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Thibeault earns first shutout in almost three years as Pens blank Devils 3-0

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Jarkko Ruutu scored a fluky game-winner off a Devils' stick and set up an insurance goal by Erik Christensen as the Penguins won their third straight and for the fifth time in six games (5-0-1). Jordan Staal also scored.

One night after a 5-4 shootout win over Buffalo, Pittsburgh pulled to within four points of the first-place Devils (92) in the Atlantic Division. Both teams have 10 games left in the regular season.

Martin Brodeur made 19 saves for New Jersey, which had a two-game winning streak snapped and missed a chance to tie Buffalo for first overall in the East. The Sabres have a game in hand.

Thibault played a good positional game in posting his first shutout since Oct. 8, 2003, stopping Sergei Brylin and Zach Parise on good chances in the first period and Scott Gomez in close after the centre picked up a loose puck and broke in on the goalie.

John Madden had the Devils' best chance on a short-handed, second-period breakaway after Penguins defenceman Sergei Gonchar fell down at the blue-line in the New Jersey zone. However, Madden's shot went over the crossbar.

Ruutu gave the Penguins the lead with less than three minutes left in the period with a shot from deep in the corner. The shot was probably a pass to Mark Recchi, but it ended up in the net after deflecting off the stick of New Jersey centre Travis Zajac.

Sidney Crosby earned his NHL-leading 104th point on the play with the primary assist.

The Penguins' other goal was well earned. They cycled the puck in the New Jersey end for about 30 seconds before Christensen took a pass from Ruutu in left circle and ripped a shot into the top of the net.

Staal put the game away with 2:36 left, scoring his 28th goal in close after a Devils' turnover.

Crosby's assist came on a tough night. The centre was whacked on the left hand on his first shift, cut on the corner of his mouth after being hit in the face by a pass midway through the second period, and knocked down by Devils defenceman Colin White as the period was ending.

Notes: Devils D Colin White returned after missing two games with a hand injury. ... Devils RW Brian Gionta missed his third straight game and 11th of 13 with a groin injury. ... This was the second game in 17 for Pittsburgh not decided by one goal. ... Penguins rookie Evgeni Malkin assisted on Staal's goal.

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