NHL Hockey

Devils face Penguins, look to continue offensive surge

The New Jersey Devils' biggest two-game outburst in more than 20 years probably came too late to save their playoff hopes for 2021-22. But it is proving to the Devils they can play with the NHL's elite.

The Devils will look to remain hot Sunday afternoon when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins in a battle of Metropolitan Division rivals in Newark, N.J.

Both teams enter Sunday with two-game winning streaks. The Devils scored five third-period goals Thursday to stun the host St. Louis Blues 7-4. Casey DeSmith stopped all 26 shots he faced Thursday as the visiting Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 2-0.

New Jersey's outburst against the Blues came two days after the Devils snapped a seven-game losing streak (0-7-0) with a 7-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. The 14 goals in back-to-back games are the most in a two-game span for the Devils since Oct. 28-30, 2000, when they beat the Penguins 9-0 and the Florida Panthers 6-5 in overtime.

While getting back into the postseason race likely isn't realistic for New Jersey -- which is 18 points behind the Boston Bruins, who occupy the Eastern Conference's second wild card and have played two fewer games -- the impressive performance against the Blues provided a boost at the start of a three-game stretch against contenders.

After hosting the Penguins, the Devils will host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday before visiting Pittsburgh on Feb. 24.

"You're not going to put seven on the board every night," Devils defenseman Damon Severson said after collecting two assists Thursday. "But back-to-back is huge for us. It gives us a little confidence for sure moving forward.

"It's one thing to have a good game against a struggling team (the Canadiens). But you've got to put games together against good teams if you want to grow."

Few NHL teams have been as impressive over the past two-plus months than the Penguins, who have won 19 of 26 (19-4-3) since Dec. 1 to jump into second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Pittsburgh was particularly hot before a four-game skid from Jan. 27 through Feb. 1 in which they went 0-1-3, but the two-goal win Thursday was the second straight for the Penguins, who beat the Bruins 4-2 on Tuesday.

"This is a pretty solid 60 minutes throughout the lineup," said Penguins center Jeff Carter, who scored the first goal Thursday. "(DeSmith) made some big saves for us. But I thought it's probably our most complete game in a long time. It's a good step for us."

Penguins star center Sidney Crosby enters Sunday's game one goal shy of 500 for his career. The Pittsburgh captain is looking to become the third active player with 500 goals, joining Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Marleau, and the 46th in NHL history.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 12, 2022

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