-Jaromir Jagr is back in town tonight. We all know his history here. He's still the second greatest player in the franchise' history arguably. The way he left the Penguins and almost came back to the Penguins still stings for a lot of people, including those within the team's management structure.
-He'll get booed by a ton of people tonight, many of whom never saw him play a game live for this team across the street at the Civic Arena. They just act on reflex. When Jagr touches the puck, "BOOOOOOO!!!!"
-Part of that dynamic is what he can still do with the puck at his age. He's still a very dangerous player. He is no longer a 100-point threat. He's probably more of a 20-goal, 60-point guy at this stage of his career. He's still a legitimate top-line winger. It's a testament to his dedication of his craft that he can still be this productive and valuable of a player at 42.
-Could he ever end up in a Penguins' jersey again? If you asked us before this past offseason, we would have said never. He appeared to burn that bridge with former general manager Ray Shero when he and his agent, Petr Svoboda, jerked the Penguins around, and ultimately signed with the Penguins in the 2011 offseason. On the day the Penguins announced they had pulled back their offer and signed Steve Sullivan instead, Shero held a press conference and made a decided effort to point out that he himself, had no personal history with Jagr. SHero had done quite a bit to court Jagr. He had former Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek, a fellow Czech, extend a formal offer to attend a reunion of the 1991 Stanley Cup championship and to feel out Jagr's intentions during the IIHF World Championship tournament. Shero also extended an offer to Jagr well before the start of free agency. Mostly due to the actions of Svoboda, Shero was left with a sour taste from the experience and made it known he wanted little to do with Jagr, even in the 2012 offseason when Jagr was a free agent again.
-Shero was fired this offseason and replaced by Jim Rutherford. It appears Rutherford doesn't have the same autonomy as Shero enjoyed. Considering how assistant coach Rick Tocchet, a friend of owner Mario Lemieux, was virtually hired before Mike Johnston even came into the picture as head coach, it wouldn't be impossible to imagine the Penguins pursuing Jagr again once he becomes a free agent next offseason.
-Jagr always says he plans on playing on until he's 50, and he appears to be at least semi-serious with that claim. It's hard to imagine the Penguins, minus Shero, not kicking his tires assuming he's still able-bodied.
-If nothing else, we just want to keep using this picture:
-We saw broadcaster Phil Bourque have a friendly, in-depth conversation with Jagr today after the morning skate. Bourque was one of Jagr's first regular linemates along with Jiri Hrdina back in 1990-91. There hasn't been much of a relationship between Jagr and Bourque over the past decade so it was nice to see them enjoy each others' company today.
-It's still strange to think of the Devils without hall of fame goaltender Martin Brodeur. How long has it been since the Penguins played Devils minus Brodeur on the active NHL roster? The last game these two teams played sans Brodeur was a 6-6 tie, April 14, 1993. That game snapped the Penguins' 17-game winning streak, a mark which still stands as an NHL record. Joe Mullen had to score with 1:06 left in regulation to even force a tie for the Penguins.
-Some pregame sights. The barn:
-Mullen has a fan present:
-These Christian Ehrhoff fans aren't quite ready to commit to a full-blown jersey yet:
-There are a few Devils fans here. Brodeur:
-And Jagr "Snoop-Dogg" Penguins:
-And the rare Jagr early 1990's Penguins/1991-92 All-Star Game duo:
-An even rarer Dustin Jeffrey Wilkes-Barre/Scranton/Arron Asham pairing:
-Devils forward Tuomo Ruutu's brother, Jarkko Ruutu is represented:
-There are not one but two (!) separate fans of former Penguins/Devils forward Alexei Ponikarovsky on hand:
-Jersey of the Night: This is easy. Olli Maatta:
-The Penguins' starting lineup is Steve Downie, Nick Spaling, Brandon Sutter, Olli Maatta, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their only scratch is Robert Bortuzzo.
-The Devils' startings lineup is Jaromir Jagr, Travis Zajac, Dainius Zubrus, Andy Greene, Damon Severson and Cory Schneider.
-There seemed to be a concentrated effort from Jagr fans to out-cheer the boos when he was announced as a starter.
