Evgeni Malkin scored two goals and set up another to lead the slumping Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night at Prudential Center in Newark.
Evan Rodrigues and defensemen Justin Schultz and Kris Letang also scored as the Penguins won for only the third time in 11 games. Matt Murray made 20 saves to help Pittsburgh reach 40 wins for the seventh straight season and 13th time since 2006-07. The only exception was the 48-game lockout-shortened season in 2012-13.
“I thought that was one of the better games that we played, one of the more complete games we played in a while,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought all four lines were going, I thought the defensemen competed out there. I thought we were playing the game the right way. I thought our leaders set the example and Geno I thought had a great game.”
Nikita Gusev and Miles Wood scored for New Jersey, which won its previous two games. Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 28 shots but the last-place Devils dropped to 6-3-2 in their last 11.
“I didn’t see the same energy,” Devils interim coach Alain Nasreddine said. “Some of it for sure, you look at who you are playing against. They played well. I thought we had a good first, good first 10. Then it kind of went down a bit and we never got anything back in the second and third.”
Malkin helped break a 1-all tie 4:15 into the second period with a cross-ice pass to Schultz for a shot from the right circle. It was his third goal of the season and first in 28 games.
After Murray stopped Kyle Palmieri on a point-blank chance during a 1:42 two-man advantage early in third, Malkin took over in scoring his 24th and 25th goals of the season.
Malkin powered through Blackwood at 7:11 for a 3-1 lead. After Wood closed the Devils’ deficit to one goal at 10:24, Malkin scored off a turnover less than three minutes later.
“They are good team. They are up there in the standings for a good reason,” Nasreddine said. “Their big players show up in big games. When it is not [Sidney] Crosby, it is Malkin. When it is not Malkin, it’s Letang. When it’s not Letang, it’s [Tristan] Jarry or Murray. Tonight it was Malkin. I am not surprised at all.”
Letang scored into an empty net to ice the game.
Rodrigues, acquired from Buffalo on Feb. 24, scored his first goal for the Penguins with a shot from the left-side boards that deflected off the leg of Devils defenseman Matt Tennyson past Blackwood.
Gusev tied the game on a power play with 7:14 left in the period. Murray got his glove on the shot but could not prevent it from going in.