PITTSBURGH (AP) — New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle wants to serve as a role model in the fight against cancer.
He certainly was inspiring on Monday night.
The cancer survivor scored three times for his first career hat trick, leading the Devils to a 5-1 victory over the slumping Pittsburgh Penguins.
Boyle got his natural hat trick on “Hockey Fights Cancer” night in Pittsburgh. It included two power-play goals and two redirections in front of the net.
“I love these nights, I really do,” Boyle said. “Just the initiative and seeing the survivors on the ice and being recognized. Sometimes you feel kind of alone. It can be a dark place at times during a cancer fight. But to be seen, the support everybody shows and the money raised, it’s just a phenomenal thing.”
The 33-year-old Boyle was diagnosed with a form of bone marrow cancer at the beginning of training camp last season. He underwent treatment, returned to the lineup last November and won the NHL’s Masterton Trophy for best exemplifying qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
“There’s ups and downs, just like life,” Boyle said. “The worst kind of part of it was when people felt sorry for you. They don’t know what to say, and you want them to feel comfortable around you. I think it’s important to reach out and ask questions if you need help.”
Will Butcher had a goal and two assists for New Jersey, and Travis Zajac scored his fourth goal. Jean-Sebastien Dea, who spent the last two seasons in Pittsburgh, had two assists.
The Devils stopped a three-game slide with their first road win. They were outscored 15-6 during the losing streak.
Keith Kinkaid made 35 saves for New Jersey, which has won four of its last five against Pittsburgh.
“It’s an easy game to get up for (with Pittsburgh winning) two championships in the past three years,” Kinkaid said. “They’re a good team, but I think we match up well against them.”
Jamie Oleksiak scored for the Penguins, who have dropped four in a row.
Matt Murray stopped 23 shots in two periods before he was pulled for Casey DeSmith, who made 11 saves. Murray has allowed at least four goals in each of his five home starts.
Prior to its slide, Pittsburgh outscored the opposition 23-6 during a four-game winning streak. It’s only the third time the Penguins have lost four straight under Mike Sullivan and the first time Pittsburgh has dropped four in a row at home under the fourth-year head coach. Pittsburgh has two wins in seven home games this season. It won 30 home games each of the two previous seasons.
“A week ago, we were feeling good about ourselves when we won four in a row on the Western Canada trip,” Sullivan said. “It’s not a good feeling when you’re in these types of situations, but we have to rely on one another to get out of it. We believe we have what it takes to be a very good team in the league.”
Boyle gave the Devils a 2-1 lead in the first period when he tipped a Ben Lovejoy shot behind Murray from the top of the crease.
Boyle extended the lead with a power-play goal in the second period. His between-the-legs redirection from the top of the crease made it a 3-1 game.
Boyle scored his second power-play goal off a one-timer from Taylor Hall with 19.7 seconds to play in the second period. Hall has at least one point in 10 of 12 games this season.
“Scoring goals is the most fun thing in hockey, as an individual player,” Boyle said. “And then you can help a team win a game, especially the way we’ve been going lately, it’s a big one for us.”
NOTES: Devils F Joey Anderson recorded his first NHL point. … Penguins F Derick Brassard (lower body) missed his fifth game. He hasn’t skated since Oct. 25. … Devils F Marcus Johansson recorded his 200th NHL assist. … Devils D Andy Greene played in his 800th career game. … Devils F Stefan Noesen (upper body) missed his second straight game. … The Devils wore a “Stronger Than Hate” sticker on their helmets, featuring the team logo and the Star of David. It was in response to the tragic shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue last month.
Devils: Continue a seven-game road trip Tuesday at Ottawa.
Penguins: Visit Washington on Wednesday.