Titov, Pens Skate Past Devils

Losing Ron Francis to free agency may not be as bad as the Pittsburgh Penguins feared if German Titov continues to produce.

Titov scored his first two goals for Pittsburgh and Jaromir Jagr had two assists to lead the Penguins to a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

In acquiring Titov from Calgary early this summer, the Penguins hoped he would regain his scoring touch and anchor the second line behind the combination of Jagr, Stu Barnes and Martin Straka.

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  • "We have to help the first line," said Titov, who scored 20 or more goals in three of his five NHL seasons. "Jags, Stuie and Straks is a good line. We have to help the team win."

    Penguins coach Kevin Constantine said Titov is doing that.

    "He made good plays the other night on the island," Constantine said. "He was involved in two goals there and two goals tonight, so he has been involved in four of our first seven goals. You can't ask for much more."

    Barnes also scored and goaltender Tom Barrasso stopped 22 shots and kept the Devils off the scoreboard for 53:33 as the Penguins spoiled Robbie Ftorek's home debut as the Devils coach.

    The win was the Penguins' second in as many games this season, and it was their first since the team filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 early this week. The 2-0 start is the best for Pittsburgh since it won seven straight and went undefeated in 13 in the strike-shortened 1994-95 season.

    "It makes it a lot of fun when you are winning," defenseman KeviHatcher said. "I have played in a couple of situations where you're looking for your first win after four or five games. You're digging yourself a hole."

    That's exactly what the Devils are doing with their first 0-2 start since 1983-84. New Jersey opened the 94-95 season (0-3-1) the tie was the first game - before turning things around and winning the Stanley Cup.

    "This is disappointing because we'd like to get some wins, because we're a better club than not having any," Ftorek said. "We have to rectify that and get going."

    Barnes put Pittsburgh ahead for good, scoring 57 seconds into the second period. Jagr set it up with both muscle and finesse. He knocked down Bobby Holik going for a loose puck about 15 feet in front goalkeeper Martin Brodeur, then slid it over to Barnes, whose shot from the right circle beat Brodeur to the top part of the net.

    Devils defenseman Brad Bombardir had a great chance to tie the game with about five minutes left in the second period. Barrasso lost his skate edge and fell, but Bombardir's 40-foot shot went over the top of the open net.

    Bombardir said he rushed the shot instead of being patient.

    "I'm sure he caught a rut. I don't think he was trying to test me, if I could hit it. I'll give him that much," Bombardir said.

    Titov made it 2-0 early in the third period, beating Brodeur between the legs with a shot from the top of the left circle. He got his second at 13:20 on a power play, tucking in a pass from Brad Werenka on the edge of the crease. Jagr also got an assist.

    Jason Arnott broke the shutout 13 seconds later, ripping a Bombardir pass over Barrasso.

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