NEW JERSEY 3 – PITTSBURGH 1
David Clarkson (9) scored twice and the New Jersey Devils (8-1-3, 19 pts) swept the home and home series, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins (8-5-0, 16 pts), 3-1 on Sunday night at the Consol Energy Center, extending their winning streak to five games.
Ilya Kovalchuk (4) also scored and Johan Hedberg made 23 saves to record the win.
After taking a 1-0 first period lead on a David Clarkson goal, the Devils broke the game open in the second period, getting goals from Kovalchuk and Clarkson a 1:53 apart.
Kovalchuk struck at 11:27 period when Paul Martin fumbled the puck at the Devils blueline and Kovalchuk came in on a 2 on 1 and showed great patience, beating Tomas Vokoun 5-hole to give the Devils a 2-0 lead.
Clarkson would score on the power play at 13:20 of the period for his second goal of the game, pushing the Devils lead to 3-0.
The Penguins had an atrocious second period, being outshot 13-5 and outscored 2-0 in the period.
James Neal (8) would score a power play goal 15 seconds into the third period but that’s all the Penguins would get by Hedberg who was excellent in the game, especially early on when the Penguins outshot the Devils 10-4 in the first period.
Tomas Vokoun making his first start at home as a Penguin, made 20 saves in the loss.
The Devils have points in 11 of 12 games this season, leading the Eastern Conference with 19 points.
BAD PENALTIES AT CRITICAL MOMENTS CONTINUE
A growing concern for the Penguins, even dating back to last spring has been their struggles to deal with adversity. When this team seems to fall behind and have a team that is pushing back on them, the Penguins seem to look immature and undisciplined.
Following Ilya Kovalchuk’s goal at 11:27 of the second period to give the Devils a 2-0 lead, the Penguins in need of a spark, come out with an aggressive shift highlighted by a Deryk Engelland hit on Ryan Carter, but moments later, James Neal takes a hard hit from Steve Bernier deep into his zone and then what might have been a retaliation penalty, Neal takes a bad cross checking penalty drawn by Bernier at the half boards and the Devils go on the power play. A 1:11 later, David Clarkson scores on the power play to give the Devils a commanding 3-0 lead, making the Penguins pay for Neal’s penalty.
Neal has six minor penalties on the season and at least three or four of them have been bad ones. Although the Neal penalty was the Penguins first one of the night, with how undisciplined this team has been of late, that was a perfect situation for Bylsma to bench Neal for a shift or two and send a message by sitting a star player but it didn’t happen as Neal was right back on the ice, the second shift after his penalty.
ELIAS – HENRIQUE – CLARKSON LINE WEAR DOWN PENGUINS IN THIRD PERIOD
Dustin Jeffrey with strong wall play, drew a penalty with 11 seconds left in the second period. 15 seconds into the third period, James Neal scored a power play goal giving the Penguins life. Pittsburgh was buzzing the next couple minutes following the goal, but the Devils puck control game halted the Penguins getting to their game much in the period as the Stefan Matteau – Travis Zajac – Ilya Kovalchuk line was very good but it was the Patrick Elias – Adam Henrique – David Clarkson that put together a couple back to back shifts with great cycling and zone time to halt the momentum Pittsburgh was starting to develop.
By doing this, if forced the Penguins to play defense.
Clarkson an unrestricted free agent at seasons end, is showing his 30 goal season last year was no fluke. He’s going to cash in as a free agent and Adam Henrique’s overall game is so impressive for a young player.
DEVILS MAKE PENGUINS PAY FOR MISCUES
During the Penguins five game winning streak, they were so good at making teams pay for mistakes, showing quick strike ability and the Devils gave the Penguins a taste of their own medicine this weekend.
On Clarkson’s first period goal, Deryk Engelland made a bad read/pinch and Clarkson goes the other way burying one past Vokoun.
On the Kovalchuk goal, Martin fumbles the puck at the Devils blueline and seconds later, Kovalchuk made it 2-0, finishing a 2-on-1 rush.
Then James Neal takes a bad penalty and David Clarkson scores on the power play a 1:53 later. That’s what the Devils do to you.
Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin each recorded assists on James Neal’s power play goal…..Sidney Crosby was pointless for a second straight game, but was 19 of 24 on faceoffs, 79%, winning 19 draws……..The Boychuk – Malkin – Neal line was a combined minus-6 in the loss…..Pittsburgh scratched Joe Morrow, Joe Vitale, and Eric Tangradi.