The Pittsburgh Penguins traveled to New Jersey and shutout the Devils 2-0 on Tuesday night to clinch a spot in the playoffs and extend their lead over the New Jersey Devils for the Atlantic Division title to 4-points. The Devils have a game in hand against the Penguins. The Penguins are just 1-point behind the Montreal Canadiens for the Eastern Conference lead with 5-games remaining for both teams. Marc-Andre Fleury was 1st star of the game as he stopped all 31-shots, including 16 in the final period, for his 4th shutout of the season and 11th of his career.
In the 1st period, the Penguins took advantage of a Patrik Elias interference penalty to make it 1-0. Ryan Malone beat Martin Brodeur with a quick release as Brodeur pushed off from the post to notch his 27th goal of the season. Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney picked up the assists on the play. The Penguins were outshot 9-7 in the period, were 1-for-1 on the man advantage and 1-for-1 on the penalty kill.
The 2nd period started out with 2-minutes of 4-on-4 as Brooks Orpik and Dainus Zubrus picked up coincidental cross-checking minors at the 20-minute mark of the 1st period. The only other infraction called in the peirod was at 15:26 when Ryan Malone took a tripping penalty. The Penguins managed to kill off the penalty and keep the game at 1-0 through 2-periods, and outshot the Devils 7-6 in the period. It looked as if the Devils tied it midway through the period on a goal by Sheldon Brookbank, but the goal was waived off by the officials as incidental contact by Arron Asham prevented Marc-Andre Fleury from making a play on the shot. The Devils’ bench argued the call, but the replay confirmed that the referee had made the right call.
In the 3rd, the Devils poured on the pressure and outshot the Penguins 16-6. Marc-Andre Fleury was equal to the task, however, as he turned aside every shot, including a few excellent chances. Both teams were 0-for-1 on the powerplay as Geroges Laraque took a tripping call and the Devils took a bench minor for too many men on the ice. In the end, the Penguins capitalized on the empty net as Marian Hossa put up his 28th of the season to put the game out of reach at 19:18. Marc-Andre Fleury held on for the shutout despite being peppered with shots.
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Evgeni Malkin failed to record a point, but was part of the play on the Malone goal. Alexander Ovechkin picked up a point in Carolina tonight to extend his NHL scoring lead to 5-points over Malkin. The Penguins played yet another game without Sidney Crosby as he remained sidelined with remnants of the high ankle sprain. The Penguins expect him back soon, however. Red hot Pascal Dupuis has missed the last 2-games to be with his family as his wife has just given birth to a new daughter.
The win gave the Penguins the advantage in the season series against the Devils and guarantees that the Penguins will win a tie-breaker should both teams end the season with an equal number of points and wins. The Penguins head back to Pittsburgh to host the New York Islanders on Thursday night and then the New York Rangers on Sunday. The Penguins will be looking for a better performance against the New York Islanders than they put forth on Monday night. The Islanders, out of a playoff spot, are playing for pride and could spoil the Penguins’ ambitions for Division and Conference titles.