Sidney Crosby scored his NHL-leading 24th goal and the Pittsburgh Penguins bounced back from their worst performance of the season with a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
Chad Ruhwedel got the first goal of his career for Pittsburgh. Eric Fehr and Patric Hornqvist also scored for the Penguins, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 22 saves to win for the first time in three starts.
The Penguins improved to 8-0-1 in their last nine home games while offering an immediate response after getting crushed 7-1 in Columbus on Thursday.
Kyle Palmieri scored for the Devils, who lost for the eighth time in nine games. Cory Schneider stopped 35 shots but received little help in front of him.
Pittsburgh's surge to the top of the Metropolitan Division came to an abrupt halt against the streaking Blue Jackets, who overwhelmed the Penguins over the final two periods and handed the defending Stanley Cup champions a humbling defeat. Barely 24 hours later, and back home in front of the team's 450th consecutive sellout, Pittsburgh got back on track.
Crosby, as he's done repeatedly this season, got the Penguins started, taking a feed from Justin Schultz and ripping a one-timer from the top of the right circle over Schneider's glove for his NHL-best ninth power-play goal 11 minutes into the first.
New Jersey, which snapped a seven-game slide with a shutout victory over Philadelphia on Thursday, managed just two shots in the opening period and one of them was a rink-long clear that made its way on net. The Devils fell behind 2-0 when defenseman Jon Merrill's attempted clear in front of Schneider bounced in off Fehr at the side of the net 4:13 into the second. It marked Fehr's first goal since the veteran forward spent five games as a healthy scratch earlier this month.
The Devils squandered a 5-on-3 power play — highlighted by a post-to-post save by Fleury — but briefly got back in it when Palmieri slid a rebound underneath a sprawled Fleury 13:24 into the second.
Pittsburgh restored its two-goal advantage when Chris Kunitz chased down a loose puck, raced into the New Jersey zone and then dropped it to Ruhwedel at the point. The defenseman, who played 33 games across five seasons with Buffalo and was called up earlier this week by the Penguins after injuries to Kris Letang and Trevor Daley, sent a shot through a screen and by Schneider with 38 seconds left in the second.
NOTES: Pittsburgh made struggling D Derrick Pouliot a healthy scratch. His replacement, Steve Olesky, earned a 5-minute fighting major after trading haymakers with New Jersey's Miles Wood. ... The Devils went 0 for 3 on the power play. The Penguins were 1 for 4 with the man advantage. ... Pittsburgh improved to 15-2-2 when Crosby scores. ... The Penguins have not dropped consecutive games in regulation since Mike Sullivan's first week as head coach last December, a stretch of 85 regular-season games. ... The Devils have managed just 13 goals during their 1-7-1 slide.
The teams take a break for Christmas but continue their home-and-home set when they meet in New Jersey next Tuesday. ... The Devils are 5-1-1 at home in their last seven games against the Penguins.