PITTSBURGH - The New Jersey Devils hadn't allowed more than five goals in a game this season. In a matchup of Atlantic Division leaders, the Pittsburgh Penguins touched them for five in the third period alone.
Evgeni Malkin had two goals and an assist, and Ryan Malone scored twice for the Penguins, who beat New Jersey 7-1 Saturday night and took a two-point lead over the Devils atop the Atlantic.
It was the first time the defensive-minded Devils had allowed seven goals since March 17, 2007, against Carolina.
"We didn't expect (seven goals), but we'll take it," Malone said. "Sometimes that's how it works. They played last night, so we wanted to kind of jump on them early.
"I think from top to bottom everyone did a good job."
Jarkko Ruutu, Pascal Dupuis and Petr Sykora also scored and Marian Hossa had three assists as the Penguins won for the fifth time in six games. Pittsburgh broke open a 2-1 game heading into the third period, chasing goalie Martin Brodeur.
"This was a very important game for us," Malkin said through an interpreter. "We tried to win the game to get into first place, and we played very hard. We have a good team and we had good chances and we (converted) all of our chances."
Malkin scored two goals and had an assist during the final 11:36 to give him 102 points this season - four fewer than NHL leader Alex Ovechkin of Washington. Malkin is the 12th Penguins player to reach 100 points in a season and this is the 28th time in franchise history that mark has been reached.
"I am having a lot of fun right now," Malkin said. "I am enjoying (it) because we have a great team and we are winning games. Especially on our home ice, we are winning the big games."
At home, Pittsburgh is 6-0-2 in its past eight, 10-1-3 in 14 and 16-2-3 over 21.
Brian Gionta had a short-handed goal for the Devils, who have lost three in a row (0-2-1) and scored only three times in that time.
Pittsburgh will visit New Jersey on Tuesday in the final meeting between the teams this regular season.
"Right now, we're too worried about the result than about the process," New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We're trying to score before we have the puck, trying to score while playing defence."
The Penguins, who scored seven goals for the third time in four home games, remained one point behind Montreal in the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Ruutu has scored in a career-best three straight games. His centering pass during a 3-on-2 was intercepted by defenseman Andrew Greene, but Greene pushed the puck between Brodeur's legs. Ruutu was credited with his fifth goal of the season.
Gionta tied it midway through the period with his 21st goal.
Pittsburgh regained the lead for good with 3:46 left in the second period with its own short-handed goal. Malone picked up the puck at his blue line and started a 2-on-1 with Dupuis. Malone finished the play for his 25th goal and first in six games.
"From that point on, we made a lot of mental mistakes," New Jersey coach Brent Sutter said. "We had lots of breakdowns. We weren't very strong between the ears the rest of the game."
Malone scored a power-play goal three minutes into the third when he deflected Sergei Gonchar's shot from the point out of the air while standing in the high slot. Dupuis scored less than two minutes later to make it 4-1.
Malkin notched another Penguins power-play goal with a wrist shot from the right circle at 8:24, then added an even-strength tally at 11:21. Both of his goals were scored against backup goalie Kevin Weekes.
Sykora added a goal on a pass from Malkin with 1:42 to play.
Brodeur was replaced after allowing four goals on 19 shots. Weekes gave up three on nine shots.
"Hopefully this is a wake-up call," Brodeur said. "I think we've got to step up our game to a better level, what our competition is doing to us the last few games."
Pittsburgh has outscored its opponents 31-14 during its past six games.
"That was a great performance by 20 guys out there," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said of his team. "They stuck to the plan, the way we wanted to play. And we got rewarded, which is nice to see."
Notes: New Jersey won four of the teams' first six meetings this season. ... The Penguins have allowed nine short-handed goals this season. Only four teams have permitted more. ... The Penguins' previous short-handed goal was Jan. 24.