NEWARK — Puddy dropped the puck and tried to rile up the Devils, but the beloved Seinfeld character’s spark was not enough. The Devils had nothing to show for it.
Bryan Rust scored a tiebreaking goal midway through the second period and the Pittsburgh Penguins continued their playoff push and avoided the embarrassment of being swept by the lowly Devils with a 4-3 victory on Tuesday night.
Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, Nick Bjugstad and Zach Aston-Reese also scored for Pittsburgh, which has won four of its last five in its bid to make the playoffs for the 13th straight year. The streak is the longest active playoff run in the NHL.
Matt Murray made 33 saves, including 15 in the third period, to help the Penguins salvage the final game in the four-game season series.
Jesper Bratt, Marcus Johansson and Miles Wood scored for the Devils, who had a two-game winning streak snapped. Keith Kinkaid had 24 saves in losing to the Penguins for the first time in four games this season.
“It could be the story of the season, we don’t play a full 60 (minutes),” Kinkaid said. “I don’t think their shots were too harmful, like I said a crazy curve on the fourth one and I have to find a way to squeeze that third one. I didn’t see it right away. It’s one I have to come up with the big save. I think we played well enough to win.”
Rust broke a 2-all tie at 10:45 with a shot from the inside of the right circle after a great rush up the ice by Jake Guentzel. Kinkaid got a piece of the shot but the puck squirted through his pads and rolled into the net.
Ruhwedel, who just returned to the lineup after sitting out since Nov. 19, got his first of the season and what proved to be the game-winner on a shot from the point that found the top corner of the net with 2 1/2 minutes to go in the second.
“New Jersey always plays us really well,” Ruhwedel said. “They come out hard but that second period was really good by us. We were in the offensive zone a lot. Guys were moving their feet. It was fun to be part of.”
Wood closed the gap to a goal with 4:50 to play on a slow shot that somehow got under Murray’s stick.
The Devils twice took one-goal leads in the first period only to see the Penguins tie the game.
Bratt scored for the second straight game to put the Devils ahead early. Crosby extended his points scoring streak to six games by setting up Aston-Reese in front four minutes later to tie the score.