PITTSBURGH (AP) New Jersey Devils coach Lindy Ruff thought his team played its best game of the season, despite missing three top forwards.
Jesper Bratt, Alexander Holtz and Tyler Toffoli scored in the third period, and the short-handed Devils beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 on Thursday night.
The Devils played without forwards Timo Meier, Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes because of injuries, but they were still able to beat Pittsburgh for the sixth straight time overall.
Vitek Vanecek made 23 saves for New Jersey, which had dropped three in a row and four of five overall.
“We just wanted to keep playing the game the right way,” Ruff said. “We didn’t spend a lot of time in our own end. I thought our breakouts, our puck support, getting up ice and then speed through the neutral zone created the opportunities.”
Bratt gave the Devils a 3-2 lead 2:35 into the third, beating Tristan Jarry over the shoulder to the blocker side during a 4-on-4 stretch.
Holtz scored his fourth of the year at 11:24, and Toffoli tacked on his ninth at 11:44. Bratt set up Toffoli as New Jersey scored three goals on eight shots.
Curtis Lazar had a short-handed goal and an assist for the Devils, reaching 100 points for his career. Nathan Bastian scored his first of the year.
“This was probably one of the better games we played all year,” Bastian said. “We snuck in a lot of wins early in the year, but they were games we weren’t necessarily satisfied with. Tonight, a lot of guys stepped up.”
Bryan Rust scored twice for Pittsburgh, which had won five in a row. Jarry stopped 25 shots.
Sidney Crosby extended a 10-game point streak with an assist for Pittsburgh. Crosby became the 15th player in NHL history with 11 point streaks of 10 games or more in his career. He has a point in 14 of 15 games played this season.
Pittsburgh’s Erik Karlsson tied Rob Blake (777) for the 20th-most points by a defenseman in NHL history and extended his point streak to seven games.
“We have to find a way to be better in the next game,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We have a lot of hockey moving forward. We simply weren’t good enough tonight.”
Meier, a 40-goal scorer last season, got hurt during Tuesday’s loss at Winnipeg. Hischier, the Devils’ captain, hasn’t played since Oct. 27 because of an upper-body injury. Hughes (shoulder), who has five goals and 20 points in 10 games, hasn’t played since Nov. 3 when he crashed into the end boards against St. Louis.
Ruff said he’ll have an update on Meier when the team returns to New Jersey.
“He’s going to be out short-term and we’ll find out how long that will be,” Ruff said.
Rust opened the scoring for Pittsburgh on a partial breakaway. Jake Guentzel, who gave Rust his lead pass, continued a six-game point streak with an assist. Lazar tied the game at 13:34 of the first.
Rust and Bastian exchanged goals 38 seconds apart early in the second. Rust scored at 3:17 and Bastian flipped a backhand rebound past Jarry to tie the game.
“There should be a lot of players that feel good about the way we played, the opportunities we created and the fact that we finished them,” Ruff said.
Devils: Host the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Penguins: Visit Carolina on Saturday.
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