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Comeback Impossible: Red Wings Surge Late but Fall 5-3

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It was 4-1, but Detroit ran out of time to complete the upset.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s been a long four days since we saw a hockey game played. Let’s hope it was a well-used break for the Red Wings. Oh Evgeni Malkin is sitting at 398 goals coming into tonight? I’m sure that won’t be a sign of things to come.

First Period

My low expectations and I were just thinking how nice it was that the Red Wings seemed to be doing well at keeping the Penguins off the board for five whole minutes when they pretty much conjured a goal out of nothing. Jonathan Bernier stopped the one-timer by Jake Guentzel but Malkin came storming into the crease and somehow the puck ended up under Bernier and in the net. There was brief questioning about whether Malkin had shoved Bernier’s pad and the puck in, but the refs called it a good goal and Guentzel ended up with credit. 1-0 Penguins.

Minor YIKES moment as Dennis Cholowski fired a puck over center that ended up catching Filip Zadina in the head. Fortunately, Zadina ducked and the puck dinged off his helmet, but Gord knows I freaked a little when I saw it.

Guentzel nearly got a second goal that Bernier gloved, but the puck literally fell out of his glove and Malkin tried to sweep in for a rebound. I’m thinking maybe we should watch out for those two when they’re on the ice.

Then the Penguins actually did score a second goal and this one again seems to come out of nowhere. Chad Ruhwedel, which is a name that looks like a made-up mythical creature, fired a long shot from the blue line that was screened and may have been tipped off a Red Wing.

Surprisingly no penalties in this first period from a pair of teams that historically haven’t been friends. Of course, back in the day it seemed to be a lot of Henrik Zetterberg making Sidney Crosby very angry-pants, so with Crosby injured and Zetterberg off somewhere being perfectly Swedish, there wasn’t as much tension between the two squads.

Shots: 12-7 Pittsburgh
Score: 2-0 Penguins

Second Period

The Red Wings’ best chance of the night so far came off the stick of Christoffer Ehn, who took a short pass from Brendan Perlini for a one-timer that Matt Murray had a little trouble handling cleanly. A couple minutes later, Andreas Athanasiou tried to do his thing but couldn’t get around and ahead of Ruhwedel enough, and the puck clipped the Pens’ defenseman’s stick and went off course.

Detroit ended up getting the first power play of the night as Alex Galchenyuk got tangled up with Alex Biega. There was some actual pretty puck movement by the Wings, and Dylan Larkin fired a shot that ricocheted off Tyler Bertuzzi in front of the net. Robby Fabbri snuck in from the opposite side, picked up the garbage, and flung the puck past Murray for his seventh(!) goal of the season. Still 2-1 Penguins, but it was nice to see the team actually capitalize on an opportunity like that.

Zadina nearly got a goal on a 2-on-1 with Ehn and oh man he tried so hard, went down on one knee for the one-timer and everything, but Jack Johnson got his big dumb foot in the way and RUINED IT. Just let Zadina have pretty goals, he deserves nice things!

Don’t worry, in classic hockey karma fashion, the Penguins scored soon after to make it 3-1. Malkin scored for his third point of the night and his 399th career goal. A failed clear by Valtteri Filppula saw the Penguins regain possession as Guentzel smacked the puck back toward the Detroit goal. Malkin grabbed it, spun around, and threw it between Bernier’s pads.

Then Kris Letang took a penalty for cross-checking Fabbri, probably because of eyebrow envy. The ensuing Red Wings power play was definitely more disjointed than the first and was unfortunately fruitless.

Patrik Nemeth put the Pens on the power play in the penultimate part of the period. He hooked the hands of a passing Penguin, but happily no harm was had before the horn honked.

Shots: 21-20 Pittsburgh
Score: 3-1 Penguins

Third Period

Apparently I always speak type too soon because I was just about to be relieved that the Wings held the Penguins off on the power play but Dominik Kahun scored literally four seconds after the expiration of the penalty. He tried to pass over to Jared McCann, but the puck bounced off Filppula and right back to Kahun and he pinged it off the back post and out to make it 4-1 Penguins.

The Red Wings seemed to do their classic third period collapse after the fourth Penguins goal because it seemed to take an act of the Hockey Gods for them to hang on to the puck. I swear it was like some “I’m rubber, you’re glue” playground type curse because Detroit couldn’t handle a pass while Pittsburgh seemed to have magnets in their sticks.

An odd time for a goalie change as it didn’t happen immediately after a Pens goal, but Eric Comrie made his Red Wings debut just before the halfway point of the third. Somehow the Penguins looked even more on point immediately after the goalie change, which is dumb because I would have hoped Detroit would do so for their own goalie’s sake.

If my badmouthing the Red Wings gives them power enough to score goals, I’ll yell at them from my couch constantly until they take down the entire league. Apparently my scorn could be felt across the state, because while Darren Helm and Frans Nielsen created a 2-on-1 that Nielsen couldn’t convert on, Helm circled around the net and got the puck over to an approaching Filip Hronek, who fired it over a sprawling Murray for the goal. 4-2 Penguins.

Detroit went on the power play with 4:36 to go as Bryan Rust was called for high-sticking. Comrie came out of the net almost immediately for a 6-on-4 man advantage. It sure seemed like the extended time of two men up was going to be wasted until Larkin made it 4-3 with 29 seconds to go in the power play. He took a long shot while using practically every Penguin on the ice as a collective screen and zipped it between Murray’s pads.

Alas, the comeback was not meant to be. The Wings took a Too Many Men penalty with just under two minutes left as they played the puck before Comrie could get off the ice for the extra skater. Comrie left the net again to make it 5-on-5 and Larkin seemed bound and determined to tie it himself. Pittsburgh got possession and it seemed like the Wings were going to be able to keep the puck out by sheer will and shot blocks, but John Marino nailed the empty net with nine seconds to go. 5-3 Penguins, and for an extra kick in the rear, Bertuzzi was down on the ice injured when the goal happened. Yay!

Final Thoughts

  • Ken Daniels spent the first three minutes or so of the game talking about Evgeni Malkin and how he had some linemates that were less than stellar on the defensive end of things. Gosh, I wonder what that must be like. Heaven forbid.
  • Early in the second it was suggested that the Red Wings needed to get their skating legs back after being off for four nights while the Penguins played last night (implicating they’re warmed up?) Hint: if you aren’t skating well when you’re tired and you aren’t skating well when you’re rested, you might just not be a good-skating team.
  • The Penguins lead the league in unique scorers for the season with 24 individual players with at least one goal. For comparison, the Red Wings have had 29 different skaters this season and 15 different goal scorers.
  • Re: the Hronek goal
  • Obviously we lost again, but I’ll say the attempt at the comeback was the most encouraging thing about the game. It was nice to see the team build themselves back up enough to where they created their own chances and then actually capitalized on them.
  • Eric Comrie 0.00 GAA and 1.000 SV%!!