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Welcome Back, Conner: Red Wings 4 - Penguins 1

On the 6th day, Helm created the Red Light District
On the 6th day, Helm created the Red Light District

Having not been anything close to a professional athlete, it's hard for me to fathom how it must feel to play against the team that brought you into the league. However, when that team didn't re-sign you and let you walk, it's got to be extra special to be the dagger that wins the game.

Chris Conner returned to Pittsburgh, the team that he played for the past 2 seasons, and set up the Dan Cleary's insurance goal as the Wings beat the Pittsburgh 4-1 against a depleted Penguins team.

It was a very tight first period, with neither team really wanting to give any space to the other. Both teams killed off a penalty, and it looked like we were going to go to the intermission scoreless until Evgeni Malkin got loose down the wing and ripped a shot past Jimmy Howard to make it 1-0 Penguins.

The second period? Well, it wasn't pretty from a Wings perspective. However, after getting out-skated and out-worked for most of the period, Pavel Datsyuk put a backhand in after a great forecheck by Todd Bertuzzi. It wasn't a great period by Wing standards, and it actually felt good to be heading into the third tied at 1.

The third period was back and forth between the two teams, but the Wings got a power play goal from Johan Franzen to take the lead, and Cleary added 2 insurance goals to seal the Wings win and move them to within a point of Chicago for the division lead while maintaining their game in hand.

It's always nice to beat the Penguins, but it's just not the same this time. Follow the jump for more.

  • It's inevitable that when the Red Wings and Penguins get together, there's a mention of 2008 and 2009, but this rivalry is just about dead. Without a playoff series between the two teams, it's just a game between 2 good teams in different conferences, and since this is the only meeting all year, we now do not have to worry about the Penguins for the rest of the year. Pittsburgh missing Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang (among others) certainly takes some of the intensity out of the game.
  • I'm no conspiracy theorist, but even I can appreciate the coincidence of a too many men call being missed against the Penguins. It was a moment of levity in a fairly dull first period that allowed us all to make the same stupid joke about it not being 2009. Thankfully it had zero effect on the game and I was able to take my tinfoil hat off still intact.
  • So, Pavel Datsyuk is still pretty good, eh? Another 2 point performance tonight and suddenly he's only 9 points out of the scoring lead. Imagine if he had not had such a poor start to the season. We could be talking about a potential Art Ross for Pavs.
  • Chris Conner is certainly making a case to stay up with the big club. When Jan Mursak comes back, there is going to be someone that is sent down or moved in order to make room for the Sak Attack, and right now, I say that Cory Emmerton is the odd man out. I realize that it's harder to move him because he might be lost to waivers, but Conner makes this team better than Emmerton does right now, and that's the only important thing that should be considered.
  • Jimmy Howard. Tonight was game number 20 out of 25 where he allowed 2 goals or less. This man is not just a candidate to play in the All-Star Game; he's now a legitimate threat to win the Vezina.
The Wings are now just 1 point shy of Chicago for the division lead and get 2 points clear of St Louis in the Central. It was a solid road win against a good team (despite missing players) and was a good starting off point as the Wings will play 11 of their next 14 games on the road (drink). We're back Thursday night as the Wings head to Tennessee to play Bubba. The Predators are reeling and it's a chance to put them further out of the playoff race.