PITTSBURGH, Pa. – David Clarkson is well on his way to proving his 30-goal season last season for the New Jersey Devils was no fluke.
Clarkson scored two goals to help the Devils beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 for the second time in as many days and extend their season-high winning streak to five games Sunday. Clarkson is tied for the second-most goals in the National Hockey League with nine in 12 games.
“I think the big thing right now is this team is winning,” Clarkson said. “It doesn’t matter who’s scoring. The puck’s going in, but it doesn’t matter who it is. We’re doing good things.”
Ilya Kovalchuk also scored for the Devils, who ended the Penguins’ five-game winning streak in the first installment of the home-and-home series on Saturday. Johan Hedberg made 23 saves as the former Penguins goalie won his first game in five starts in Pittsburgh as a member of the visiting team (1-4-1).
Tomas Vokoun made 20 saves in his first start at home and James Neal scored Pittsburgh’s only goal 15 seconds into the third period while on the power play. Sidney Crosby, who saw his season-long six-game point streak end Saturday, was held without a point for the second-straight game.
After the game, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma noted a change in what the Devils are doing now compared to what has made them successful in the past.
“I think this team may be different than what’s traditionally talked about with the Devils,” Bylsma said. “We had some scoring chances, we had some opportunities, but the thing they did really well was played in the offensive zone and extended shifts in the offensive zone. … They did a good job of taking away opportunities for us to get things going by playing in the offensive zone, and we spent a lot of our energy playing defence.”
The Penguins allowed a season-low four shots on goal in the first period, but Clarkson scored his eighth goal on a 2-on-1 with Patrik Elias to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead at 13:06. The Devils are now 7-0-1 this season when scoring first.
The Penguins got their first power play of the game almost immediately after Clarkson’s goal then another before the period was over, but could not even the score heading into the second.
Kovalchuk made it 2-0 for New Jersey at 11:27 of the second period, again on a 2-on-1, and the Devils got their first power play of the game less than a minute later when Neal was called for cross-checking at 12:09.
At 13:20, Clarkson scored his second of the game to make it 3-0 for New Jersey. With Kovalchuk set up for a one-timer in the left circle, Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik cheated away from the net toward Kovalchuk and left Clarkson all alone to knock in the rebound of a shot from Elias.
That was the only power play the Devils had the entire game, compared to 10 Pittsburgh penalties the game before. The Penguins were 1 for 3 on the man-advantage and outshot the Devils 24-23. Hedberg made 15 saves on 15 shots through the first two periods.
“They came out pretty strong in the first and we weathered that storm,” Hedberg said. “The second and third we were really, really strong. We got the second and third goal and they didn’t create much after that.”
NOTES: The Penguins were without defenceman Kris Letang (three games) and Matt Niskanen (eight games), who are both out with lower body injuries. … Matt Cooke appeared in his 900th NHL game, more than any other player on the Penguins. … The Devils were without Dainius Zubrus, who missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury. … Penguins defenceman Robert Bortuzzo and Devils centre Ryan Carter fought 4 seconds into the game. … The Penguins announced their 259th straight sellout with an attendance of 18,658.