When the final buzzer rang, Paul Martin could look into the stands and get the last laugh.
The former Devil, who signed a five-year, $25 million deal with Pittsburgh on July 1, recorded a goal and an assist as the Penguins defeated the Devils, 3-1, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
Martin, who was booed every time he touched the puck, said he enjoyed the experience.
“It was good,” he said to Tom Gulitti. “It was a good win. We hadn’t won, yet, same as them. There was a lot of emotion coming into tonight’s game, which I expected. But you can expect one thing and once you go through it, it’s always a little different. To get the boos and all that kind of stuff was something you expect, but until you’re out there it’s a little different.”
Alex Goligoski opened the game’s scoring, putting the Penguins ahead, 1-0, at 18:56 of the first period. Ilya Kovalchuk skated the puck out of his defensive zone and met pressure near the blue line. Goligoski caused a turnover and skated the puck into the zone. He blasted a slapshot from the top of the right circle, beating Martin Brodeur over the glove for his second goal of the season.
Mark Letestu increased the lead, putting the Penguins ahead, 2-0, with a powerplay goal just 2:32 into the second period. With Patrik Elias in the box for tripping, the Penguins moved the puck to Martin at the point. Martin sent a pass cross-ice to Kris Letang, who fired a shot to the front of the net. The puck hit Letestu in the back of the leg and went in off of Henrik Tallinder’s pad for Letestu’s first goal of the season.
Tallinder said it was bad luck on the second goal.
“It bounces off one leg and then off my shinpad,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Elias brought the Devils to within one at 8:20 of the third period. Jason Arnott won a faceoff in the Penguins zone, and passed the puck back to Elias. The left-winger one-timed the pass, putting the shot over Brent Johnson’s glove for his first goal of the season.
But the Devils couldn’t capitalize on their chances, as Johnson continued to stone them. The Penguins goalie made 13 saves in the third period, helping his team cling to the 2-1 lead.
Johnson stopped 31 shots in the victory. Brodeur made 28 saves in the loss.
Martin iced the victory, putting in an empty-net goal with 10.9 seconds remaining in the third. With Brodeur on the bench, the Devils controlled the puck in the offensive zone. But it skipped out, and with the defenseman pinching, the Penguins broke in on a 2-on-0. Martin kept the puck and put it into the net for his first goal of the season.
After the game, Martin admitted feeling guilty that he didn’t set up teammate Craig Adams for the goal.
“I felt bad after when selfishly I put it in instead of sliding it across,” said the ex-Devil. “The puck was rolling, but I still should have flipped it across. to Adams. I think I just got caught up in wanting to make sure I put it in. But I felt bad afterward.”
With the loss, the Devils move to 0-2-1 on the season. They travel to Buffalo on Wednesday, still searching for their first victory of the season.