Red Wings March On Past Penguins, Win 3-2 in Shootout

Red Wings beat old nemesis thanks largely to Pickard, and Zadina breaking his scoreless drought

The Red Wings travelled to Pittsburgh tonight to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Wings were looking to rebound from a tough outing against Chicago on Wednesday, particularly a brutal 1st period that saw them go down 4-0.

Detroit specifically wanted a dramatic improvement defensively as there were some brutal turnovers that directly resulted in goals. Pittsburgh posed a tough challenge given old nemeses Crosby and Malkin and how hot the Penguins have been the last several weeks. Crosby entered the game having scored 8 points including 5 goals in his last 5 games, looking much like the star that has terrorized the league for the better part of two decades.

Detroit still runs top heavy reliant on their best players to win games. Moving Bertuzzi to the second line as part of the Guelph connection with Suter and Fabbri has helped balance the offense among two lines but contributions from further down the lineup would be critical to getting a win tonight on the road in Pittsburgh.

One advantage playing to the Red Wings favor was that Pittsburgh played last night, taking a tough overtime loss against Seattle. Team playing back to back, particularly one with as many veterans as Pittsburgh, often have trouble getting their legs back under them with less than a day’s rest.

Playing last night also meant Pittsburgh would turn to backup netminder Casey DeSmith tonight who has only started 9 games this year sporting a low .886 SV% and 3.57 GAA. He presented an opportunity for Detroit to expose if they could put enough shots on goal. For Detroit, Calvin Pickard got the start giving Nedeljkovic a well-deserved break after nabbing the wide majority of starts for the team over the last month.

1st Period

Detroit iced their standard roster of late with one notable change. Gustav Lindstrom returned, replacing Danny DeKeyser. A warranted scratch but a surprising one nonetheless.

Pickard apparently has been taking tips from Nedeljkovic in practic as the goaltender made a full length pass to the far blue line early on when he came out to play a puck. Nothing came from it but it was an impressive pass.

Staal made a physical play on Malkin as he went stride for stride with the big center down into the Detroit corner before taking him down. Malkin tried to lean back into Staal but lost his footing as he crashed into the end boards and got up slowly.

The second line was the most noticeable early on, controlling the puck for the most part on their shifts and trying to cycle the puck long enough to open up good chances in the slot. Also impressive early was the Rasmussen, Zadina, Erne line carrying play more than they typically do.

As a result of controlling the play early, Detroit earned the first powerplay when Jeff Carter tripped Seider when Seider hit the brakes while controlling the puck at the offensive blueline. On the powerplay, Detroit opened with the second unit. While they were able to setup a couple of times, they were kept to the perimeter. The first unit looked better but also were kept mostly to the outside. Although they managed to get a few shots off, none were on net and didn’t create any chances.

With 8:00 to play the shots were 5-1 in favor of Detroit. Oesterle had a good look when Raymond took a pass at the blue line before sliding it over to Oesterle who had room to skate in and get inside the faceoff dot before letting a shot go that DeSmith was able to direct away to the corner.

With just under 2:00 remaining, Detroit’s fourth line got after the puck on the forecheck with Givani Smith creating pressure, Pittsburgh cycled the puck back behind their own net. The defender circled the net before attempting an outlet pass that Joe Veleno picked off as he was coming into the play following a change. Veleno had his shot from the right dot blocked, but Gagner gathered the loose puck and was able to throw it into traffic at the net. Smith battled for it in front of DeSmith before spinning in the crease area and sweeping a puck between DeSmith’s legs and into the net, 1-0 Red Wings.

It was the type of goal Detroit desperately needed, a result of a dogged effort by the entire line and creating a dirty goal off of second and third efforts. It also represented something the Red Wings have significantly lacked, goals from the bottom six . Well earned by Givani Smith.

That was it for scoring in the period. The 1st period was largely a grind with neither team generating any top notch scoring chances. That was likely very much Detroit’s game plan coming into the contest following the sloppy game against Chicago. They played well defensively in front of Pickard, holding Pittsburgh to 5 shots in the period.

2nd Period

Larkin had the first scoring chance of the middle period when Raymond slid a pass to him just before Raymond skated behind the net. The pass found Larkin who quickly one-timed it on net but DeSmith was able to get his body in front of it despite being deep in his net.

Then it was the second line’s turn when Bertuzzi deftly knocked a pass out of the air from behind him at the red line without breaking stride. After a quick give and go at the blue line, Bertuzzi found Fabbri with a pass in the slot. But Fabbri’s shot was steered away by DeSmith. Pittsburgh followed with a chance of their own when Rust grabbed a loose puck in front of Pickard but the goalie was able to lunge his bad back to the post in time to stop Rust’s deke attempt.

Shortly after that Rasmussen took a bad penalty when he retaliated to a hit he took with a cross check away from the play. There was no arguing the call and Rasmussen has to be smarter than that.

