PITTSBURGH (AP) — Nico Hischier had two goals and two assists, Vitek Vanecek made 29 saves and the New Jersey Devils breezed past the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 on Saturday.
Dawson Mercer had a goal and an assist for New Jersey. Jesper Bratt and Dougie Hamilton also scored for the Devils, while All-Star center Jack Hughes had two assists in his return from a lower-body injury as New Jersey improved to an NHL-best 21-4-3 on the road.
Evgeni Malkin scored twice for Pittsburgh to reach the 20-goal plateau. Dustin Tokarski stopped 38 shots but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Penguins lost for the third time in four games.
Less than 24 hours after squandering a pair of two-goal leads in a loss to the New York Islanders, the Penguins looked a step behind the younger, fresher Devils.
Malkin gave Pittsburgh an early jolt when the Russian star tapped in a pass from Rickard Rakell 3:33 into the first to give him 20 goals for the 14th time in his 17-year career, third most among active players behind Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (18) and longtime teammate Sidney Crosby (15).
Yet as has been the case most of an erratic season, the Penguins let the Devils back into the game almost immediately.
Mercer tied it just 1:20 later thanks in part to Pittsburgh defenseman Chad Ruhwedel getting tangled up with a linesman deep in the Penguins’ zone. A turnover soon followed and Mercer emerged from a scramble in front to rip a shot by Tokarski.
The Devils took firm control in the second. Hamilton put New Jersey in front 3:27 into the period when he glided down the left circle, received a pass from behind the net by Hischier and fired a shot that zipped by Tokarski.
Pittsburgh’s middling power play had a chance to tie it a few minutes later only to surrender a two-on-one rush that ended with Yegor Sharangovich feathering a backhand pass to Hischier streaking down the left side. Hischier had little trouble beating Tokarski to give the Devils a lead Pittsburgh didn’t come close to threatening.
Bratt’s 22nd goal 8:39 into the third pushed New Jersey’s lead to three as the Devils moved to 22-0-2 when leading after two periods, the second-best record in the NHL behind Boston.
NOTES: Pittsburgh goalie Tristan Jarry missed his ninth straight game with an upper-body injury that has required him to meet with medical professionals both inside and outside of the organization. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Jarry “is making progress” but there remains no timetable for his return. … Pittsburgh D Brian Dumoulin left in the third period with what appeared to be a lower-body injury.