-Their scratches are Mike Cammalleri and Adam Larsson.
-No Jimerson. No photo.
19:51: That didn't take lone. Zajac hits Zubrus with a pass above the left circle and Zubrus rips a pedestrian wrister over the glove hand of Fleury on the far side. That may have hit he stick of Letang who was trying to maintain a gap. Either way, it's a pretty rotten start. Zajac and Jagr get assists. Fire Craig Patrick. Devils 1-0.
19:30: Spaling chucks a wrister from the left circle on net. Schneider fights it off.
19:05: A wrister by Sidney Crosby is denied by Schneider.
17:54: In deep on the right wing, Despres lifts a wrister from the right circle. Schneider eats it up.
17:31: Jagr carries the puck through the neutral zone and is booed for the first time tonight.
17:25: Zajac booms a slapper off the right wing which is blocked wide by the stick of Maatta.
16:37: A heavy wrister by Zach Sill from above the left circle is kicked out by Schneider.
15:40: A one-timer by Despre from the top of the slot is blocked by Reid Boucher.
14:50: Off a faceoff win in the left circle of the Devils' zone, Dupuis leans down and rips a shot on net. Schneider kicks it out.
12:43: The Penguins get it back. Afte rSchneider fumbles a puck behind his own net, he turns it over to a hustling Dupuis in the left wing corner. Dupuis immediately shuffles it to Comeau in the left circle and Comeau swats it into the open cage as Schneider is out of position. It wasn't pretty but it counts. Dupuis gets the only assists. Devils 1, Penguins 1.
11:58: Martin cranks a shot from the right point which hits a body in front. There's a scramble in front of the rebound but no one in a black jersey can get a stick on it.
11:44: Martin cranks a one-timer from the right point wide to the far side.
12:24: Damon Severson booms a slapper from the right point which is blocked.
10:13: Zajac rips a wrister from the slot. Fleury fights it off. There's a scramble for it and the Penguins managed to clear it out of the crease.
8:23: Damien Brunner tries to curl and drag the puck around Malkin at the Penguins' left half wall but loses it on a nice poke check by Malkin.
6:51; Gelinas rips a wrister from above the left circle through traffic. Fleury kicks it out.
6:31: The Devils will get the first power play as Downie is nabbed for holding Zubrus in the Penguins' right corner. That's two minutes. Adams, Goc, Scuderi and Martin take the ice.
5:48: Marek Zidlicky cranks a slapper form the left cirlce off the near post.
5:44: Zidlicky cranks a one-timer from the left circle wide on the near side.
4:31: Downie's minor is killed. The Devils had a few chances there but nothing sustained. That was the team's 16th consecutive successful penalty kill.
3:44: Michael Ryder chucks a wrister on net from the high slot. Fleury punches it out of play with a blocker.
1:17: After Despres knocks down Patirk Elias at the Penguins blue line, Brunner has two chances in tight to the right of the cage. No dice. Despres is called for tripping.
0:00: End of game. Devils 1, Penguins 1.
-That was a display of bad goaltending and boring hockey. Yuck.
-After that early, leaky goal by Fleury. the Penguins managed to mount a little bit of a sustained attack and kind of forced Schneider into a mistake which led to a goal. Beyond that, neither team generated many quality chances.
-The Penguins' penalty kill is still looking pretty sharp.
-The Penguins have a 9-8 edge in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 14-13 edge in attempted shots.
-Gelinas and Martin each lead the game with two shots on net.
-Severson leads the game with 9:05 of ice time.
-Letang leads the Penguins with 7:43 of ice time.
-The Penguins have an 8-7 lead in faceoffs (53 percent).
-Malkin is 4 for 8 (50 percent).
-Zajac is 3 for 5 (60 percent).
-No one has more than one blocked shot.
-An EN reader found a Jocelyn Thibault fan:
20:00: The Devils will have 47 seconds of power-play time on fresh ice.
19:17: The Penguins snuff out that power play. Seventeen straigt.
