Published April 05, 2011
| Associated Press
PITTSBURGH – Pascal Dupuis had two goals and the Pittsburgh Penguins moved closer to clinching home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
Jordan Staal and Chris Kunitz also scored for the Penguins, who won their regular season home finale to move three points ahead of fifth-place Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference standings with two games to play. The Lightning lost 4-2 at Buffalo.
Pittsburgh has 102 points, one less than Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia, which lost 5-2 at Ottawa on Tuesday. The Penguins remained three points behind conference-leading Washington, which won 3-2 in a shootout at Toronto.
David Steckel and Brian Rolston scored for the Devils, who were officially eliminated from playoff contention with their defeat to Montreal on Saturday.
New Jersey was shut out in its previous two road games, and the Penguins-Devils season series had featured a total of only 12 goals in the five previous games.
The teams had played to a scoreless tie until a shootout in their previous meeting 11 days earlier in Pittsburgh — a games in which there were four shots in the first period. The teams combined for 13 first-period shots Tuesday, including Staal's 11th goal of the season.
Pittsburgh's fourth power play goal in the past 21 games came with 2:23 left in the first — but it was hardly a traditional power-play goal. James Neal left the puck for Staal at the blue line, and Staal skated down the left wing, beat Mark Fraser to net and lifted the puck up over sprawling goalie Johan Hedberg.
Steckel tied it at 1 with 4:52 left in the second, taking a feed from Rod Pelley while in the slot and beating Marc-Andre Fleury for his sixth of the season.
It was New Jersey's first goal on the road in a span of 209 minutes, 3 seconds.
Fans booed lustily when it was announced it was Steckel that had scored. Steckel — then with Washington — collided with Penguins star Sidney Crosby in the outdoor game at Heinz Field on Jan. 1 that is believed to be what caused a concussion for Crosby that has had him miss the past 39 games.
Steckel's goal was his first in 16 games since being traded to New Jersey.
Dupuis regained the lead for the Penguins 63 seconds later when he poked a loose puck off a rebound of Max Talbot's shot between the legs of Hedberg for his 15th of the season.
Kunitz made it 3-1 at 1:31 of the third when he was set up by Tyler Kennedy low in the left circle. Kunitz skated directly to the front of the net and slid a backhander underneath Hedberg.
The goal was the 23rd for Kunitz, second on the team to Crosby's 32.
But Rolston pulled New Jersey back to 3-2 with a one-timed slap shot from the high slot, his 14th.
Patrik Elias earned his team-high 40th assist on the play, extending his point streak to four games.
The Devils were awarded a power play after Staal took a tripping penalty with 1:41 left — and coach Jacques Lemaire motioned to pull Hedberg about 20 seconds later. But he quickly turned around as soon as he reached the bench, not early enough to prevent Dupuis from shooting the puck into the open net.
NOTES: New Jersey LW Zach Parise did not play a game after playing on Saturday for the first time since November surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Parise said he did not experience a setback Saturday; instead, team officials are taking a cautious approach with the Devils also playing on Wednesday. ... Pittsburgh RW Alex Kovalev played in his 1,300th career game. ... Crosby (concussion) again took part in what was a light gameday skate. Fans cheered when he was shown on the video scoreboard during the first period in a taped message thanking fans on Fan Appreciation Night. There remains no update to his playing status — or even when or if he might participate in a full-contact practice. ... Pittsburgh sold out the season for the fourth consecutive year.