Penguins beat Devils 3-2 for 7th straight victory
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Danton Heinen, Teddy Blueger and Mike Matheson scored in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ seventh straight win, beating the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Sunday night.
Tristan Jarry made 17 saves for Pittsburgh, and Dominik Simon, Chad Ruhwedel, Marcus Pettersson and Jason Zucker each had assists as the team improved to 12-2-1 in its past 15 games. The Penguins have allowed just 10 goals in their past seven games.
“I don’t think it was our best,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I give our players credit. I think we competed hard. I thought we found a way to win and I think that’s the sign of a good team.”
Forwards Janne Kuokkanen and Nathan Bastian scored for New Jersey, and Jon Gillies stopped 19 shots in his first start for the Devils since being acquired from the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. New Jersey lost its sixth straight and fell for the 12th time in its past 13 games.
“A couple of plays with the puck that cost us again — that were the difference maker in the game,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “We cleaned up a lot. … We’ve got to stay away from getting too frustrated.”
The Penguins’ penalty kill, which has allowed an NHL-low six power-play goals and ranks first in the league in penalty-kill efficiency (92.1%), stymied four of New Jersey’s five power-play chances.
“I think we’re all on the same page,” Blueger said of the penalty-killing success. “Our goaltending has been great, but I think we all pressure in unison and try to be aggressive and make good reads off each other. I think it’s a combination of little details and blocking shots and denying (zone) entries and coming together.”
Pittsburgh’s first goal came at 9:19 of the first period on a power-play when Blueger intercepted Jack Hughes’ errant pass, warded off Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton and beat Gillies between the pads. It was Blueger’s seventh goal of the season, and Pittsburgh’s first short-handed tally.
It also was New Jersey’s NHL-high sixth short-handed goal allowed. New Jersey ranks tied for last in the NHL in power-play efficiency, scoring just 11 power-play goals on 88 this season (12.5%).
“It was an ill-advised decision,” Ruff said of Hughes’ pass, calling it “a high-risk pass that ended up turning into an opportunity.”
Heinen boosted Pittsburgh’s lead at 1:03 in the second when he took a cross-ice feed from Pettersson and ripped a snap shot past Gillies’ stick. Matheson added insurance with his third of the season at 9:31 of the third that came with forward Sam Laferty screening Gillies.
“Without (Lafferty), there’s not a goalie in the league that doesn’t stop that shot from where I was,” Matheson said. “He should get the goal for what he did, not me.”
Jarry is tied for second-most games played (24) among NHL goalies this season and picked up his 15th win, which is tied for third-most in the league. He sealed Sunday’s win with a last-second save on Devils forward Andreas Johnsson, a shot Ruff said was “almost as good as you’re going to get when you get to walk in alone.”
MIXING IT UP
Jarry picked up his first penalty minutes of the season when he was given a double minor for butt-ending Devils defenseman Mason Geertsen during the second period. Jarry now has 16 career penalty minutes.
BREAK IN PLAY
The Devils were scheduled to host the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday in their final game before the NHL’s annual holiday break, but that game was postponed due to the league’s pause on cross-border travel in light of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Devils forward Jesper Bratt returned after missing their game against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday with a non-COVID-related illness. Bratt, who leads New Jersey with 24 points in 29 games, was minus-2.
The Devils and Penguins will face off again Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
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