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Penguins’ Big Guns Dominate Red Wings: Detroit 1, Pittsburgh 4

Detroit Red WIngs v Pittsburgh Penguins

The bye week is over, and we are back with more Red Wings hockey! With Matt Murray home for an unspecified family issue, the Red Wings will be facing Tristan Jarry. That should give Detroit an advantage, but we know how that often goes. I assume it goes without saying, but hopefully Murray’s situation will be better soon.

I haven’t gotten to see Pittsburgh too often this season, but I know they are struggling. According to Daily Faceoff, their top line is Sidney Crosby centering Dominik Simon and Daniel Sprong, whose name I can’t read without thinking of the Sir Mix-a-Lot song.

First Period

Jimmy Howard is back in net for Detroit, and he turns aside a Malkin shot on the first shift of the game.

Athanasiou breaks into the offensive zone, after picking up a long lob pass from the Detroit zone. He couldn’t quite get around his defender, so that didn’t work, but we’ll see if Detroit continues to use it.

Howard doesn’t look rusty from his injury and the bye week, as he calmly turns aside a wrist shot from Kessel.

Witkowski is in today, and Ken Daniels makes the legally required declaration that Luke can play both forward and defense.

Malkin makes it 1-0 Pittsburgh off a wrist shot from the slot four minutes into the game. Carl Hagelin fed Malkin from the side of the net, and Howard had zero chance.

Dylan Larkin nearly evens the score all by himself. Larkin steals the puck from Dominik Simon in the Pittsburgh zone, and Simon is forced to take a slashing penalty to prevent Larkin from breaking in on Jarry all alone. Larkin nearly got the scoring chance anyway.

If you were hoping for an improved Red Wing power play after the break, this was not encouraging. They didn’t get set up until the last 20 seconds of the man advantage, although Frk set up Athanasiou for a one-timer just before Simon came out of the box that AA just missed putting home.

Just before the first commercial break, Crosby nearly put the puck into his own net, but not quite.

The stress of seeing Kronwall and Witkowski out there together aged me two years. Fortunately, Pittsburgh shot the puck over the glass from the defensive zone, so that’s a delay of game penalty.

The first minute of the power play was much better than the last one. The Zetterberg unit had about 40 seconds of zone time, during which they had several good scoring chances. They didn’t score, but they looked very dangerous.

The second unit looked better than last time, but still not great. They didn’t get nearly the quality chances that the first unit did.

But...they’ll get another chance as Detroit goes back to the power play. Malkin trips Tatar.

Darren Helm has been noticeable so far with a big hit on Oleksiak earlier in the game and a steal in the Pittsburgh zone.

GOAL! Not just a goal, but a power play goal! Zetterberg makes a cross ice pass to Tatar, who shoots. Abdelkader is screening Jarry and puts a rebound back towards the net, that hits Jarry and sneaks through his pads.

1-1 with just over 6 minutes left.

Danny Dekeyser has a wide open shot in close on Jarry, but he misses the goal. Ten seconds later, Detroit blows another chance when Tatar tries to force a pass to Larkin rather than shoot on a three on one. You can see what he was trying to do, but while a successful pass would have almost certainly led to a goal, it was very hard pass to make.

At the 15:56 mark of the first period, Danny Dekeyser cross checks Hornquist in the numbers, sending Pittsburgh to their first power play of the game.

Pittsburgh wastes no time and makes it 2-1. Kessel to Malkin to Crosby to enter the zone. Crosby completes the circle by feeding Kessel, who drove the net after his pass. Kessel tips the puck past a helpless Howard.

Malkin, Crosby, and Kessel each made a high level play on that sequence. If Detroit takes more penalties, Pittsburgh will likely continue to make them pay.

Dylan Larkin draws yet another penalty, and again it’s on Dominik Simon. The young Pittsburgh winger high-sticks Larkin in the face.

Detroit doesn’t get much going, but they will have 41 seconds of carryover power play time to start the second period.

Second Period

Nothing doing on the power play time to start the period. Nyquist sets up Helm for a dangerous chance shortly after Simon exits the box.

