PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Devils played another dominant first period. This time, they followed it with two more.
Martin Brodeur recorded his third shutout of this year's playoffs and defenseman Brian Rafalski had a goal and an assist as the Devils suffocated the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-0, to grab a two games to one lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Brodeur stopped 20 shots for his 11th career playoff shutout but was hardly tested over the final 40 minutes as New Jersey produced a nearly flawless defensive effort.
"I've played so many games, I don't know which (shutout) is easier," Brodeur said. "It was just a nice effort from everybody. A shutout is a shutout. I just want to get these wins."
"This game was a pivotal game for our hockey club. We wanted to gain the home-ice advantage back," Brodeur said.
New Jersey had a 2-0 lead after the first period of Game Two but eased up defensively in the second and Pittsburgh stormed back for a 4-2 victory. There was no letup Thursday as the Devils gave fans at Mellon Arena nothing to cheer about. In fact, the Penguins heard boos in the third period, when they went 14 minutes without a shot.
"(Coach) Larry (Robinson) reminded us how we have to play to win," Devils center Bobby Holik said. "We've got to play this way for 60 minutes. Hopefully, we got Tuesday out of our system."
"We played a perfect second period on Tuesday. New Jersey turned it around and they played perfect tonight," said Penguins defenseman Bob Boughner. "You are not going to give the New Jersey Devils a one- or two-goal lead every game and expect to come back."
Playing without injured regulars Darius Kasparaitis and Robert Lang, Pittsburgh suffered its first postseason home shutout loss since Game Seven of the 1975 quarterfinals against the New York Islanders.
"I think we were into the game in the first period," Penguins center Mario Lemieux said. "We had our opportunities, we just couldn't put the puck behind the goalie. We just couldn't establish anything tonight."
Kasparaitis sat out with two broken toes while Lang was an unexpected scratch with a rib injury.
"They miss both of them," Robinson said. "Those are two pretty good hockey players."
After killing a boarding penalty on Holik, New Jersey grabbed the lead 8:42 into the opening period when Rafalski took a pass from Alexander Mogilny in the high slot and one-timed a wrist shot between goaltender Johan Hedberg's pads. Rafalski leads all defensemen with five playoff goals.
"It was just one of those spur of the moment things," Robinson explained. "I was more or less reacting to what they were doing and I was trying to basically get Bobby out there, if I could, either against the (Martin) Straka or Lemieux line. And that was the big reason behind it."
Pittsburgh's Josef Beranek was penalized for roughing with 7:11 to go in the period and Boughner joined him in the penalty box 36 seconds later, giving New Jersey a two-man advantage. Scoreless in five chances on Tuesday, the Devils converted on the power play when Rafalski passed to Arnott, whose blast from the left faceoff dot slid under Hedberg's stick and between his pads.
Holik took another penalty less than two minutes later, but Brodeur came up with his best save when he kicked out his left pad to stop Jaromir Jagr's rebound attempt with 5:24 to go in the period.
New Jersey nearly made it 3-0, but Hedberg stopped Mogilny on a breakaway with 1:33 remaining.
Pittsburgh had chances early in the second. Brodeur handled Beranek's quick wrister off a faceoff and grabbed Lemieux's bad-angle shot with his glove.
The Penguins squandered a third power-play chance after Petr Sykora clipped Lemieux with a high stick and were being outshot, 27-16, through two periods.
"They had a couple of good opportunities, a couple on the power play and another couple very early, and (Brodeur) was able to make the big stop at the right time," Robinson said.
With Pittsburgh pressing, the Devils generated a handful of odd-man chances and finally converted one 87 seconds into the final period. On a 2-on-1, Elias sped down the right side, used defenseman Colin White as a decoy and wristed a shot from the faceoff dot that struck Hedberg on the right shoulder and continued under the crossbar.
"I think they were the better team tonight," Penguins coach Ivan Hlinka said. "They didn't give us anything. We were down 2-0 and they started to control the game. And they were concentrating on defense. After that, they got some good chances because we (opened it up)."
It was the sixth playoff goal for Elias, who set a team playoff record by extending his points streak to eight games. Over the last six games, New Jersey's "A" line of Arnott, Elias and Sykora has combined for 11 goals and 13 assists.
Hedberg stopped 33 shots, but Pittsburgh fell to 3-4 at home in the playoffs. The Devils are just 5-4 at home but have won 15 of the last 19 postseason road games.