Clarkson Leads Devs to Home-and-Home Sweep

New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer implored his team to get greedy and sweep their weekend series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The message hit home with David Clarkson.

The Devils right wing scored two goals to lead the Devils past the Penguins, 3-1, tonight at the CONSOL Energy Center. The win was the fifth straight for New Jersey, who solidified their position at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Ilya Kovalchuk also scored for the Devils (8-1-3), who set the franchise record for the most points through its first 12 games in team history.

The loss dropped Pittsburgh to 8-5-0. After winning five straight games, the Penguins have lost its last two games.

New Jersey took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission despite a sluggish period. They put only four shots on net – tying a season-low for a Pittsburgh opponent – but struck first on Clarkson’s eighth goal of the season. Adam Henrique started the play, chipping the puck out of the defensive zone to Clarkson. The right wing went on a 2-on-1 rush with Patrik Elias, working past Derek Engelland and letting go a shot from the slot. He beat Tomas Vokoun high to the glove to give the Devils a lead.

The Devils stretched the lead to 2-0 at the 11:27 mark of the second period. Rookie Stefan Matteau chipped the puck past Paul Martin in his own end, sending Kovalchuk on a 2-on-1. He moved into the left circle, firing a shot through the legs of Vokoun for his fourth goal of the season.

Clarkson struck again less than two minutes later, netting his second of the game on the power play. Marek Zidlicky started the play, feeding Elias a pass at the right point. His shot from the point hit Vokoun, with the rebound landing to the right of the Penguins goalie. Clarkson, parked on the crease, tapped it into the net for his ninth goal of the season.

His multi-goal performance, the second of the season, tied Clarkson with Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks and Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks for second in the league in goals. He trails Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek, who leads the league with 11 goals.

Johan Hedberg, the former Penguin, stopped 23 of 24 shots. In his three starts, Hedberg is 2-0-1 and has allowed just two goals on 74 shots.

James Neal broke the shutout just 15 seconds into the third period, scoring a power-play goal to cut the deficit to 3-1.

Since losing to Pittsburgh nine days ago, New Jersey has outscored it’s opponents, 13-4. That 5-1 loss still stands as the Devils only regulation loss this season.

New Jersey returns to the Prudential Center Tuesday night to face the Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils remain just one of two teams in the league without a regulation loss on home ice.

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