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo scored his first NHL goal, Brandon Sutter got his first with Pittsburgh and Kris Letang also found the back of the net for the Penguins, who handed the Devils their first loss in regulation this season.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 15 shots for the win. Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis had two assists apiece.
Andy Greene scored a short-handed goal for the Devils (3-1-3), who were seeking their best seven-game start in a decade. Martin Brodeur was sharp through two periods, stopping 17 of 19 shots, but allowed three goals in the third as New Jersey had trouble with the Penguins’ aggressive forecheck.
“They pressured us with their speed and made us make mistakes,” Brodeur said. “It’s not a fun game when you have a lot of breakdowns like that.”
After winning 21 of their last 24 games at Consol Energy Center last season, the Penguins had been the only NHL team yet to earn a point at home this year. They were outscored 9-3 in losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders.
This time, Pittsburgh looked more like the team that shut out the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night as opposed to the sloppy defensive club that showed up during a 4-1 home loss to the Islanders on Tuesday, when Fleury – second in the NHL last season with 24 home wins – was pulled after two periods.
“We wanted to make sure we stayed focused and maybe brought the same attitude we had on the road at home,” Crosby said.
Sutter staked the Penguins to a 1-0 lead early in the second period, chipping his own rebound over Brodeur’s pads.
It was the seventh time in eight games that Pittsburgh scored first.
Kunitz took advantage of a fortunate bounce to give the Penguins a two-goal lead midway through the period. Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov whiffed on a breakout attempt in his own zone and the puck slid to Kunitz, who was there to wrist a shot past Brodeur from between the circles.
“We had too many mistakes, the defense as a group,” Devils captain Bryce Salvador said. “We have possession of the puck in our zone and we didn’t get it out and it turned to scoring opportunities and goals.”
The Penguins tried to take a three-goal lead on the power play, but the Devils cut the deficit in half with their NHL-best second short-handed goal of the season. Dainius Zubrus sent a spinning feed along the boards to a streaking Greene in the slot, and he went to the backhand to beat Fleury.
Letang started the third-period outburst less than 3 minutes in, sneaking into the slot to put a shot past Brodeur. Crosby, who has 10 points in his last four games against the Devils, made it 4-1 by finishing a rush down the left-wing boards with a wrist shot.
“It was a 2-1 game at the end of two periods,” DeBoer said. “We came out in the third and had a couple good shifts and a couple opportunities to tie it, but it got away from us.”
Bortuzzo sealed it with the first goal of his career 2 minutes later, when his shot from the point rolled awkwardly between Brodeur’s pads. That sent the sellout crowd at the Consol Energy Center home happy for the first time all season.
“I like that we scored a lot of goals today and came out in the third and got three goals,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “But the way we got them is more indicative of how we played the game.”
NOTES: Penguins LW Zach Boychuk, picked up Thursday off waivers from Carolina, played 12 minutes, most of them alongside Malkin and James Neal. ... First-round draft pick Stefan Matteau was scratched for the Devils, who are deciding whether to return him to junior hockey after playing in five NHL games. ... Devils D Mark Fayne missed the game with an arm injury, while D Ben Lovejoy, C Dustin Jeffrey and C Eric Tangradi were scratched for the Penguins. ... It was the first of three games between the teams in nine days. ... Pittsburgh travels to Washington on Sunday in a game that will be nationally televised on NBC, while New Jersey visits the Islanders.
Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins finally found their stride at home.
Richland's Pecora is one of two local wrestlers in state finals
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