PITTSBURGH (AP) — Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby scored
power-play goals and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended one of the
best homestands in franchise history, twice scoring two goals in
a matter of seconds against Martin Brodeur during a 6-1 rout of
the skidding New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.
Brodeur and the Devils extended a late-season slump (0-5-1) that
is jeopardizing their high playoff seeding. Brodeur had allowed
six goals against the Penguins only once previously, on March
11, 2006, in Pittsburgh during a 6-3 Penguins victory.
Brodeur, the NHL career victories leader who will be honored at
home during a ceremony Friday night, hasn’t won in six starts
since going 9-1 following his return from a biceps injury.
Pittsburgh scored early and often in this one, a rare rout of
their longtime rivals. Matt Cooke and Bill Guerin scored 36
seconds apart in the first period to make it 2-0, and Crosby and
Jordan Staal made the game one-sided by scoring in a 13-second
span of the second, making it 5-1.
Brodeur is 33-24 with four ties against Pittsburgh.
The Penguins finished 6-1-1 during the longest homestand in
franchise history, improving to 13-1-2 since Feb. 25, when they
were in danger of missing the playoffs. Now, they are tied in
points with Philadelphia for the fourth spot and home-ice
advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Devils were pushing Boston for first place in the conference
before their slide, which has dropped them three points behind
second-place Washington. The Devils have been outscored 22-7
during a slump that caused coach Brent Sutter to tell his
players “the foot is down … enough’s enough” during an
extended team meeting Tuesday.
Malkin’s goal, his 34th, came on a hard wrist shot from the
right circle late in the first with Devils players in front and
back of him and gave him a NHL-high 108 points. Some fans in the
106th consecutive sellout crowd at Mellon Arena began chanting
Crosby’s 30th goal was only his second on the power play in 56
games, a deflection of Kris Letang’s shot from the left circle.
Crosby also had an assist, giving him 99 points for the season.
The game between division rivals that could meet in the playoffs
had the chippiness of a postseason game.
In the first period, the Devils’ Dainius Zubrus charged across
the ice to attempt to level defenseman Brooks Orpik after Orpik
put his stick out and tripped Zubrus as he skated up ice. Orpik
drew interference and roughing penalties, and Zubrus was called
Crosby and New Jersey’s Bobby Holik exchanged words as the teams
left the ice at the end of the second period, and Pittsburgh’s
Hal Gill and the Devils’ David Clarkson also got into a verbal
exchange. Sutter drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Clarkson and the 38-year-old Guerin traded punches in the third
Notes: Pittsburgh is 15-2-3 under interim coach Dan Bylsma and
12-2-1 in its last 15 at home. … The teams split their
six-game season series, with Pittsburgh losing once in overtime.
… New Jersey hadn’t lost six in a row since November 2000. …
Crosby has scored at least one point in 16 consecutive games,
although the NHL recognizes it as only as 12-game streak because
he was injured for four games.