The injury-riddled Pittsburgh Penguins continued their strong play without several key players as they came from behind twice to roll over the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Tuesday night. With Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Gary Roberts, Mark Eaton, Colby Armstrong and Tyler Kennedy all out of the lineup, the Penguins got some much needed offensive production from Ryan Malone (2G), Erik Christensen (1G, 1A), Jordan Staal (1G), Maxime Talbot (2A) and Petr Sykora (2A) to beat the Devils and edge them in the standings. The win advances the Penguins record to 2-1-1 since Sidney Crosby left the lineup with a high-ankle sprain, and keeps them just 1-point out of the Atlantic Division lead behind the surging Philadelphia Flyers. Despite the injury and illness depleted roster, the Penguins have gone 8-2-2 in January and recorded 18 of 24 possible points on the month so far.
In the 1st period, the Penguins came out ready to play and had the Devils on their heels for the early part of the period. However, Jordan Staal took a high-sticking penalty at 6:56 and the Devils capitalized with just 2 seconds left on the man-advantage to go up 1-0. Mike Rupp put a wrist-shot past Ty Conklin for the power-play goal. Assists were credited to Dainius Zubrus and Patrik Elias. The Penguins killed off their second penalty of the period, an interference call against Jarkko Ruutu at 17:30. The Devils outshot the Penguins 11-8 in the first and were 1-for-2 on the power-play. The Penguins had no man-advantage play in the period.
In the 2nd, the Penguins rebounded early on a goal by Jordan Staal at 1:26, his 6th of the season to make it 1-1. Staal walked the puck out from behind the goal line and was the beneficiary of a lucky bounce as the puck bounced off a Devils player and between the legs of Martin Brodeur. Maxime Talbot and Erik Christensen picked up the assists. At 13:49, the Devils got a lucky bounce of their own as Mike Rupp got his 2nd of the night (and the season) as he threw the puck towards the net just after the faceoff in the Penguins zone. The puck hit Laraque’s stick and then deflected down off from Kennedy’s chest surprising and beating Ty Conklin. Rod Pelley, who had won the faceoff, was credited with the assits. But the Penguins scored less than a minute later to tie it up 2-2, as Max Talbot and Erik Christensen broke up a routine clearing attempt by the Devils. Maxime Talbot picked up the puck on a botched behind-net pass by the Devils, and threw it to Christensen in front of the net. Christensen used a nifty backhand shovel to beat Martin Brodeur as he moved across the goal mouth. Then, less than 2-minutes later, Ryan Malone netted his 12th of the season to put the Penguins up 3-2. Petr Sykora and Evgeni Malkin picked up the assists on the play. The Penguins outshot the Devils 10-9 in the 2nd, and were 0-for-2 on the powerplay. The Penguins managed to stay out of the penalty box in the period.
In the 3rd, the Penguins power-play cashed in with a goal at 5:21 as Sergeio Brylin sat for a hooking call. Ryan Malone picked up his 2nd of the night to give the Penguins a more comfortable 2-goal lead. Petr Sykora and Sergei Gonchar got the assists. The Penguins outshot the Devils 9-5 in the 3rd, and were 1-for-2 on the powerplay. The Penguins killed off their only penalty of the period, a slashing call to Maxime Talbot. The penalty to Talbot shortened their 2nd power play and provided some 4-on-4 hockey. Despite pulling Martin Brodeur for the final 1:16, neither team was able to score again. Ty Conklin made 23-saves and picked up his 11th win to advance his record to 11-2-2.
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The Penguins travel to Atlanta to take on the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday night, and will be looking to pick up their 20th point of the month to pass the Flyers and regain the Atlantic Division lead.