Pittsburgh Penguins sweep New Jersey Devils, clinch second in Metro Division

By Jim Cerny, The Sports Xchange
Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bonino (13) skates into position for a face-off. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bonino (13) skates into position for a face-off. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

NEWARK, N.J. -- In a game that featured 11 goal-scorers and 25 players who recorded at least one point, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the New Jersey Devils 7-4 on Thursday night at the Prudential Center to clinch second place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Penguins (50-19-11) won their fourth straight contest, and they wrapped up home-ice advantage in their first-round playoff matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who lost to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.


"To secure home-ice advantage is a great accomplishment for our team," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "We are encouraged by it. I think it's big for us, it's important."

Pittsburgh also swept their five-game season series with New Jersey.

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Nick Bonino scored a power-play goal and added two assists for the Penguins while Jake Guentzel had a goal and an assist, and Sidney Crosby contributed two helpers. Pittsburgh received at least one point from 16 of its 18 skaters.


"Any time you get contributions throughout your lineup like that it certainly increases your chances of winning games, and I think it's a sign of a real competitive hockey team," Sullivan said.

Penguins goaltender Matt Murray stopped 34 shots, while his counterpart Cory Schneider finished with 21 saves for the Devils (28-38-14), who won only three games since Feb. 19.

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"Tonight, on the offensive side we did some pretty good things, but we left (Schneider) out to dry," said New Jersey's Kyle Palmieri who scored a goal and contributed the 100th assist of his NHL career. "Five or six of those were back-door tap-ins (by Pittsburgh). He had no chance, and you can't do that."

The scoring binge started in a fluky way when Pittsburgh's Carter Rowney knocked a puck off his own goaltender and over the goal line 4:59 into the game, with New Jersey's Stefan Noesen credited with his eighth goal.

Bryan Rust and Guentzel answered back with goals at 14:24 and 17:07 of the first to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead.

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"I don't think we played very well, it was kind of a sloppy game at times, but responding and winning was big for us," said Guentzel, who has scored in four straight games.


Ten seconds into the second period, Devils defenseman John Moore wired his 11th goal past Murray to even the score. Three minutes later, the Penguins built a two-goal lead as Josh Archibald scored his third goal in eight games at 2:09 and Conor Sheary buried his 23rd after Crosby dished a pass between his legs at 3:05.

"He just sees the game on another level," Sullivan said of Crosby, who has 88 points in 74 games this season. "We marvel at what he does on a nightly basis."

New Jersey's Taylor Hall scored a power play goal at 5:34 of the second, and Pittsburgh's Patric Hornqvist replied on the power play two minutes later.

Palmieri's team-high 26th goal 1:24 before the second intermission gave the Devils renewed hope as they entered the third period trailing 5-4.

However, Matt Cullen scored short-handed 1:56 into the final period, and Bonino added Pittsburgh's second power play goal of the contest at 16:53 to put the game away.

"We didn't give (Schneider) a chance," Devils captain Andy Greene said. "But (the Penguins) are a very competitive team, and I don't know if they get enough credit for that. They work extremely hard and their skill takes over after that."


NOTES: Devils LW Taylor Hall reached the 20-goal mark for the fifth time in his career. ... Devils C Jacob Josefson returned from a 17-game injury absence and assisted on Stefan Noesen's game-opening goal. ... The Devils scratched RW Devante Smith-Pelly (lower body), LW Joseph Blandisi, D Steven Santini, D Dalton Prout, and LW Luke Gazdic. ... Penguins D Trevor Daley returned after missing 20 games with a knee injury. ... The Penguins scratched C Evgeni Malkin (hand), LW Chris Kunitz (lower body), LW Carl Hagelin (lower body), LW Tom Sestito (upper body), D Mark Streit, and D Cameron Gaunce.

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