PITTSBURGH – Talk about tough places to play.
That’s what the Consol Energy Center had been for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first two home games.
They turned that around on Saturday afternoon with an impressive 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils before 18,635.
Sidney Crosby led the way with a goal and assists on the first goals by Brandon Sutter and Robert Bortuzzo as the Penguins had their second consecutive solid game against a quality team.
“It was a great team win,” winger Chris Kunitz said. “When things are going well, we have a great system that opens up a lot of seams.”
The Penguins had lost home games to Toronto and the New York Islanders while compiling an impressive 4-1-0 road record that included an outstanding performance against the Rangers in New York on Thursday.
“There were a couple of frustrating games (here),” Crosby said. “We wanted to make sure we stayed focused and brought the same attitude we had on the road.”
“Getting to our game” is a big phrase in the Penguins’ dressing room, and they did that against the Devils, who hadn’t lost a game in regulation this season.
The Penguins outshot the Devils, 30-16, and accomplished their goal for every game, which is to spend a majority of time in the offensive zone.
In addition to his three points, Crosby had a game-high five shots on goal and won 14 of 21 faceoffs.
Asked if it was his best game of the season, Crosby said “maybe,” then added, “As a group, we all made it easier on each other. Not just our line, but as a five-man group. We definitely had legs but our (defensemen) were a big part of getting up the ice.”
Sutter opened the scoring at 2:27 of the second period. Martin Brodeur stopped a shot, but Crosby and Sutter both batted at the rebound. The goal was originally credited to Crosby, but replays showed that Sutter’s stick knocked it through the sprawling goalie’s pads.
“I’ve had a few chances, but it’s nice to get that monkey off my back,” Sutter said.
Kunitz scored at 9:56 to make it 2-0, but New Jersey’s Andy Greene scored shorthanded at 12:23. He got away from Evgeni Malkin and put a backhander past Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Penguins put the game away in the first half of the third period, scoring three times. They also held New Jersey without a shot for a 10-minute stretch in the third.
Kris Letang controlled a bouncing pass and whipped a shot over Brodeur’s glove at 2:31. Crobsy got his fourth of the season at 7:11, and Bortuzzo took Crosby’s pass and put a 50-foot shot in off a Devils stick for his first goal in eight NHL games.
“There were five pretty big smiles on the ice, and I’m sure mine was the biggest,” Bortuzzo said.
There was finally a lot to smile about for the Penguins at home.
“That’s a good way to play hockey,” Crosby said. “A lot of fun.”
Said New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer, “If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, they can make you look bad.”
Newly-acquired left wing Zach Boychuk played 17 shifts for a total of 12 minutes, all at even strength. He had one shot on goal and three hits. … The game was the first of three in nine days between the Penguins and Devils. … The Penguins (5-3) have scored first in seven of their eight games. … Crosby and Kunitz were plus-4; the Devils’ Ilya Kovalchuk was minus-3. … Crosby has 10 points in his last four games against the Devils. … Tomas Vokoun is scheduled to start in goal at Washington this afternoon. He takes a shutout streak of 101 minutes and eight seconds into the game, and has stopped 44 consecutive shots. … Despite the Capitals’ struggles, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma won’t let the Penguins take today’s game lightly. “They’re a dangerous team to play against and that’s a tough place to play,” Bylsma said.