Zajac has goal, assist in Devils win over Penguins
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Travis Zajac had a goal and an assist, and Cory Schneider made 26 saves, but Jaromir Jagr called unheralded Jordin Tootoo the star of the game for the struggling New Jersey Devils.
Tootoo didn't figure in the scoring as the Devils beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Monday night. However, Tootoo contributed with his fists, twice fighting Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo in the second period to exact a measure of revenge while providing a needed spark.
To an extent, the bouts were preordained. Bortuzzo was a marked man after delivering a big hit on Jagr in the teams' previous meeting. The NHL determined the infraction was excessive and suspended Bortuzzo for two games.
This was the Devils chance to seek on-ice justice, and Tootoo took the challenge.
''He was the No. 1 star, for sure,'' Jagr said. ''He changed the game. Everybody knew it was coming. It's not an accident that after his fights we scored goals. It was perfect timing, and we took advantage of that.''
Tootoo knew what his task would be.
''I wasn't going to let him off the hook,'' Tootoo said. ''That's part of my job, to create energy and emotion. I couldn't have done it without the confidence of my teammates.''
The first fight was a draw, but Tootoo scored a decisive knockdown in the rematch.
''He did a great job for us,'' Zajac said. ''He's a guy who comes to the rink every day, works hard and knows his role. Not many guys want to do what he does.''
Jagr and Adam Henrique also scored for New Jersey, who won for only the second time in 10 games (2-5-3).
It was also New Jersey's first win in two games since general manager Lou Lamoriello fired coach Pete DeBoer on Friday and joined new coaches Scott Stevens and Adam Oates behind the bench as part of a three-man committee.
Sidney Crosby scored for the Penguins, who have lost four straight. Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves.
The Devils slowed the tempo at the start to a pace they could handle.
That changed on Crosby's dazzling goal.
Swinging around defenseman Andy Greene, Crosby whipped a backhander under the crossbar to make it 1-0 at 14:37 of the first period. It was just the second goal in 13 games for the star center.
''Yeah, maybe it's one of the best ever, and it was nice to get it, but it was only nice at the time because we didn't win,'' Crosby said.
That ignited the Penguins, who started pouring on the shots. Schneider made a pad stop on Chris Kunitz before denying Derrick Pouliot's drive from the right wing following a setup pass from Evgeni Malkin.
The Penguins outshot the Devils 9-7 in the first.
Momentum swung New Jersey's way in the second when the Devils took a 2-1 lead on goals by Zajac and Jagr.
Zajac pulled New Jersey even with a power-play goal at 5:33, swiping home the rebound of Marek Zidlicky's point shot.
It was Zajac's first goal since Nov. 22. He was scoreless in eight games since and missed eight more because of a groin pull and a case of the mumps.
Schneider kept it 1-1 late in the period with a point-blank stop on Kunitz's power-play shot.
Jagr gave the Devils the lead shortly after the penalty expired, snapping in a shot from the right circle with 1:20 remaining.
Henrique put the Devils up 3-1 at 5:32 of the third, jamming the puck in with Zajac getting an assist.
Fleury stopped Jagr's breakaway bid several minutes later.
It was another frustrating night for Pittsburgh in New Jersey as the Devils earned their fifth straight home win over the Penguins.
''It's a tough place to play,'' Fleury said. ''Once they got the lead, they shut it down on us. I don't understand it. It's just a tough place for us to play.''
NOTES: Both teams added players from their AHL farm teams. New Jersey recalled forwards Stefan Matteau and Joe Whitney from Albany, and Pittsburgh summoned D Brian Dumoulin from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. ... The Penguins scratched G Thomas Greiss (mumps), D Scott Harrington and RW Steve Downie (mumps). The Devils scratched Matteau, D Seth Helgeson and C Jacob Josefson. ... The Devils saluted Scott Gomez before the game for having played in his 1,000th NHL game on Saturday. ... It was Schneider's first win against Pittsburgh (1-4-0). ... Lamoriello said C Stephen Gionta broke a hand while blocking a shot and will be sidelined indefinitely.