It started with Sidney Crosby's goal only 1:21 into the game and continued for much of the first two periods. By the time the Devils started playing better in the third period, they were down by three goals and that was too big a deficit to overcome.
The 4-1 loss exposed some of the deficiences that have been created by the host of injuries the Devils had been trying to fight through - and were covered up during their five-game winning streak.
This was a night when the Devils really could have used John Madden to play head to head against Crosby, but Madden missed his fourth game in a row with a bruised left ankle. Bobby Holik, who has been out since Oct. 18 with a broken right pinky, but has been skating for the last week, would have helped too.
"Definitely they've got to a great team over there," left wing Jay Pandolfo said. "When we started playing our game in the third, we played them well, but it was a little too late,"
Crosby's goal set the tone for the night. He split between Devils defensemen Bryce Salvador and Paul Martin on the right side before cutting to the net. Goaltender Scott Clemmensen intiially appeared to break up the play with a pokecheck, but Crosby regained the puck to Clemmensen's right and, with his back to the net, threw a backhand toward the net -- along the ice -- that Clemmensen said went in cleanly between his left hand and his body.
"Crosby got around our last (defensemen) there (Martin) and was coming into the net on his backhand, so I went to pokecheck," Clemmensen said. "I didn't get the puck really, but I disprupted the play a little bit and ended up throwing my right leg out towards the right side of the net, figuring he might get a shot off, but I lost the puck for a second. When I found it, it was kind of on its way back to me and caught me in a very weird position and it just slipped between my arm and my body. I was kind of in a tripod position up on my elbow and it went between my elbow and my body."
Devils coach Brent Sutter said of Clemmensen, "I think he'd like to have that first one back."
But he also credited Crosby with a great play to take advantage of the mistakes by the Devils.
"It wasn't good decision making by the two defensemen when they're coming through the neutral zone," Sutter said. "It was bad positioning by both of them and Crosby makes a play there and Clemmer makes the play and the puck goes to his right. Crosby gets it and throws back on the net and I don't think Clemmer expected that.
"That's the difference between great players and guys that aren't great, as far as Crosby is concerned. They don't quit on something like that. He turned and threw it right back on the net. Some guys would take the puck and make a turn and look for a trailer or something. He just makes a great play and Clemmer wasn't ready for it."
Because some of us debated it earlier, I asked Clemmensen how many guys in this league would make that play.
"Not many," he said. "That guy never gives up on a play. Back to the net, you have to get yourself in a good position -- you're off balance - to even get half of a shot on net. Even then, it wasn't even a hard shot on net. It was just throw it back toward the net and see what happens."
That was the first of Crosby's three goals on the night. He also had an assist on the Penguins' other goal with an elevated pass to Petr Sykora for a power-play tally.
Crosby's second goal came after a terrible turnover by Barry Tallackson to Evgeni Malkin in the Devils' end. With the teams skating 4-on-4, Tallackson mostly fanned on his attempted pass and threw the puck into the slot. Clemmensen said he came out to try to beat Malkin to it. He was beaten by a better play.
"As soon as the puck started drifting toward the slot, I didn't even think twice," Clemmensen said. "I just went for it and I thought was going to pokecheck it away from him. He actually dove for it as well, which I hadn't planned on. I kind of threw my leg out to make a save, but Crosby was there."
Crosby was behind Clemmensen and had an easy shot into the vacant net.
Crosby completed his second career hat trick -- first at home -- with an empty-net goal with 2:01 remaining.
Zubrus said he was "just too weak" to play because of his stomach flu and that was wide Sutter sat him for most of the third period.
Sutter said he did not hesitate to put Tallackson back out on the ice after his bad turnover.
"That happens," Sutter said. "Everyone makes mistakes at some point in time in games and through their careers and it was a young kid's mistake."