Pens Avoid Being Swept by Devils

Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bjugstad, center, celebrates his first period goal with Jake Guentzel (59) and Dominik Simon (12), of the Czech Republic, during an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


AP Sports Writer

NEWARK, N.J. — The Pittsburgh Penguins seem to be getting their act together for a playoff push and one clear sign of that is finally finding a way to beat the New Jersey Devils.

Bryan Rust scored a tiebreaking goal midway through the second period and the Penguins avoided the embarrassment of being swept by the lowly Devils with a 4-3 victory on Tuesday night.

“Even last year, it was kind of the same way,” said Zach Aston-Reese, who scored for the Penguins along with Chad Ruhwedel and Nick Bjugstad. “They had our number. It’s nice to get that one, especially going down the stretch to the playoffs. Those are important wins.”

Coupled with Montreal’s win over Columbus, the Penguins moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division. They have now won four of the last five games in their bid to make the playoffs for the 13th straight year. The streak is the longest active playoff run in the NHL.

Penguins coach Steve Sullivan said his team was really good in the second period when it scored twice to take a 4-2 lead.

“I think at this time of the year guys are playing so hard that the games are so tight,” he said. “We need everybody to have the juice. We need to play the game the way we want to play it. so I thought our second period was really strong, but thought the guys played hard all night.”

Matt Murray made 33 saves, including 15 in the third period, to help the Penguins salvage the final game in the four-game season series.

“New Jersey always plays us really well,” Ruhwedel said. “They come out hard but that second period was really good by us. We were in the offensive zone a lot. Guys were moving their feet. It was fun to be part of.”

Jesper Bratt, Marcus Johansson and Miles Wood scored for the Devils, who had a two-game winning streak snapped. Keith Kinkaid had 24 saves in losing to the Penguins for the first time in four games this season.

“It could be the story of the season, we don’t play a full 60 (minutes),” Kinkaid said. “I don’t think their shots were too harmful, like I said a crazy curve on the fourth one and I have to find a way to squeeze that third one. I didn’t see it right away. It’s one me I have to come up with the big save. I think we played well enough to win.”

Rust broke a 2-all tie at 10:45 with a shot from the inside of the right circle after a great rush up the ice by Jake Guentzel. Kinkaid got a piece of the shot but the puck squirted through his pads and rolled into the net.

Ruhwedel, who just returned to the lineup after sitting out since Nov. 19, got his first of the season and what proved to be the game-winner on a shot from the point that found the top corner of the net with 2 1/2 minutes to go in the second.

Wood closed the gap to a goal with 4:50 to play on a slow shot that somehow got under Murray’s stick.

The Devils twice took one-goal leads in the first period only to see the Penguins tie the game.

Bratt scored for the second straight game to put New Jersey ahead early. Crosby extended his points scoring streak to six games by setting up Aston-Reese in front four minutes later to tie the score.

Johansson restored the lead when he stripped the puck from Phil Kessel in the Penguins zone and beat Murray with a backhander up high. Bjugstad scored on a power play with 1:36 left in the period for his second goal since being acquired from Florida on Feb. 1.

NOTES: The Devils gave the first 9,000 fans in attendance a David Puddy bobblehead. He’s the Seinfeld television show character portrayed by Patrick Warburton, who painted his face in Devils’ colors in an episode and shouted “We’re the Devils.” … Travis Zajac appeared in his 900th game with the Devils. … Penguins Matt Cullen will tie Phil Housley for third most games (1,495) by an American-born player the next time he takes the ice. … The Devils activated F Blake Coleman off injured reserve and assigned F Nick Lappin to Binghamton (AHL).


Penguins: Return home to host San Jose on Thursday night.

Devils: End a three-game homestand against Ottawa on Thursday night.


SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Jonathan Huberdeau had two goals and an assist to lead the Florida Panthers to a win over the Buffalo Sabres.

Aleksander Barkov had a goal and two assists, Jayce Hawryluk also scored and Frank Vatrano had two assists for the Panthers. James Reimer made 32 saves in his third straight start. The Panthers won their third straight and are 9-4-0 in their past 13 games.

Jack Eichel and Vladimir Sobotka scored for the Sabres and Linus Ullmark stopped 37 shots. Buffalo has lost three straight games.


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — J.T. Miller had a goal and an assist, and the Tampa Bay Lightning used a fast start to win their seventh straight, beating the Philadelphia Flyers.

Alex Killorn, Mikhail Sergachev and Yanni Gourde also scored, and Ryan McDonagh added an empty-netter for Tampa Bay (46-11-4, 96 points), which entered 15 points ahead of Calgary for the most in the league. The Lightning were 16 points clear of Boston, the Eastern Conference’s next-best team, beginning Tuesday.


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Vladislav Namestikov scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period, giving the New York Rangers a win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Connor Brickley also scored for the Rangers, who earned a split of a four-game road trip and handed the Hurricanes just their third loss this month. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 43 shots to get his 17th win of the season.


MONTREAL (AP) — Tomas Tatar scored in the third period to lift the Montreal Canadiens over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The victory was Montreal’s first since Feb. 4 and ended a four-game skid. Paul Byron and Max Domi also scored, and Carey Price made 31 saves.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 29 shots, and Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno scored for Columbus.


ST. LOUIS (AP) — Ryan O’Reilly scored 34 seconds into overtime and the St. Louis Blues beat the Toronto Maple Leafs for their franchise-record 11th straight win.

Jaden Schwartz and Colton Parayko also scored and Tyler Bozak had two assists for the Blues. Jordan Binnington made 29 saves to win his ninth straight, extending the longest winning streak in franchise history for a rookie goaltender.

Zach Hyman and Auston Matthews scored third-period goals as the Maple Leafs erased a 2-0 deficit. Frederik Anderson made 38 saves.


DALLAS (AP) — Roman Josi scored the go-ahead goal with 12:25 to play and added an empty-netter to lift the Nashville Predators over the Dallas Stars.

Josi skated from behind the net into the slot, and his wrist shot hit defenseman Esa Lindell’s skate and popped over goalie Anton Khudobin.


ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Ryan Miller made 31 saves for his 44th career shutout as the Anaheim Ducks beat the Minnesota Wild.

Jakob Silfverberg, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Hampus Lindholm scored to help Anaheim get its third win in four games.

Miller got his second win in two starts since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for 24 games. His latest came two days after he set the all-time wins record for a U.S.-born goalie with a victory over Washington. He now has 376 for his career.

Devan Dubnyk finished with 20 saves in Minnesota’s fifth straight loss. The Wild have been shut out in consecutive games for the first time all season and haven’t scored in the last 156 minutes.


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