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Devils sweep weekend series from Penguins

The New Jersey Devils made a statement with back-to-back 3-1 wins over the Penguins, completing the weekend sweep behind David Clarkson’s two-goal game at Consol Energy Center Sunday evening.

The game started off with a bang as both coaches selected to start their fourth-liners. Right off the faceoff, the Devils’ Ryan Carter and Penguins’ rookie Robert Bortuzzo dropped the gloves. After some vicious rights by Bortuzzo, Carter hit the ground. Bortuzzo easily won the fight, and it seemed to pump some early energy into the Pens.

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun, making his fourth start of the season, looked sharped early on as he robbed Travis Zajac on a partial breakaway. The Pens seemed to control the flow of the game during the first period and even outshot the Devils 13-4. However, after a bad pass by Derek England with 7 minutes remaining, David Clarkson led the Devils on a two-on-one. Clarkson skated to the middle of the ice and ripped a shot top shelf for his eighth goal of the season.

“The first goal I would like to have back,” said Vokoun, who only saw four shots in the period. “Tough for goalies when you don’t get shots. They played good game and capitalized.”

The Penguins had two power plays in the first period and failed to cash in on both, as the Devils continued their exceptional work on the penalty. New Jersey has killed 23 out of their last 25 penalties.

“We had scoring chances and opportunities,” said Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. “But what Devils did really well was play extended shifts in offensive zone.”

The Pens appeared to gain some momentum after a terrific series of saves from Vokoun with 13 minutes left in the second. However, that momentum was short lived as well. After another two-on-one, the $100 million man, Ilya Kovalchuk, blasted a shot five hole to beat Vokoun for his fourth goal of the year.

The Penguins dug a deeper hole when James Neal committed a cross checking penalty at the 12:09 mark of the second. Clarkson poked home a rebound a minute later for his second goal of the game and pushed the lead to 3-0. 

New Jersey’s Stephen Gionta committed a penalty with 10 seconds left in the second period that carried over to the third, and 15 seconds into the final period Neal one-timed a tic-tac-toe setup for his eighth goal of the season and third in four games.

Despite getting a much-needed goal early in the third, the Penguins were clearly frustrated throughout the entire game as they were unable to get anything else past former Penguins goalie Johan Hedberg, who started while Martin Brodeur got a night off. Captain Sidney Crosby left the ice shaking his head in disgust with 12 minutes left in the thirPhoto by Justin Berld.

“We were better than yesterday, but that’s not why you play,” said Crosby, referring to the Devils’ similar 3-1 win over the Penguins in New Jersey on Saturday. “You play to win the game. You have to find a way to get the result.”

The Pens will look to end a two-game skid on Wednesday when they travel to Ottawa to face-off against the Senators. The game is scheduled to start at 7 PM.

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