Jarkko Ruutu scored twice to lead the Penguins to a 5-4 victory over New Jersey on Friday to move to within five points of the Atlantic Division-leading Devils with a game in hand. Rob Scuderi, Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby also scored for Pittsburgh, which has won five straight and picked up at least one point in 15 straight games, winning 13 of them.
“They played outstanding,” New Jersey’s Scott Gomez said. “They’re the real deal.
“As good a run as we’ve had, Pittsburgh has had an even better one.”
The young Penguins know the division title is within reach, if they can maintain the pace.
“We do play them three more times, so the possibility is there,” Crosby said. “Right now, we’re concentrating on getting points.
“It’s not good for our mind-set to think about anything else.”
Brian Rafalski, Patrik Elias, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac scored for the Devils, who had won 10 of their previous 14.
The Penguins drained the drama from the showdown by jumping out a 3-0 lead in the first period on goals by Ruutu, Scuderi and Staal.
“We were hungry to start the game,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “We set the tone.
“When you get out to a lead like we did in the first period, you put yourself in good position to win the game.”
Ruutu got it started when he deflected Josef Melichar’s point shot past goalie Martin Brodeur at 3:02.
Scuderi, set up by Melichar, scored at 5:19 from the right point.
Staal got Pittsburgh’s third goal of the period with 2:06 remaining, jamming a shot from the slot past Brodeur.
Both teams scored twice in the second.
Rafalski got his third goal in the last two games at 7:29. Crosby countered for Pittsburgh, ending his eight-game goal-scoring drought with a power-play tally at 10:27 to give the Penguins a 4-1 lead.
Elias scored for the Devils at 12:32 before Ruutu got his second of the game with 3:08 remaining to put Pittsburgh up 5-2.
New Jersey scored twice in the third period to trim Pittsburgh’s lead to 5-4. Parise scored on the power play at 2:38 and Zajac fired a shot from just inside the blue line that hit Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove and went into the net at 8:50.
Fleury was sharp in the final seconds when the Devils pulled Brodeur for an extra attacker. Fleury turned aside several threats, including an excellent shot by Zajac, as the Devils pressed for the tying goal.
Notes: The Devils and Penguins next play Feb. 27 in Pittsburgh . . . The Devils traded LW Alexander Korolyuk back to the San Jose Sharks on Friday for a third-round pick in the 2007 NHL draft. Korolyuk has been playing this season for a team in Russia. The Devils had acquired Korolyuk on Oct. 1 from the Sharks . . . Devils C John Madden returned after missing one game with a facial laceration and had a protective cage mask attached to his helmet. D Colin White (upper body injury) and RW Brian Gionta (groin) sat out for New Jersey . . . The Penguins have scored four or more goals in regulation in each game of their winning streak.