PITTSBURGH – The New Jersey Devils’ road winning streak keeps going on and on. Or exactly how an unaccustomed run of losing feels to the beaten-up Pittsburgh Penguins.
Niclas Bergfors had a goal and two assists and the Devils closed within a victory of tying the NHL record of 10 consecutive road victories to start a season, beating the slumping Penguins 4-1 on Thursday night.
Zach Parise added a goal and an assist, Travis Zajac had three assists and Martin Brodeur made 25 saves as New Jersey improved to 9-0 on the road. The Devils can tie the road streak record, set by Buffalo in 2006-07, Monday in Philadelphia.
“Honestly, I don’t even pay attention to that record,” said Bryce Salvador, who had an assist. “We’re just really trying to be consistent. We’re hoping the road play starts rubbing off at home and we’ll start a good streak there, too.”
New Jersey, 4-4 at home, won its seventh in a row overall and, with 26 points, tied idle Washington for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby ended a career-worst five-game scoreless streak by assisting on Ruslan Fedotenko’s goal in the first period, but still had a frustrating night as the Stanley Cup champions lost their fourth in a row.
With the Penguins down 3-1 midway through the third, Crosby put a backhander off the left post and a wrist shot off the right post seconds apart during a failed power play – Pittsburgh’s 25th in a row. Crosby then trimmed a minute off the power play by taking a holding penalty.
“Two posts was not easy (to take) right now,” Crosby said. “It’s a matter of time. That’s how hockey works, it’s not always fair and it doesn’t always seem like it’s right. I thought there were some chances to be had and some goals to be had.”
Just not by the Penguins on the power play.
They haven’t scored with the man advantage since star Evgeni Malkin left the lineup Oct. 29 with a strained right shoulder, one of six injured players currently out of their lineup. Last season’s scoring champion took part in the morning skate and could return as early as Saturday against Boston.
New Jersey took a 2-1 lead late in the second after Pittsburgh’s Bill Guerin went off for interference. Andy Greene’s one-timer from the centre point banked off Penguins rookie defenceman Ben Lovejoy, who was called up from the minors earlier in the day, and eluded goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Zajac and Bergfors both assisted.
“We were fortunate to get out of the first period down one,” Zajac said. “I think Marty kept us in the game. We didn’t do a good job making plays, we turned the puck over a lot. That said, we got one on the power play and went from there.”
Fleury is 2-6 after beginning the season 8-0. He has lost four in a row for the first time since Dec. 27-Jan. 5, and the Penguins are 12-7 after starting 12-3.
“We got used to winning, so it’s frustrating to get those losses,” Fleury said.
The Penguins started the third period on the power play after Zajac drew a holding period to end the second but they couldn’t convert, and Parise scored his ninth of the season with 4:43 gone.
Pittsburgh’s Jay McKee couldn’t control the puck near mid-ice, allowing Zajac to hit Parise in stride as he skated in from the left circle. Parise has six goals and seven assists in nine road games, the kind of production that’s allowing New Jersey to withstand injuries to Rob Niedermayer, Paul Martin, Johnny Oduya, Jay Pandolfo and Dean McAmmond.
“I don’t know what it is, we’re just playing well,” Parise said.
The Penguins, who have never been shut out in three consecutive games, ended a scoreless streak of 160 minutes, 41 seconds when Fedotenko scored during a scramble in the crease at 11:32 of the first. Crosby started the play with a backhander from along the goal line. The Penguins’ scoreless streak record is 170 minutes, 27 seconds.
The Devils, who also won 4-1 in Pittsburgh on Oct. 24, tied it at 1 when Parise grabbed the puck during a scramble along the left wing boards and fed it to Bergfors in the slot for his fifth.
David Clarkson scored for the second night in a row, into an empty net with two seconds remaining.
NOTES: Penguins D Brooks Orpik is expected to be out for about two weeks with an undisclosed injury that occurred during a collision along the end boards with Bruins D Mark Stuart on Tuesday. … Brodeur remains one shutout away from tying Terry Sawchuk’s league record of 103. … Pittsburgh won its first seven on the road, only to drop the final three of a four-game trip that ended in Boston.