The Devils rode a second period flurry to a 3-2 win over the Penguins

John Marino #6 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
John Marino #6 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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The New Jersey Devils rode two second period goal within two minutes to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night

With both Evgeni Malkin and Teddy Blueger placed on the injured reserve earlier Thursday afternoon, the Penguins’ game against the Devils was already set up for disappointment.

However, that didn’t make the loss any less disappointing when it actually happened.

Aside from the Sidney Crosby line, the Penguins rolled out a couple of fourth lines against the Devils. And that only made it clear that if Geno and Blueger are out for any extended period of time, general manager Ron Hextall will need to make some moves.

When Evan Rodrigues is your second line center, you know you’re going to be in for a long night. Mark Jankowski and Frederick Gaudreau rounded out the center depth, and it’s clear both should be playing in Wilks-Barre this season.

It would be awesome if recently called up Radim Zohorna, a hulking Czech forward from Wilks Barre, would have been given a chance to crack the bottom six. After watching Sam Lafferty and Colton Sceviour over the course of this season, there is absolutely no reason why Zohorna shouldn’t be given a chance to see how his big body impacts the NHL level.

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It would be even better if younger guys like Zohorna and Jordy Bellerive, who are among the leading scorers with the Baby Penguins this season, were given a chance to showcase what they’ve got on the third or fourth lines. It cannot be worse than what was shown Thursday.

One thing is clear though, without Malkin and Blueger, the Penguins are in trouble.

It would probably be best if the Penguins just shook off this loss, throw the tape in the trash and move on to the back-to-back games this weekend against the Devils in PPG Paints Arena.

I suppose it could be worse though… as shown by @dabeastian’s Twitter post.

Some of those lineups in the lost years of Crosby and Malkin’s prime still inspire nightmares…

Tristan Jarry, despite allowing three goals, was actually really, really solid in net. Without him, especially early in the contest, the score could have been much, much worse. But the final box score will not show that.

First Period – 1-0, Devils

After a subpar rookie season for Devils forward Jack Hughes, according to the perceived standards of the first overall pick, there was talk of Hughes — an 18-year-old kid playing in the NHL at the time — being a bust. Fame is a fickle friend,

Harry

Jack.

As a spry 19-year-old, Hughes is showing exactly why the Devils selected him first overall in 2019. So, of course, Hughes opened the scoring Thursday night.

Hughes evaded Rodrigues along the wall, deked around John Marino with ease and sniped an absolute rocket off of Jarry’s mask and into the back of the net for a stunning individual effort — it didn’t help Jarry that Marcus Pettersson was pushing Devils forward Kyle Palmieri into him either.

However, it was a stunning goal from Hughes, who is — again — just 19 years old.

The first period for the Penguins did not go well, with the Devils outshooting the Pens 11-5 early. A Pens’ power play, courtesy of a delay of game from the Devils, resulted in nothing but a Kasperi Kapanen shot off Devils goaltender Scott Wedgewood’s stick.

The Penguins fought back a bit after the unsuccessful power play but were unable to unlock Wedgewood.

Second Period – 3-0, Devils

A faster start to the second period for the Penguins signaled a potential turnaround, including a wild sequence where Wedgewood was basically lying inside his goal while the Pens desperately attempted to fire a shot through the mass of bodies surrounding the goal, but a Bryan Rust hooking penalty gave the Devils the best chance of the period.

On the ensuing power play, Devils defenseman P.K. Subban absolutely unloaded on Jarry, blasting a one-timer from the blueline past Jarry, who was screened in front of the net by Devils forward Miles Wood.

A common theme for the Penguins this season has been clearing the opponent from in front of Jarry or Casey DeSmith. The opposing team often lives directly in front of the Pens’ goaltenders. Wood was directly on top of Jarry, making the chance of a save very, very difficult. 2-0, Devils.

A minute and a half later, Devils defenseman Damon Severson’s shot from the blue line was deflected by teammate Travis Zajac past Jarry — who shockingly found some space in front of the goal. 3-0, Devils. Yikes.

Not long after the third Devils’ goal, Jersey created another scoring chance, which would have resulted in a 4-0 lead if Cody Ceci hadn’t been in position to block the would-be goal. Man, Ceci has been a diamond in the rough.

The period was beginning to get out of hand for the Penguins, and if not for a late power play chance, the third period may have begun in a 3-0 deficit.

With seconds left in the period, 12.5 to be exact, Jake Guentzel parked himself in front of the Devils’ net and managed to get his stick on a Kris Letang shot, deflecting it past Wedgewood to get the Pens on the board. 3-1, Devils. But there was a chance for the No. 1 comeback team in the NHL this season.

It was a pretty poor period from the Penguins, BUT a power play goal when it was a must-score chance was nice. If only that was more frequent this season.

Third Period – 3-2, Devils

The Penguins pushed harder in the third period, but with a two goal deficit, the Pens were unable to actually generate much offense until Jarry was pulled with around two minutes remaining.

The Penguins and Devils both put 11 shots on goal in the period, but it was only the Pens who put a puck in the back of the net. Although, it didn’t happen until there were less than five seconds remaining in the game.

With Jarry on the bench, Crosby won an offensive zone faceoff and Brandon Tanev played it up the boards to Letang. Letang played the puck into the zone along the boards, Rust gloved it down and skated into the slot. A lightning release from Rust beat Wedgewood, but it was too little, too late for the Pens. A 3-2 final score was cemented four seconds later.

With back-to-back regulation losses, the Penguins’ lead over the Boston Bruins in the East division has crumbled to just one point. And the Bruins have two games in hand.

A tough outcome for the Pens, but they will have two more cracks at the Devils this weekend in Pittsburgh — with a bit than 12 hours of turnaround for a 1:00 p.m. puck drop. AT&T SportsNet will provide the local coverage and ESPN+ will provide the national coverage.

Next. Read up on how Kasperi Kapanen has helped Evgeni Malkin break a slump this season. dark

It was a tough game for the Penguins, so how do you hope they bounce back on Saturday? What roster moves would you make ahead of the game?