The Pittsburgh Penguins were defeated by the New Jersey Devils tonight in a wild game that included 15 minor penalties in the second period. To say that the officiating was questionable would be an understatement. The most questionable was a non-call on the Devils’ fourth goal, in which Brian Gionta clearly interfered with Marc-Andre Fleury. Nonetheless, the Penguins played a fairly undisciplined and sloppy game and gave the Devils the opportunities they needed to win the game.
The Devils third line of Pandolfo, Clarkson and Madden combined to give the Devils a 2-0 lead in a 3:12 stretch midway through the first. Pandolfo scored at 6:46 and Madden at 9:58. Each assisted on the other’s goal and Clarkson earned an assist on each. The Penguins bounced back late in the period, however, with two quick goals of their own. The first was an even strength marker off the stick of Maxime Talbot, who rushed past a stickless Devil defender and poked the puck past Brodeur at 15:58. The goal, Talbot’s team leading 4th of the season, was assisted by Ryan Whitney and Gary Roberts. Roberts scored the second goal less than two minutes later on a power play chance from Gonchar and Sykora. The Penguins were 1 for 2 on the powerplay in the first period, and were outshot by the Devils 14-10.
In the second period, all hell broke loose. Pittsburgh got on the board quickly with a power play goal by Sergei Gonchar at 0:52, from Malkin and Crosby. But shortly after that, the Penguins took 6 consecutive penalties during which they gave up two goals to the Devils. The penalty parade started with Ruutu at 4:37 (hooking), and was followed by Sydor at 6:47 (hooking), Sykora at 7:21 (hooking), Recchi at 9:37 (holding), bench minor at 12:24 (too many men on the ice), and Gonchar at 14:21 (hooking). New Jersey’s Travis Zajac scored twice on the power play while Sydor and Gonchar were in the box. Zajac’s second goal was chipped in while Fleury lay on his back in the net with Brian Gionta largely on top of him. Despite the uproar by Marc Andre Fluery, the Penguins bench and the crowd, the goal was allowed to stand and no penalty was called. To add insult to injury, Malkin scored a beautiful 2 on 0 goal on a pass by Jordan Staal at 12:24 that was disallowed because of a too many men call. No whistle was blown and neither referee appeared to raise his arm before the goal. There were several delays when fans threw items onto the ice to register their displeasure with the officiating. Malkin was rewarded at the end of the period with a 5 on 3 power play goal at 18:42 from Crosby and Gonchar to tie it at 4 going into the third. Despite being shorthanded for most of the second period, the Penguins outshot the Devils 15-11 and went 2 for 3 on the power play in the frame.
In the third, the Devils outshot the Penguins 10-5 and Arron Asham scored the tiebreaking goal at 10:38 to give New Jersey the edge they needed to post the win. Asham scored on a tap-in from the left of the net off a cross the goal mouth pass from Zach Parise. The assist was Parise’s third of he night and he was credited with third star of the game. The first star went to Travis Zajac had two goals. The Devils barely missed the insurance goal on a two-on-one rush of the empty net with less than a minute to go. New Jersey has scored 11 goals in its last two games after netting only seven in its first four.
With the loss, the Penguins are now 2-3-0 on the year. Sergei Gonchar picked up three points on a goal and two assists to earn him the second star of the game, while Evgeni Malkin and Gary Roberts added a goal and assist each for the Penguins. Malkin has registered at least on point in all five games so far this season. Last year, he set a modern day record by being the first rookie since 1917 to score a point in each of his first 6 NHL games. Sidney Crosby picked up two assists.
The Penguins host the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night at 7:30 before hitting the road to play the Capitals on Saturday night in Washington, DC. Yours truly will be at the Caps game with my 10-year old son and plan to take pictures for posting back here on NHLPens.com on Sunday. If you are going to the Caps game, drop me a note at Paul@NHLPens.com! I think there is a fairly large crowd of Pens fans making the trip.