With the man advantage, Pittsburgh was dangerous. Pickard came up big when Crosby faked a slap shot from the top of the circle before sliding a pass to Letang who one timed it but didn’t get it high enough to get over Pickard’s pad who had slid across in time. But moments later Pittsburgh kept pushing and after a shot from the point by Crosby rebounded to the top of the crease, Guentzel grabbed the rebound and beat Pickard with a shot to the far side before he could recover, 1-1.

It was an awful penalty kill by Detroit that included a chance to clear but Namestnikov had his attempt knocked down by Crosby. More importantly this one lied squarely on Rasmussen’s shoulders. He doesn’t produce enough to earn a dumb penalty like that.

Larkin tried to respond quickly for the Wings as he drove down the right wall, cutting hard to the goal. He tried to cut across the front going backhand to forehand but DeSmith kicked his attempt away.

Pittsburgh started to tilt the ice towards Detroit’s end after that though. Lanes were starting to open up as Detroit began to look like the tired group, losing puck races and missing assignments defensively. The powerplay goal completely reversed the game flow.

In an attempt to mix things up, Smith was placed on the top line with Larkin and Raymond. It was short lived though as Larkin took a tripping penalty in the offensive zone after a faceoff when he took Smith down. Larkin was hot about it but it seemed like a pretty easy call.

Looking to use the man advantage once again, Pittsburgh cycled the puck around the zone directing a few shots on goal forcing Pickard to come up with a couple of big stops. Rasmussen jammed a puck into DeSmith while shorthanded and forced a whistle. After which Crosby knocked him over with a cross check but without a call. Crosby put more force into his cross check than Rasmussen did on his penalty, but Detroit’s dismay fell on deaf ears with the referee. Detroit managed to kill off the remainder of the penalty without danger.

Pickard made another good save when he stopped a Crosby backhander that was quite deceptive. Crosby was driving down the right side trying to beat Seider to the net who was playing the star hard all shift. With 6:00 to play Pittsburgh moved ahead in shots taking a 21-20 advantage, evidence they had come out much stronger in this period.

Detroit earned a powerplay with 4:15 to play when Simon hooked Seider as the rookie skated through the neutral zone with the puck. The Wings looked to use the powerplay as a boost to turn the tide of this game back in their favor. Hronek had a great look from the left circle but couldn’t beat DeSmith who had come out high to challenge the shot. But second later Rasmussen cycled the puck behind the goal to Zadina who threw it back to Hronek and then Leddy. Leddy put a shot towards the net from up high. With Rasmussen and Zadina both in front, it was Zadina that got a stick on the loose puck and knocked it in, 2-1 Red Wings.

Rasmussen also came close to knocking it in but it was ultimately Zadina with the goal. That marker represented one King Kong sized monkey off of Zadina’s back and hopefully allows him to play a little looser moving forward. There is probably no player more polarizing for the fan base this season than Zadina.

Detroit was able to halt Pittsburgh’s momentum with the goal and were likely very pleased to ultimately play the period to a draw, taking a 23-22 shot advantage to the break. Zadina finally scoring could be monumental to the young winger, time will tell. Pickard looked strong in this period being called upon several times for some big and timely saves. Rasmussen did his best to redeem himself following the bad penalty as well, but it’s a deep hole to dig out of.

3rd Period

Detroit came into the final period looking to hold on to their one goal lead at 2-1. But it took only 0:27 for them to fail to do so. Immediately Hronek turned puck over as he circled behind the net. Crosby quickly passed the turnover to Guentzel out front before the Wings could regroup and Guentzel hammered it from the slot past Pickard for his second of the game, 2-2.

Tough start for Detroit and bad look for Hronek. Staal also needed to react to the play better as he was the third Detroit player to turn his attention to Crosby rather than Guentzel immediately behind him.

Detroit came close to jumping ahead again after Namestnikov pounded away at a puck in the crease area before DeSmith ended up on his back on top of the puck. A few shifts later Suter tried to beat Letang one on one when he was in alone on the defender, but couldn’t quite get all the way around the defenseman, although he nearly did.

With 10:13 to play it was Givani Smith’s turn for a bad penalty. This one wasn’t retaliatory but was a bit lazy as he reached in with his stick through the neutral zone and took a hooking penalty. It wasn’t much of a hook but that’s one they almost always call.

Pittsburgh’s powerplay again was dangerous. They almost immediately scored on a feed through the crease area that would have been a tap in had it not hit a Detroit skate on the way there. But the second half of the penalty kill was much better than the first minute as Detroit kept turning Pittsburgh away before they could set up. They returned to even strength with the score still tied.

Pittsburgh was again the stronger team early through the 3rd period. With the Penguins having played last night it was Detroit who should have been carrying the play in the late stages, but Pittsburgh is a hot team and was playing like it.

Erne came perilously close to an awful gaffe when he went to play a puck behind his own net but put it off the outside of the net instead, possibly even the outside of the post. Luckily Detroit avoided disaster on the play.

