Pittsburgh Penguins Embrace Entertainment Factor In Win Over Devils


Oct 28, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates after scoring a goal against New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider (lower left) during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils and the concept of entertainment have had a strictly accidental relationship over the past two decades, but Tuesday night was a definite exception.

After falling behind 3-1 in the second period, the Pittsburgh Penguins poured on seven consecutive goals to bury New Jersey and chase new No. 1 goalie Cory Schneider. It was the first time the Pens (5-2-1, 11 points) had scored eight goals against the Devils since 1991.

Every season is different, and these aren’t your older brother’s Devils, but New Jersey remains a strong defensive squad. Last season, despite missing the playoffs, Peter DeBoer’s squad allowed the fewest shot attempts in the league, and it wasn’t close.

But Tuesday night wasn’t about sound hockey, especially on the visitors’ side. It surely wasn’t about good goaltending, with roughly one out of every five shots finding its way into a net.

If Martin Brodeur was watching from his living room, he probably laughed and flipped over to the World Series. Marc-Andre Fleury, coming off a shutout of Nashville on Saturday, had maybe his worst game of an uninspiring early-season stretch, allowing three goals on just 19 shots.

However, the win over New Jersey put a lot of Pittsburgh’s good qualities on display. Chief among those is the power play, which continues to click along at a terrifying pace. After a 3-for-7 performance Tuesday, the Pens have converted 13 of 32 opportunities with assistant coach Rick Tocchet guiding the man-advantage unit.

The top line of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist was superb, combining for three goals, two assists and a huge edge over the competition in generating shot attempts. At even strength, that trio essentially made the difference, as they were easily on the positive side of puck possession.

Pittsburgh’s 5-on-5 play could still use some work, as New Jersey actually won the shot-attempt battle 33-30 with both sides at full strength. All of that was shoved to the background after a four-goal eruption late in the second period, but it’s still an area that could use some improvement.

I’m not sure Blake Comeau is a long-term option on Evgeni Malkin‘s wing, although it’s accepted that general manager Jim Rutherford will be looking for upgrades via the trade market in due time. I’m also wondering about Christian Ehrhoff‘s role with the team and how the defense corps will shake out with Olli Maatta recovering from his upcoming surgery.

In the end, though, Tuesday night wasn’t about the long term. It was about entertaining hockey, which shouldn’t have been expected with the usually-stingy Devils in town.

Sometimes hockey can’t be contained or controlled. That may raise the blood pressure of coaches, but the Penguins are positioned to win the helter-skelter games more than most, simply because of their high-end offensive talent.