19:10: And the Penguins get their own power play. Zajac tripped up Kunitz in the neutral zone. That's two minutes for holding. Crosby, Kunitz, Hornqvist, Letang and Malkin take the ice.
19:01: Crosby deals a little pass from the left half wall to the crease. Hornqvist is there but can't get a clean handle on it.
18:32: Crosby, Kunitz and Hornqvist each have a chance in the crease but can't punch a puck behind Schneider.
18:04: Malkin tries to carry the puck in on the left wing and is dropped by Stephen Gionta.
17:48: The Devils take a lead. Malkin fumbles a puck at the center point and Jacob Josefsen is able to walk in from the New Jersey blue line on a breakaway. Josefsen glides in, he goes backhand and lift the puck over Fleury's left leg. Oof. As the teams line up for the next faceoff, officials review that scramble near the net with Crosby, Hornqvist and Kunitz. A replay appears to show the puck going over the line but it's not clear. A lengthy review takes place. Officials conclude there was no conclusive evidence of the Penguins goal being score. We can't argue. The replay was limited. The Josefsen goal is unassisted. Devils 2-1.
17:30: Maatta lifts a wrister from the left wing. Schneider snags it.
17:10: Zajac's minor expires. The Penguins looked flat there.
16:10: Comeau chases down a puck behind the Devils' net, swoops around and deals a pass to Spaling in the slot. Spaling chops a puck which is blocked wide.
14:57: Downie chucks a wrister on net from the high slot. Schneider fights it off.
14:46: The Devil make it a two goal game. Giotna snaps off a tricky wrister from above the right circle. to the far side. Fleury kicks out a bad rebound to his right. Tuomo Ruutu crashes in and punches it behind a scrambling Fleury. That was a nice pass-off-pads by Gionta but Fleury can't spit out a rebound like that. Gionta and Greene get assist. Devils 3-1.
13:04: Sill slams Elias to the ice with a hit near the Penguins' benches. The exchange a few words.
12:39: The Penguins get a chance to get a goal back. Severson held up Malkin on the left wing wall of the Penguins' zone. That's two minutes. Malkin, Letang, Crosby, Kunitz and Hornqvist take the ice.
12:29: Hornqvist and Kunitz have a chance in tight but neither can get a clean shot off.
11:57: Malkin whacks a slapper from the left point. It hits something in front and is smothered by Schneider.
11:15: A big chance here for the Penguins as Devils are called for too many men on the ice. Boucher will serve the minor. The Penguins will have a two-man advantage for 36 seconds. A goal here is a must. Kunitz, Crosby, Hornqvist, Malkin and Letang take the ice.
11:04: The Penguins take full advantage. Hornqvist deals a pass from the left of the cage to Malkin above the left circle. Malkin leans down and uncorks a one-timer which blows by the glove hand of Schneider on the far side. The Penguins will still have 1:49 of a one-man advantage to work with. Hornqvist and Letang get assists. Devils 3-2.
9:42: A wrister by Malkin from the left circle is wide on the near side.
9:10: Kunitz chops a slapper from the left circle. Schneider kicks it out. Hornqvist digs at the rebound but no dice.
8:25: Zidlicky booms a slapper form the left point wide on the near side.
7:35: A wrister by Severson from the left point is blocked by Downie.
7:18: The Penguins tie the game on another leaky goal. Despres collects a turnove by the Devils' in the Penguins' zone, turns around and fires a pass up the left wing to Hornqvist all alone on the left wing. Hornqvist streaks up the boards and snaps off a knuckle puck by the left shoulder of Schneider on the near side. Wow! What a composed, smart play by Despres to recognize the Devils' line change and set up Hornqvist. He gets the only assists. Devils 3, Penguins 3.
4:38: Greene chucks a wrister from the left point. Fleury kicks it out.
4:32: The Devils gets a power play s Adams is called boarding Josefsen in the Penguins' right wing corner. Josefson didn't exactly put up a ton of resistance. Dupuis, SUdder, Maatta and Letang take the ice.
3:10: Zidlicky chucks a wrister from the center point wide of the cage.
