(Reuters) - The New Jersey Devils dished out a second 3-1 defeat in as many days against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday to strengthen their position at the top of the Eastern Conference.
A day after beating their Atlantic Division rivals by an identical score in New Jersey, the Devils repeated the feat in Pittsburgh on the back of one goal from Ilya Kovalchuk and two from David Clarkson, who took his tally to nine for the season.
The win was the fifth in a row for the visitors and improved their record to 8-1-3, while the Pens dipped to 8-5-0.
“It’s just confidence, the more years you play in the league you get a bit more comfortable and you try to make plays,” Clarkson told reporters.
“My line is helping me a lot and it’s just finding the areas of the ice and the puck just seems to be going in right now.”
Clarkson opened the scoring after 13 minutes, showing great stick work on a quick break to slam home the puck in an opening period dominated by the Penguins.
The Devils improved after the break and wrapped up proceedings in a two-minute spell midway through the second period when Kovalchuk scored and Clarkson rammed home a rebound from a Patrik Elias shot for a 3-0 lead.
“I think we are a team that is a bit meat and potatoes. We get it in deep and work hard and I can’t say enough about our penalty kills, they were phenomenal tonight,” Clarkson said.
“I think we are just working as a team and buying into the system.”
James Neal scored a consolation goal for the Penguins during a powerplay early in the final period but the visitors were unable to make any further inroads into New Jersey’s advantage over the final 19 minutes.
Reporting by Ben Everill in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien