PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — The Penguins were looking to continue their winning ways as the New Jersey Devils skated into town for a Saturday night game at the CONSOL Energy Center.
By the end, not only had the Pens defeated the Devils 4-1, but Jordan Staal hit a big milestone as he led the way to victory – scoring the 100th goal of his career.
It was Staal’s second goal of the night and was part of a three-goal outburst by the Penguins in a 6:07 span of the third period.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves for the Penguins, who were once again without star Evgeni Malkin but welcomed back Kris Letang following his two-game suspension.
Former Penguin Johan Hedberg had 25 saves for the Devils.
The game wasn’t without some controversy though, and another former Penguin was in the middle of it.
New Jersey’s Petr Sykora, a former Penguins’ forward, was given a double high-sticking penalty 37 seconds into the third, even though television replays clearly showed it was the stick of Patrik Elias that struck Steve Sullivan and drew blood.
Elias scored a short-handed goal 1:10 later to tie the game at 1.
However, the tie didn’t last long as Chris Kunitz restored the Penguins lead just 1:20 later with a power play goal that started the three goal outburst.
Staal’s first goal came while on the power play 6:07 into the game when Richard Park slid him a pass while he was positioned in between three Devils defenders in the left circle.
Staal one-timed a slap shot that might have deflected off the stick of Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov.
Meanwhile, Fleury, who has allowed four goals in his past four games against the Devils, made perhaps his best save late in the first period when he got his pad out to stop Adam Henrique, who skated in alone and went to his backhand.
After a scoreless second period, Elias extended his scoring streak to five games with his second goal off an assist from Ilya Kovalchuk. Elias is the Devils’ career leading scorer against Pittsburgh.
Then came Kunitz’s second of the season – a one-timed slap shot from the top of the right circle on a pass from Letang.
Staal’s second goal of the game came with 15:43 left when he collected the puck on the right wing side, turned it over to his backhand to get past New Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador and flipped the puck past Hedberg.
Then, James Neal continued his streak, scoring for the seventh time in his past seven games with 10:46 left off a pass from Park to give the Pens the 4-1 lead.
The third-period flurry of goals – four in 7:27 – was out of character for these two teams when they play each other. Last season, Pittsburgh and New Jersey combined for 17 regulation goals in the six-game season series. Only once did any team score more than twice in a game.
Malkin missed his fifth game in a row because of soreness in his right knee.