On Nov. 29, Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby registered his second career hat trick in a 4-1 victory over the Devils at Mellon Arena.
The story was a lot different tonight as Crosby was held without a point in the Devils' 4-1 win at Prudential Center.
Crosby did hit the left side of the net in the first period and the left post in the second period, but finished with only two shots on net, By the third period, Crosby was so frustrated that he grabbed Brian Gionta around the collar and pulled him down. Both players received roughing minors for the wrestling match that ensued, but Crosby picked up an extra holding penalty for the exchange.
"I don't know exactly what happened," Gionta said. "He just grabbed me from behind and I fell down I guess."
Was that a sign of Crosby's frustration?
I'm sure," Gionta said.
Devils goaltender Scott Clemmensen thought so too.
"Yeah I did," Clemmensen said. "A little bit there in the second you could hear him kind of talking back to the refs a little bit more. And, obviously, when that went on with Gionta I figured that we probably got to him a little bit there. That's what happens when you're a great player. You expect great things and it's frustrating not winning. That's for sure. We've all been there."
The line of Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus and Gionta spent much of the night against Crosby's line with Pascal Dupuis and Miroslav Satan. Although John Madden and Brent Sutter both denied that it was on purpose, Madden's line also had some shifts against Crosby -- particularly early in the game.
After letting Crosby and Evgeni Malkin skate freely for almost two periods on Nov. 29, the Devils were determined tonight to take away the time and space to create from both stars.
"The plan was just to play hard, take the play to them, not sit back and wait for them to create the energy," Gionta said. "We had to go out there and create energy and bring the play to them."
Clemmensen lost his bid for a shutout in the third period for the third time in his last seven starts. Tonight, the Penguins scored their only goal with 3:58 remaining after Malkin's centering pass went in off the right leg of Matt Cooke in front.
Clemmensen called Cooke's goal "cheesy", but also admitted he got some breaks on Penguins' shots that hit the post -- two by Jordan Staal and one by Crosby. So, he wasn't being too picky about losing his chance for hsi third career shutout.
"Shutouts are nice, but, especially against this team, I'm just happy to get the win," Clemmensen said. "They've beaten me the last three times I've played against them and to beat them here at home was good. Shutouts are gravy, I think, for goalies, but it would have been nice to get one."
Clememsen said he received a delay of game penalty in the second period because he reached behind the net to cover the puck when the officials told him to keep play moving.
"In that instance there, my defenseman (Johnny Oduya) broke his stick and I really wanted to freeze the puck," Clemmensen said. "As it got close to the net, it was kind of behind the net, I grabbed it with my glove and pulled it back out in front. (The referee) was yelling at me to play it and, obviously, there was nothing I could do about that at that time. He didn't like me pulling it from behind the net. That was the whole issue there."
Devils coach Brent Sutter would not say after tonight's game which of his goaltenders would start Friday night agaisnt the Rangers, but you have to figure it's going to be Clemmensen, who has allowed only four goals in winning his last three games.
After getting back at the Penguins for that 4-1 loss on Nov. 29, the Devils were well aware that their next game is against the Rangers, who they have defeated only once in their last 10 regular season meetings and are 0-2 against this season.
"The significance is the obvious," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We haven't beaten them in a long time and it's another divisional game we need to get points in. They're obviously better. They've had our number for a while now and it's important for us to stop that."