Neutral zone turnovers costly in 5-2 loss
The New Jersey Devils 6th straight win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night followed the script of the previous five wins; New Jersey creating turnovers in the neutral zone and turning Pittsburgh’s costly mistakes into goals.
Players in the Penguins locker room indicated afterwards that the Penguins did some good things in their 5-2 loss to the Devils Wednesday night but as captain Sidney Crosby put it, the Penguins were “their own worst enemy.”
Pittsburgh did do some good things as they outshot New Jersey 26-19 and pushed the play at times in the offensive zone but proved once again that they are truly a matchup problem for New Jersey.
Two or three games doesn’t tell the story, but six sure does.
Jumping out to an early first period lead on a goal from Chris Kunitz, a costly Kris Letang turnover at the Penguins blueline led to a Danius Zubrus breakaway goal at 10:51 in the first and Pittsburgh was unable to respond.
Bad line changes would also plague the Penguins in their latest loss to New Jersey but it’s been neutral zone turnovers and a struggling power play that can be attributed to an 0-6 record against New Jersey.
Late in the first period, an errant neutral zone pass by Bill Guerin intended for Tyler Kennedy led to the Devils once again turning a Pittsburgh turnover into a goal as Paul Martin beat Marc Andre Fleury shot-side to give New Jersey a 2-1 lead.
The power play which has failed Pittsburgh in all six games against New Jersey did so again tonight.
Trailing 2-1 to open the second period, Pittsburgh went on the power play a 1:30 into the period after a David Clarkson interference call.
Not once, but twice Pittsburgh made a costly cross-ice pass turnover leading to a Devils breakaway.
The first was an Alex Goligoski turnover on a cross-ice pass leading to a Travis Zajac breakaway but Marc Andre Fleury came up with a spectacular glove side.
Moments later Pittsburgh wasn’t as lucky as Jordan Leopold made a blind backhand pass that was intercepted by Patrik Elias who came in all alone and beat Marc Andre Fleury 5-hole to give the Devils a 3-1 lead.
Pittsburgh which has been out played, out-coached and out-executed by New Jersey this season have not been unable to solve the “New” Devils system under head coach Jacques Lemaire.
The question now for Pittsburgh is whether a potential playoff matchup against New Jersey will lead to a new brand success against the Devils. At least one prominent member of the Devils organization believes the Devils record against Pittsburgh this season can be thrown out the window when the playoffs start.
“Playoffs is a different season,” Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire said in his post-game conference. “It’s nice to have confidence in the year and beat a team, but, playoffs, I always say it’s a different season and you start from scratch. But our confidence will still be up at that point.
*Penguins winger Tyler Kennedy who has been in out of the lineup over the past week, was a team-worst minus-3 tonight and turned the puck over at the Devils blueline, leading to Zach Parise’s second period goal.
*Ruslan Fedotenko scored a late third period goal, notching his 10th goal of the season. Fedotenko is the 10th Penguin with 10+ goals on the season.
*Defenseman Jay McKee was a healthy scratch after playing a strong game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and taking top-6 reps in practice on Tuesday.
*Former Penguins defenseman Martin Skoula had an assist and was a plus-1 against his former team. Skoula drew praise from head coach Jacques LeMaire after the Devils morning skate as Lemaire called Skoula his best defenseman in Minnesota. Skoula was a minus-28 in his last two full seasons with the Wild (2007-2009).
*Enforcer Eric Godard status for tomorrow’s game against Boston is up in the air. It’s believed he is cleared to play but head coach Dan Bylsma would not confirm that Godard will be available to play. Instead Bylsma gave his normal line, “day-to-day”.
*According to a team official, Evgeni Malkin is regarded as doubtful for Thursday’s game. If Bylsma opts to play Godard, there is no doubt that Tyler Kennedy will be back in the press box.
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