It felt a lot like the playoffs.

A home-and-home weekend series, not to mention three meetings between the Devils and Penguins in nine days, will get the blood boiling.

Four seconds after the puck was dropped tonight, Devils winger Ryan Carter and Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo shook off their gloves, threw off their helmets and waged an intense fight. Both players landed punches, with Bortuzzo winding up on top of the Devils' winger.

So what caused it?

“I don’t know. Back-to-back games, I guess,” Carter said. “I think we probably had a few words in the previous game. He did a couple things out there that maybe needed some attention. It carried over.”

Carter felt he accomplish what he wanted.

“I think so. (The Penguins were) a little more quiet tonight,” he said. “Maybe set the tone for our team physically, too. Obviously coming into this building they’re going to start fast. That was a worry of mine. I think it worked out for us.”

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The Devils were fortunate not to lose center Stephen Gionta, who crashed into the end boards as he and Tomas Vokoun nearly collided in the circle to the Pittsburgh goalie’s left 43 seconds into the second period.

“I’m okay,” Gionta reported. “I hit my back. I’m just a little stiff on the upper part of my body.

“I toe-picked a couple feet in front of Vokoun and kind of clipped his feet. It turned me around, so I couldn’t really protect myself going into the boards.”