The battle for the top spot in the Atlantic Division landed in Newark Monday night as the Penguins visited their rivals, the New Jersey Devils. Seeking their first win against the Penguins on home ice, the Devils welcomed the return of Jay Pandolfo who had missed the last 28 games with a groin injury he sustained on November 28, 2007.
With their captain Sidney Crosby out with a high ankle sprain, the Penguins have had to rely on Evgeni Malkin, Ryan Malone, Petr Sykora and Jordan Staal to step up their play. What appeared to be a Penguins’ victory in the first 40 minutes of Monday night’s contest, the Devils took the 3-1 advantage away and came back in the final period to push the game into overtime and win it 4-3 with a wrist-shot from Zach Parise just 37 seconds into the extra session.
At 15:41 into the first period, David Clarkson and Ryan Malone tried to spark up some heat on the ice as the two scrapped, but it wasn’t enough to pick up the play of their teammates as both headed to the penalty box for a five-minute major for fighting. The first period remained scoreless as Ty Conklin stopped six shots on goal and Martin Brodeur stopped ten.
In the second period, at 2:26, Malone, on his knees in front of the net, pushed the puck past Brodeur with a backhanded shot during the man advantage and scored the first goal of the game for the Penguins, his 15th of the season. At 11:50, former Devils’ sniper Sykora landed his 600th career NHL point against his former club as he sent a wrist-shot towards the net off of a pass from Malkin, which caromed off of Vitaly Vishnevski and over Brodeur’s shoulder, his 17th of the season. With just 41.7 seconds left in the period, Jamie Langenbrunner was finally able to tally the Devils’ first goal of the game, a power play goal, with a backhanded wrist-shot on Conklin.
In the third stanza, Jordan Staal delivered a wrist-shot through the traffic in front of Brodeur to notch the third Penguins’ goal at 4:30, a power play goal, his seventh goal of the season. Patrik Elias shortened the Devils deficit by one goal at 9:37 when his shot on net deflected off of Chris Letang, who had bumped into Conklin preventing him from protecting the net, giving Elias his 16th goal of the season. Clarkson tied it up at 11:21 with a backhanded goal, his seventh goal of the season.
In overtime, Zach Parise netted the game winner with just 37 seconds in, assisted by Elias and Brodeur. Parise had two assists, and the game deciding goal for a total of three points in the contest. Elias also had a goal and two assists to add to his ten point streak (6G, 4A) in the last six games.
During the All-Star break, Devils’ back-up goalie, Kevin Weekes spent the weekend getting married in his hometown of Toronto.
On Friday night, former Devils’ player Scott Gomez scored his 500th career NHL point against the New Jersey Devils. Just three days later, another former Devils’ player, Petr Sykora, notched his 600th career NHL point against the Devils. Both players started off their NHL careers as a Devil, including scoring their first NHL point as a Devil. For Sykora, he notched his 600th career point as a Pittsburgh Penguin, a team he scored his first point against as a New Jersey Devil.
The Devils head to Buffalo for their Wednesday night match-up against the Sabres and will play against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night on home ice. The Devils, Penguins and Flyers are all currently tied for first place in the Atlantic Division.