Home NHL The NJ Devils Clips The Penguins At The Rock

The NJ Devils Clips The Penguins At The Rock

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Photo Credit:Rich Graessle/Getty Images

Newark, N.J. — Mackenzie Blackwood was expected to start but was scratched thirty-minutes before the game. The Devils reported the absence was not COVID-19 related.

Even without their starting goalie Blackwood and point scoring leader, the Devils held off the Penguins in a 3-2 victory on Thursday at Prudential Center in New Jersey.

This was the first of eight games with Pittsburgh this season and the first since last year’s season finale – a game that ultimately cost New Jersey a spot in the playoffs, so the Devils had something to prove.

Scott Wedgewood made 40 saves, Jack Hughes had a goal and an assist. The Devils will be back at the Rock on Saturday for the second of three straight games against each other.

P.K. Subban and Travis Zajac also scored, and the Devils got their second straight win at home following a losing streak of 11 games (0-10-1) in Newark.

“I thought our guys did a great job,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “Obviously, we faced some adversity and lost a couple of key players, we got a big effort out of a lot of guys that allowed us to win the game and get off to a great start.”

Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust scored for Pittsburgh, and Tristan Jarry made 32 saves. Pittsburgh lost its second straight.

“We need to be better obviously,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We didn’t get the result we wanted. It’s not good enough. We need to be better as a group. Will take a look at our team and see what kind of adjustments we make from here.”

NJ Devils center Jack Hughes opened the scoring with a sharp-angled wrister at 10:02 of the first. It was his seventh goal of the season, matching his total from his rookie season. Ty Smith and Kyle Palmieri assisted on the goal.

The Devils came back with Subban who got his third goal of the season with a scorching slap shot at 8:42 of the second period to give NJ a 2-0 lead. P.K. extended his point streak to three games. Hughes and Jesper Bratt assisted on the power-play score.

“We need to be better obviously,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We didn’t get the result we wanted. It’s not good enough. We need to be better as a group. Will take a look at our team and see what kind of adjustments we make from here.”

Photo Credit: Rich Graessle/Getty Images

Zajac pushed the Devils’ lead to three goals 1:37 after Subban’s goal. Devils defenseman Damon Severson sent a wrist shot from the point toward the net that Zajac glided past Jarry. Zajac has collected seven points (1 goal, 6 assists) in the previous six contests.

“That’s a high-powered team and skilled team, that was one of our best efforts,” Wedgewood said. “The guys did a great job, it was fun to watch. Obviously in the third period, they did it to a ‘T.’ It’s a big win for us against a high-skilled team and that’s something we need to look at, learn from and understand that’s how you are going to win in this league.”

Penguins left winger Jake Guentzel spoiled Wedgewood’s shutout  in the final minute of the second period. Prior to Guentzel power-play goal, NJ successfully killed off 16 straight penalties over the past five games. Kris Letang and Kasperi Kapanen assisted on the play.

“We didn’t really like too much of the first,” Guentzel said. “We pushed in the second and third but sometimes you can’t spot them that many goals. Good thing about the schedule, we get them Saturday and Sunday, so we got to be ready next time.”

The Penguins outshot the Devils 22 to 13 in the second period.

Pittsburgh Bryan Rust pulled the Penguins within a goal at 19:55 of the third period but the Devils played stellar defense to close the game out.

With the latest victory, the Devils (10-13-4) have now won back-to-back games after losing nine of their previous 10 games.

“All year on the power play we’ve had good looks,” Subban said. “The puck just didn’t bounce our way a couple times, especially early in the season. We’re just trying to play with confidence, play loose, and not be so stagnant.”