2:25: Craig. Adams. Goal. Scorer. Wow. Adams' minor expires and he races out of the box. Sutter taps a pass from the Penguins' blue line and Adams get behind John Merrill. Adams goes backhand/forehand/backhand/forehand and lifts a shot by the glove hand of Scheinder. Offense from an unlikely source. Sutter gets the only assist. Penguins 4-3.
1:11: The Penguins are back with a vengeance. Despres races up the left wing, gains the offensvie zone and pulls up. He chucks a puck from the left point into a cluster of bodies. It rattles around and bounces to Crosby to the left of the cage. Crosby pokes it by the blocker of a hapless Schneider. What a turnaround. Kunitz and Despres get assists. Penguins 5-3.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 5, Devils 3.
-Talk about a quick turn of events. Things looked really bleak after that Ruutu goal. The Penguins took full advantage of their two-man advantage and turned the momentum.
-Neither goaltender has been that sharp. This has the feel of a "next save wins."
-Despres is having one heck of a game. With Maatta scheduled to miss time in the upcoming weeks, they'll need to rely on him more than ever.
-The Penguins lead in shots on net, 23-13.
-The Penguins lead in attempted shots, 34-29.
-Crosby leads the game in shots on net with five.
-Gelinas, Josefsen and Gionta each lead the Devils with two shots.
-Letang leads the game with 17:09 of ice time.
-Greene leads the Devils with 16:06 of ice time.
-The Penguins have a 22-13 lead in faceoffs (63 pecent).
-Crosby is 9 for 10 (90 percent).
-Zajac is 5 for 10 (50 percent).
20:00: Scott Clemmensen will take over in net for Schneider.
19:46: A wrister by Elias off the left wing is fought off by Fleury.
16:19: Sutter drives to the net off the left wing and is hog-tied by Bryce Salvador. That's two minutes for holding. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Hornqvist and Letang take the ice.
15:10: Greene steals a stretch pass by Greene at the New Jersey blue line. He races up the left wing and has a wrister blocked out of play.
14:31: The J.V. power play strikes. Deep on the left wing, Downie is able to feed a pass to Dpuis in the left circle. Dupuis settls the puck and rips it by Clemmensen on the near side. What a pass by Downie. He set that up by stealing it off of Greene, a normally reliable player with the puck. Downie and Maatta get assists. Penguins 6-3.
14:01: Gelinas chucks a wrister from the left points. Fleury fights it off despite a screen by Elias.
12:36: Zubrus tries to chip and chase a puck by Letang at the Penguins' blue line but is dropped on a hip check by Letang.
11:55: A one-timer by Ehrhoff from the left point is blocked.
11:18: After icing the puck, the Penguins call timeout to get a breather.
10:59: Brunner rips a wrister from the left circle wide to the far side.
9:46: Off a feed by Zubrus, Salvador booms a one-timer from the left point. Fleury snags it with a glove hand.
9:21: Kunitz battles for the puck on the left wing wall of the Devils' zone and is tripped up by Ruutu. That's two minutes. Crosby, Kunitz, Hornqvist, Malkin and Letang take the ice.
8:11: The hole gets deeper for the Penguins. The Deivls are nabbed for too many men on the ice. The Penguins will get a two man advantage for 49 seconds. Crosby, Malkin, Hornqvist, Letang and Kunitz take the ice.
7:22: A one-timer by Letang from the left circle is blocked as Ruutu return to the ice.
6:13: The Penguins cash in just before the bench minor expires. Downie crashes in on a rebound goal from the left of the cage. Comeau and Sutter get assists. It's Downie's first goal with the Penguins. Steelers 7, Giants 3.
4:35: Michael Ryder sweeps a puck from the right of the cage wide of the crease.
3:20: The rout is on. Crosby lugs the puck into the offensive zone and cranks a blast of a slapper from above the left circle by Clemmensen's blocker on the near side. Yikes. The goal is unassisted. Steelers convert the two-point play. Steelers 8-3.
2:56: Another power play for the Penguins. Ryder is called for holding Maatta. The ninth grade power play of Goc, Sill, Adams, Martin and Scuderi take the ice. That's a good move by the Penguins. It shows respect by not running the score up.
