Fourth-line center Brian Boyle scored the winning goal and recorded an assist for the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 4-2 road victory against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
The triumph extended the Penguins’ winning streak to three games and pushed them into first place of the Metropolitan Division with a 30-11-8 record and 68 points.
After a scoreless first period, the Devils struck first, 7 minutes, 2 seconds into the middle frame. Driving the puck into the offensive zone on the right wing, Devils forward Pavel Zacha tapped a backhand pass from the half wall to linemate Yegor Sharangovich above the right circle. Turning to his left, Sharangovich fed the puck to Devils forward Jack Hughes, all alone above the left circle. From inside the left dot, Hughes lifted a wrister that beat goaltender Tristan Jarry’s blocker on the near side for his 13th goal of the season. Sharangovich and Zacha had assists.
The Penguins tied the score, 1-1, at 13:16 of the second period. From his own left corner, Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler forced an ill-advised backhand pass that was intercepted by Boyle in the left circle. From there, Boyle fired a wrister that was partially blocked by Devils forward Jimmy Vesey. The rebound hit off the right corner boards and caromed to the right point, where Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel corralled it and shuffled a pass to the center point for defensive partner Mike Matheson. Surveying for a shooting lane, Matheson found it and wired a slapper past goaltender Jon Gilles glove for his seventh goal. Ruhwedel and Boyle collected assists.
Penguins forward Bryan Rust gave his team a 2-1 lead 36 seconds into the third period. Just after a power-play opportunity expired, Penguins defenseman Kris Letang swiped a one-timer pass from the right point of the offensive zone. From the right of the cage, Rust deflected the puck with his forehand over the left shoulder of Gillies on the near side. It was Rust’s 17th goal of the season and extended his goal-scoring streak to five games, a new career high. Assists went to Letang and forward Sidney Crosby.
Things were tied again, 2-2, at the 2:51 mark of the third thanks to a bit of luck. Off a give-and-go sequence with linemate Tomas Tatar, Devils forward Nico Hischier released a wrister from above the Penguins’ left circle. The puck glanced off the left skate of Letang, positioned in the slot, then pinballed off the right post into Jarry’s left skate and into the cage. Tatar was credited with his 13th goal.
Boyle, a one-time member of the Devils, restored a lead for the Penguins, 3-2, at 6:58 of the third. Pushing the puck up the right wing of the offensive zone, Matheson pulled up at the half wall and retreated to the point, where he chucked a wrister toward the cage. Gillies made the initial save but kicked out a rebound above the crease. Boyle outmuscled Devils defenseman Ty Smith for possession and chopped a forehand shot past Gillie’s right leg for his sixth goal. Matheson recorded the only assist.
An empty-net goal by Penguins forward Jake Guentzel — his 24th of the season — secured victory at 18:53 of the third. Rust and Crosby tallied assists.
Jarry made 28 saves on 30 shots and improved his record to 25-8-6.
Notes: Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup after missing two games while in the NHL’s protocols for covid-19. … Malkin drew a penalty for the first time this season at 2:19 of the second period when he was tripped by Devils defenseman Colton White. … Ruhwedel played in his 45th game of the season, a new career high. … The Penguins scored an empty-net goal for the third consecutive game. … Guentzel’s goal was the Penguins’ league-leading 14th empty-net goal of the season. They set the franchise record of 16 last season in only 56 games. … The Penguins scratched defenseman Mark Friedman and forward Radim Zohorna. … Hughes returned to the lineup after missing three games while in the league’s covid-19 protocols.