Brian Rafalski and Brian Gionta scored their first goals of the
season off skate-deflected shots as New Jersey's top line produced
both goals in the Devils' 2-1 victory Friday night over the
"It was good to get a couple of bounces like that," said Scott Gomez, who figured in both goals.
Mario Lemieux got the 1,698th point of his career by setting up
Pittsburgh's goal and needs just two points to become the sixth player
in NHL history to reach 1,700.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Devils, who were 13-2-5 in the Atlantic Division last season, got off to a good start in their first division game of 2003-04.
Gomez's faceoff win led to New Jersey's first goal -- by Rafalski
in the first period -- and he also set up Gionta's game winner at
12:40 of the third.
Gomez steered the puck to Gionta at the top of the crease, and it deflected off Gionta's skate past rookie goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who turned aside 32 of 34 shots in another excellent performance unaided by much offensive support.
"We worked for those bounces," Devils coach Pat Burns said.
"Gionta sacrifices himself to go to the net, and bounces are going
to go your way when you do that."
The video replay judge reviewed the play, but replays did not
show any distinct kicking motion by Gionta.
"He's got a knack for the net," Gomez said of Gionta, who
began playing on a line with Gomez and Patrik Elias last week. "He's always got his feet moving. He stays on his feet and makes plays, and he had a good game."
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur needed to make only 17 saves for
the victory, which evened New Jersey's record at 2-2-2 and ended its two-game losing streak and three game winless streak. Brodeur
faced only four shots in the third period.
"The guys were a little disappointed when we had a faceoff in
our end [late in the second period] and they came right back and we
gave up a goal, but it happens," Brodeur said. "We knew we'd keep
having chances if we kept playing the way we were playing."
The Devils, who haven't loss three in a row since March 2002,
took a 1-0 lead when Rafalski's seemingly harmless wrist shot from
along the right wing boards also deflected off a skate and past
Fleury a little more than 14 minutes into the game.
Elias, who also assisted on Gionta's goal, directed the
puck to Rafalski off Gomez's faceoff win, no doubt delighting
Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski, who attended the game while in
Pittsburgh for a governors' conference. Gomez grew up in Alaska.
Fleury, again making a series of difficult saves as his team was
outshot badly (34-18), didn't seem to believe the puck eluded him.
He stared at his glove for several seconds as if thinking it might
Just as he did in his first three NHL starts, all at home,
Fleury toughened up after giving up the first goal, flopping to his
stomach to make several saves and kicking away another shot even
after losing his stick.
The 18-year-old didn't seem flustered that the game was played
mostly in Pittsburgh's end, saying, "I think we played hard, and if
we keep playing hard like this, everybody will keep improving."
"We got off to a slow start, and they came at us," Penguins
coach Eddie Olczyk said. "But it is a learning process. I am
disappointed in the outcome, not the effort."
While Fleury was turning aside good scoring chances repeatedly,
Brodeur had it easy in the Devils' end until the Penguins scored
off Lemieux's setup with seven seconds left in the second period.
Dan Focht fed the puck up ice to Lemieux, who, with two Devils
around him, deftly tipped it to Mike Eastwood. That started a
2-on-1 break that ended with Martin Straka taking Eastwood's pass
across the slot and beating Brodeur to the glove side for his third goal
of the season.
The Penguins have been outshot 74-37 and outscored 8-2 in
the first period. ... Both teams were 0-for-3 on the power play.
... New Jersey has scored only 12 goals and Pittsburgh has only 10
goals, both in six games. ... The Penguins have been held to one
goal in each of their last two games. ... Fleury has stopped 144 of
152 shots in his first four NHL starts, never allowing more than
three goals in a game.