Larkin, Athanasiou, and Mantha are out together, and it’ll be interesting to see if that continues.

Kessel feeds Malkin for Malkin’s second goal of the game, and Pittsburgh is up 3-1. Malkin was able to come late into the zone with nobody picking him up until it was too late. It looked like the puck deflected off Larkin’s skate.

It was nearly 4-1, as Kessel has a breakaway from just over center ice, but Howard makes a top-notch save. Pittsburgh is obviously struggling this year, but you wouldn’t know it by how their top players are playing today.

Justin Abdelkader sends the Pens back to the power play.

Man oh man, this top unit on Pittsburgh’s power play is something else. Detroit is very fortunate not to be behind by three as Malkin, Crosby, and Kessel fire the puck around the zone. The Penguins have shifted into another gear, and so far it looks like Detroit can’t keep up.

Malkin takes his second penalty of the game, and Detroit gets a good chance to shift the momentum. Frk sets up Larkin, who hits the post. They don’t convert.

But....they will get another chance and Oleksiak takes Pittsburgh’s SIXTH power play of the game, and we are just over halfway through.

If Detroit loses this game, their power play will be a major reason why. When you get this many chances, you have to make the other team pay. Other than a Zetterberg one-timer, the Detroit power play doesn’t get anything going. Again.

While Detroit continues to not get traction on their power play, Phil Kessel continues to get wide open looks. He nearly scores his second of the game from just outside the slot.

Malkin goes to the bench, looking hurt. The replay shows that Dylan Larkin got away with one. He got his stick into Malkin’s arm as he skated by. Don’t be surprised if Malkin retaliates against Larkin later in the game.

Larkin and Athanasiou are out killing a penalty together, which is something I’ve wanted the team to try more. Larkin tries a long flip pass to AA, but it doesn’t quite work.

It’s obvious to anyone that I am not a fan of having Luke Witkowski take up a roster spot. But, if he’s going to play, I hope that he makes Hornquist pay for plays like his running of Howard with a few minutes left in the period. Every single game, Hornquist runs our goalie at least once. He’s easily in my top five of cheap shot NHL players.

The period ends 3-1, and Detroit is fortunate to only be down 2. Even with Detroit getting the lion’s share of the power plays, Pittsburgh could easily have 6 or more goals with the chances they are getting. It’s another game that Howard is keeping them in.

To have an idea how lopsided the chances have been, Pittsburgh leads 7-1 in 5v5 high danger chances and 12-3 in all situations. Detroit has had 6 power plays, and they have two HD chances with the man advantage.

Third Period

Nick Jensen takes an interference penalty 2:30 into the third, and Pittsburgh gets another chance to pad its lead. Jensen was dumped before taking the penalty, which could have been called, but it’s not too surprising considering the Red Wings have already had six power plays.

Crosby scores. Kessel and Malkin on the assists because of course.

Nielsen had good defensive position on the goal, but Crosby lifted Nielsen’s stick just before the puck got there, keeping Nielsen from deflecting it away.

Abdelkader is hurt and will not return to the game. The team is saying it is a lower body injury.

Darren Helm is also in the locker room after his skate looked to get caught along the boards and he went down awkwardly, grabbing his knee. So that’s not great.

Ericsson is called for interference with 8:36 left in the game. He hit Malkin along the boards after the forward had chipped the puck by him. The standard for what is a penalty on those plays seems to change every game.

The hard work of Bertuzzi on the penalty kill leads to Maata taking a penalty for holding him that negates the rest of the Pittsburgh power play, so we skate 4 on 4 for 45 seconds.

Helm will not return, which is unfortunately not surprising.

Nothing much happens the rest of the way, and Detroit loses 4-1. The score doesn’t fully reflect how lopsided this was, IMO. Pittsburgh finished with an 11-2 difference in 5v5 HD chances. 17-4 if you include the power play.

At the end of the day, Pittsburgh big guns were just too tough for Detroit to handle. Howard had another great game, which feels odd to say in a 4-1 loss, but it’s true.

Detroit doesn’t have too much time to lick their wounds, as they play another matinee tomorrow, this time in Chicago at 12:30 ET.