PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jordan Staal scored twice to give him 100 career goals, James Neal added his NHL-leading eighth goal and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their third consecutive game, 4-1 over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
Staal scored for the fourth and fifth times this season to give him 100 goals less than six weeks after his 23rd birthday.
His second of the game came 70 seconds after Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz broke a 1-1 tie with a power-play goal early in the third period.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves for the Penguins, who were again without Evgeni Malkin but welcomed back Kris Letang.
Malkin missed his fifth game in a row because of soreness in his right knee, but Letang played after serving a two-game suspension for a boarding penalty.
New Jersey’s Patrik Elias had a short-handed goal early in the third to tie the game, but Kunitz restored Pittsburgh’s lead 1:20 later.
All four of the Penguins’ goals beat former Penguins goalie Johan Hedberg high and to his glove side.
Staal’s first goal came while on the power play 6:07 into the game when Richard Park slid him a pass while he was positioned in between three Devils defenders in the left circle.
Staal one-timed a slap shot that might have deflected off the stick of Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov.
Staal’s second goal of the game came with 15:43 left when he collected the puck on the right wing side, turned it over to his backhand to get past New Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador and flipped the puck past Hedberg.
Neal scored for the seventh time in his past seven games with 10:46 left off a pass from Park. Brought in at the trade deadline last season to provide needed scoring from the wing, Neal had one goal in 20 regular-season games with the Penguins last season.
Kunitz’s second of the season was a one-timed slap shot from the top of the right circle on a pass from Letang.
Elias extended his scoring streak to five games with his second goal, 1:47 into the third, off an assist from Ilya Kovalchuk. Elias is the Devils’ career leading scorer against Pittsburgh.
The early third-period flurry of goals — four in 7:27 — was out of character for these two teams when they play each other.
Last season, Pittsburgh and New Jersey combined for 17 regulation goals in the six-game season series. Only once did any team score more than twice in a game.
Fleury, who has allowed four goals in his past four games against the Devils, made perhaps his best save late in the first period. Fleury got his pad out to stop Adam Henrique, who skated in alone and went to his backhand.
Notes: Henrique was called up from the minors for the game because the Devils lost C Jacob Josefson to a broken left clavicle in a shootout loss to San Jose on Friday. … The Penguins have been the NHL’s busiest team this season with 10 games in 17 days. But this was their first game against an Atlantic Division rival. … The game was the 900th in the career of Penguins LW Steve Sullivan. … Penguins LW Tyler Kennedy (concussion) missed his fourth consecutive game. … Fleury and the Penguins have allowed two goals in their past two games. They were 1:36 from a shutout in a 4-1 win over Montreal in their most recent game on Thursday.
(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.)