The New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle it out in their third straight game after winning one apiece. The Penguins will be the home team at PPG Paints Arena for the matinee match-up. Lindy Ruff was unhappy with the Devils’ effort in their Saturday game and believes his team deserved the outcome. New Jersey’s powerplay in the mini-series versus the Penguins is 1 for 5 while their penalty kill is 2 for 4. Scott Wedgewood earned the first two starts versus the Penguins after Mackenzie Blackwood suffered a minor upper-body injury. Blackwood will start for the Devils and go against Tristian Jarry. Nikita Gusev will be a healthy scratch and replaced by Michael McLeod.
The Devils began the game extremely fast-paced and energetic. New Jersey tallied four shots in the first two and a half minutes of the game. Yegor Sharangovich ripped one off of the post in the first thirty seconds. Soon after, the Penguins score off of an amazing feed from Jake Guentzel to Sidney Crosby 3:37 into the first. After the opening five minutes, both teams traded a couple of shots and played a fast-paced game. The Devils had multiple grade-A scoring chances by all of their lines but were not able to put them in the net. New Jersey’s first period was significantly better than their previous first period on Saturday. The Devils played the better period than the Penguins and led in shots 12-10 and scoring chances. The Devils notched 13 scoring chances, with six of them being high-danger chances. Yet, the Devils head into the second period down by one.
New Jersey kept up their fast play and fired shot after shot on Jarry. The Devils earned a powerplay after their sustained pressure with Zach Aston-Reese took a slashing penalty. The powerplay failed to convert but registered three scoring chances and Jesper Bratt was robbed by Jarry on a pass across from Pavel Zacha. Soon after the end of the powerplay, the Devils put together a fantastic shift with multiple scoring chances. Sami Vatanen finished the sequence with a rocket that got past Jarry and tied the game. P.K. Subban and Dmitry Kulikov took back-to-back interference penalties, but the penalty kill was able to kill off both chances. Mike Matheson was called for holding on Kyle Palmieri but the Devils would not be able to convert on their chances. The period ended with the Devils leading in shots 26-23.
Contrary to the first two periods, the start of the third was slower and settled down the pace. Halfway through the period, both teams registered five shots on the net. A shot by Damon Severson was centimeters from going in but was wide with 5:30 left to go in the third period. Both teams were trading great scoring chances but were kept in the game by their goaltenders. Blackwood was able to make a game-saving save against Kris Letang with two minutes left in the game. Regulation ended with the Penguins leading in shots on goal 34-33.
The Penguins took control of the first minute of overtime. Jesper Bratt gets a breakaway chance but is not able to get a shot off. Not long after, Zacha and Bratt create some space in the offensive zone and Bratt takes an opening for a wraparound to net the game-winner! Both teams had two shots in overtime for a game total of 35 for the Devils and 36 for the Penguins.
The Devils’ compete level and effort were noticeably better in their third game against the Penguins in comparison to their second. In three games versus the strong and experienced Penguins, the Devils were able to stay in each game and had a shot at winning. The Devils were able to outwork the Penguins in their first and third game. Scott Wedgewood has shown that he is a very stable back-up and can even compete for a starting spot if Blackwood is not playing well. The young Devils team was able to compete in most periods against the Penguins and showed strong bounce-back ability. New Jersey takes four out of six possible points versus Pittsburgh. In their most recent play, the Devils have started to look closer to the strong team that started the season. This game against the Penguins marks the halfway point to the Devils season.