NEWARK, N.J. – What a difference a week makes.
Seven days after the Pittsburgh Penguins blew out the New Jersey Devils, 5-1, the Devils returned the favor Saturday afternoon, winning a thrilling 3-1 contest at Prudential Center.
The win moves the Devils’ (7-1-3) current victory streak to four games, and snaps the Penguins’ (8-4) win streak at five games. The victory also moves New Jersey, temporarily, into first place in the Atlantic Division.
Saturday’s contest between the top two teams in the division started out much like last week’s game. Pittsburgh jumped out to a quick lead 1:23 into the game, when Brandon Sutter deflected a power play goal past Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur.
But, Brodeur and the Devils slammed the door shut at that point.
It was Matteau’s first NHL goal for the Devils.
The Devils upped the ante in the third period, getting power play goals from Adam Henrique and Bobby Butler less than three minutes apart to sink the Penguins and take over first place in the Atlantic Division with 17 points. Butler’s goal was his first with New Jersey.
Much like the Devils did to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinal last spring, the Penguins, in response to New Jersey’s puck control in the third period, kept taking penalties. In all, Pittsburgh took six of its 13 penalties in the third period, and the Devils took advantage.
Even when the Penguins had a chance to go on the power play early in the third period, it was canceled out as Evgeni Malkin took a coincidental penalty when he tripped Greene.
It was the beginning of a tough period for Malkin, who was robbed by Brodeur’s glove in the final minutes as Pittsburgh made a furious attempt at a comeback.
Brodeur finished with 24 saves for New Jersey, playing light-outs after allowing the first goal of the game.
The first-place Devils will play the back-end of a home-and-home with the Penguins tomorrow, 7:30 p.m. at Consol Energy Center. A win would help New Jersey extend its Atlantic Division lead, whereas a win for Pittsburgh would move it back into first place.