(AP) – Winless starts have produced different issues for New Jersey and Pittsburgh, with the Devils struggling to stop anything and the Penguins searching for a breakout offensive effort.
Facing New Jersey probably isn’t the best way for Pittsburgh to get untracked.
Martin Brodeur and the Devils allowed only five goals during a six-game sweep of the Penguins last season, a run of defensive dominance they hope to continue in Monday’s meeting at the Prudential Center.
New Jersey (0-1-1) was the NHL’s stingiest team in 2009-10 behind Brodeur, who posted a 2.24 goals-against average and led the league with 76 starts and 45 victories.
The winningest goaltender in league history is still searching for his first this season, however. The Devils blew a 2-0 lead in their opener against Dallas on Friday, falling 4-3 in overtime, and led 2-1 after the first period Saturday only to lose 7-2 at Washington as Brodeur was chased after two periods.
“Those nights are going to happen,” captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. “It’s a little shocking to happen tonight. … We played a solid first period and a solid start to the second, and then just got away from it a little bit.”
Brodeur has allowed nine goals in 101 minutes, a 5.31 GAA.
The Penguins (0-2-0), meanwhile, have yet to find much of a home-ice advantage at the brand new Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh dropped its opener 3-2 against Philadelphia on Thursday, then blew a lead late in the third period Saturday against Montreal, surrendering goals 24 seconds apart in another 3-2 loss.
“We let it slip away, that’s basically what happened,” captain Sidney Crosby said after his team went 0 for 6 on the power play. “We didn’t put the game away. We had a lead and had some real good chances.”
Pittsburgh finished two points behind the Atlantic Division-winning Devils last season, and a look at the series makes it easy to see how one result could have changed that. New Jersey outscored the Penguins 22-5 in capturing all six head-to-head meetings, winning each by at least two goals and shutting out Pittsburgh’s power play (0 for 21).
The Devils scored less than five minutes into three of the last four meetings.
“Early on they got leads, or a power-play goal and we did not react well,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “The last few games, the games were close and tight, but we weren’t able to keep our emotions in focus and it took us off our game for periods of times in those games.”
Bylsma wouldn’t say whether he’ll start Marc-Andre Fleury or backup Brent Johnson in net Monday. Fleury played the first two games, making 24 saves in each.
Whichever goaltender starts will have Paul Martin in front of him, as the 29-year-old defenseman returns to New Jersey for the first time in a visiting uniform. Martin played his first six NHL seasons with the Devils before signing with Pittsburgh in the offseason, and he’s chipped in an assist in each game thus far.
Brodeur will start for the Devils after being replaced by Johan Hedberg on Saturday, but the team in front of him will be shorthanded. New Jersey is only carrying 20 players on its roster because of salary cap concerns, and three could be missing Monday.
Winger Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond definitely won’t play after earning a one-game suspension for instigating a fight Saturday, and defenseman Anton Volchenkov (broken nose) and left wing Brian Rolston (lower-body injury) may not play after sitting out Sunday’s practice.