0:56: The Ryder minor expires.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 8, Devils 3.
-That was not a typical Penguins-Devils game we've become accustomed to the past two decades or so. You don't usually see the equivalent of a touchdown with a two-point conversation scored by one of the teams in Devils games. At least you didn't used to.
-Cory Schneider is no Martin Brodeur and he's not the leaky goaltender we saw today. He will have much better games than he had tonight. But he was just brutal in this game. Many of the goals he allowed would require a plumber to stop the leaks. The Devils had no chance with how Schneider played tonight.
-Marc-Andre Fleury appeared to be playing almost as poorly as Schneider, at least early on, but tightened things up as the game wore on. He didn't really earn this win, but he did more than enough to record it.
-Special teams were huge for the Penguins. The goal by Evgeni Malkin on the five-on-three power play in the second period really turned momentum for the Penguins. The Penguins finished 3 for 7 on the power play, albeit while allowing an ugly short-handed goal, and wiped out all three Devils power plays they faced tonight.
-The Penguins' penalty kill has now successfully killed 18 consecutive chances.
-The Devils' didn't display a ton of discipline, even from their coach. They were nabbed for a too many men minor as well as a bench minor for abuse of an official. Peter DeBoer did not help his team tonight.
-True, with an eight-goal outburst, everyone was bound to contribute, but the Penguins got offense from members of all four of their lines tonight. This was truly the first game where they got balance scoring from the forwards.
-A continuing theme with the Penguins under Mike Johnston that has carried over from Dan Bylsma is the hot/cold nature of the power play. When they don't score, they look impotent with the man advantage. When they do score, it's usually a work of precision.
-He only had two assists, but Simon Despres played a whale of game tonight. He just looks so confident when he takes the ice. Everything is under control for him. He showed some flashes of this last season but the lack of trust from the coaching staff, the roster makeup and his contract status made it difficult to keep him at the NHL level. Now, he looks like he is truly living up tot his status as a first-round pick.
-Blake Comeau continues to show he can play in a top-six role. After a 20-goal season in 2010-11 with the Islanders, he sort of roamed the NHL looking for a set role with the Islanders, Flames and Blue Jackets. The Penguins can certainly do better than him when looking for a second-line winger, but he's more than capable of filling in for the time being.
-Steve Downie joked after today's morning skate that he wanted to score a goal off his face. One off his stick will have to suffice. His goal had little consequence in the final result, but for him, getting a score with the Penguins was important. He now has four points in his last four games.
-Sidney Crosby had two goals and now leads the NHL in scoring with 14 points. Ho-hum.
-Craig Adams ended up scoring the game-winning goal on a breakaway out of the penalty box. That was his first game-winner since scoring in a 1-0 home win against the Islanders, Jan. 25, 2011. Dustin Jeffrey and Arron Asham each got assists.
-Schneider wasn't terribly impressed by the goal:
"I think it was rolling towards the end there and I think he completely fanned on it to be honest. He made a move and I think he got just under it and just fluttered it by. … You try to make that save but I don’t think he made the shot he wanted to."
-Relatively few of the Devils had anything approaching a game for notable reasons in a positive sense. Travis Zajac was not sharp at all. He had a turnover which led to Adams' goal.
-This is the first we've been able to see Damon Severson, a rookie defenseman. He was pretty sharp and looks like a real NHL talent.
-The Penguins led in shots on net, 33-19.
-The Penguins led in attempted shots, 50-41.
-Crosby led the game with six shots.
-Eric Gelinas led the Devils with four shots.
-Kris Letang led the game with 26:31 of ice time.
-Andy Greene led the Devils with 22:29 of ice time.
-The Penguins led in faceoffs, 33-22 (60 percent).
-Crosby was 12 for 16 (75 percent).
-Zajac was 6 for 13 (46 percent).
-Stephen Gionta led the game with three blocked shots.
-Olli Maatta, Despres and Letang each led the Penguins with two blocked shots.
-Christian Ehrhoff appeared in his 700th career game.
-Downie became the 474th player to score a regular season goal for the Penguins.