Both teams slowed down in the latter half of the period, seemingly happy to have the pace drop and play for overtime. Pickard had to come up with a good save when Guentzel was parked alone in front of him to deflect an incoming shot, Pickard was able to make a kick save to keep it out.

There were some fireworks with 1:41 to play when Crosby and Seider got into it in front of Pickard after a whistle. Seider had clearly had enough of Crosby getting in extra shots against Detroit players all night after the whistle. Each of them earned 2:00 for their trouble, resulting in 4 on 4 play to close out regulation. Pittsburgh without their best player for the end of regulation and Detroit without their best defender.

Detroit controlled most of the 4 on 4 action, and at one point Raymond ended up on top of DeSmith. Upon review he definitely could have been called for interference as he wasn’t steered all that heavily into the goaltender. But in his defense DeSmith was beyond his blue ice on the play. That closed out regulation time at 2-2 with Detroit happy to at least take a point away from this one with the chance for two. Pittsburgh outshot Detroit 37-28 through the first three periods.


To start overtime, Blashill went with Larkin, Raymond, and Leddy; with Seider and Crosby still sitting in the box. Pittsburgh opened with possession, but after a turnover it was a 2 on 1 for Raymond and Larkin against Malkin. Raymond carried the puck in before floating a pass across to Larkin through the hash marks. Larkin took a moment to handle the pass before shooting a wrister. DeSmith was sprawled out but made the save of the game with a huge glove on the Larkin shot. Larkin even had to give the goaltender his props after the save.

Pickard made a nice save of his own when he fought off a slap shot from the point with his right shoulder. Pittsburgh continued to control the puck aside from the Larkin chance. But Bertuzzi had a look of his own when he stopped up in the right circle and tried to beat DeSmith but it was deflected away.

Just after that Jeff Carter came up with the rare put himself offside on the rush when he bobbled the puck at the blue line and entered the zone before regaining control.

Larkin made a great defensive play at his own blue line when he suddenly stepped up on Malkin to create a turnover and a chance the other way. It was an aggressive play but a good one. He tried to feed Zadina across the crease front on the rush afterwards but just missed him with the pass.

Bertuzzi came close to ending it with a shot after an offensive zone faceoff. He tried to beat DeSmith high to the short side but the goaltender again knocked it away to the corner. Crosby had a partial breakaway after a Detroit rush was broken up with less than 0:15 to play. But the pass was slow giving Seider a chance to at least make the attempt more difficult. Crosby whistled a shot high and wide on Pickard though to send this one to a shootout. The final shots were 38-32 Pittsburgh.


Detroit was 1-1 on the season in shootouts entering this one. Pittsburgh shot first with Guentzel. The two goal scorer tried to make a move to his backhand but flipped the puck wide.

Lucas Raymond was first up for Detroit. He attacked from the right side, his strong side, he faked to the backhand before quickly going back to the forehand and firing it under DeSmith’s pad to take the lead.

Crosby was next up for the Penguins, and came in on a more direct route with a little more pace. He tried to beat Pickard with a quick shot to the five hole but Pickard was able to close the pads and keep it out.

Larkin had the chance to end the shootout early and give Detroit two points. He attacked from the right as well, which is his off wing. He pulled up to change his speed as he came down on DeSmith trying to back to goaltender into his net. He fired a quick wrist shot that just caught the very top of DeSmith’s pad and stayed out, extending this one at least one more shot.

Letang had the chance to keep this shootout going and he tried to go backhand to forehand in front of Pickard but his shot caught the goaltender’s elbow and went up and out.

Red Wings 3-2 via the shootout!

Wrapping Up

Well DeSmith certainly was not the weak point for Pittsburgh that his numbers suggested he could be. The Penguins goaltender came up with several big time saves throughout this game but was ultimately bested in the shootout, giving up one to Raymond. Speaking of goaltenders, Calvin Pickard had one of his best games in a Red Wings uniform, coming up with several big saves stopping 36 of 38 and all three shootout attempts. Good for him and he deserves any accolades thrown his way in this one.

Zadina finally snapped his goalless drought and although he wasn’t all that noticeable after the goal, the hope is it spurns him on to better scoring totals through the second half of the season.

Seider turned in what has become a routine terrific performance. The top two lines looked dangerous as they often do. But it was the unheralded players doing the scoring in this one between Givani Smith, and Zadina’s powerplay goal. Both goals the result of hard efforts in the crease area, no coincidence. That’s how Detroit has to beat a squad like Pittsburgh, especially as hot as they are. That’s a win for the Wings to hang their hat on after what’s been a tough stretch.

Detroit hopes to ride that momentum when they return home tomorrow night to welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s a tough turnaround, particularly when back to back games aren’t even both in your own barn so they still have to travel home tonight. Nedeljkovic is likely to get the start and is hopefully a little rejuvenated for a game in which he could face several talented shooters, and often.