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Penguins Survive Awful Start, Fade Late in 7-4 Loss



DETROIT — There’s no question the Pittsburgh Penguins were aware of what was at stake at Little Caesars Arena Tuesday night.

And they certainly recognized the opportunity that a late-season game against a non-playoff opponent like Detroit presented for them.

They just didn’t show it — at all — during the first period of what became a 7-4 loss to the Red Wings.

Losing in regulation cost the Penguins a chance to cut their deficit in the battle with the New York Islanders for the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They trail New York by three points.

Former Penguins winger David Perron, who had just two goals in the previous 29 games, scored three times, including a pair late in the third period to put the game away.

Perron got his second of the evening at 16:20 from low in the left circle to break a 4-4 tie, just eight seconds after Bryan Rust was called for high-sticking.

He then sealed the outcome by completing his hat trick 45 seconds later.

Dylan Larkin rubbed it in with an empty-net goal with 36.9 seconds left to close out the scoring.

The only positive for the Penguins was that defenseman Jeff Petry was back in the lineup after sitting out five games because of an unspecified upper-body injury. With his return, defenseman Taylor Fedun was sent to the Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre.

By the time the first intermission arrived, coach Mike Sullivan and management probably were considering the merits of renting a bus to ship a much larger group to the American Hockey League, as Detroit controlled play for most of the opening period.

The Red Wings looked fast and motivated; the Penguins looked, well, like they were out there, too. Just not particularly interested in anything Detroit was up to.

Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman took two minors in the first half of the period — he went for slashing at 5:48 and boarding at 9:03 — and the Red Wings took a 1-0 lead as the second of those was about to expire, as Jonatan Berggren slid a shot between goalie Casey DeSmith’s legs and across the goal line.

Andrew Copp made it 2-0 at 11:37, tipping a Moritz Seider shot from the center point past DeSmith at 11:37.

The Penguins got a power play when Austin Czarnik was called for holding at 13:49, but failed to convert.

And just 18 seconds after Czarnik left the box, Dominik Kubalik deflected in a Gustav Lindstrom pass to put Detroit up by three.

At that point, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ prospects of picking up one point, let alone two, looked to fall somewhere between minimal and microscopic.

At best.

Surely, there was no reason to believe they could tie the game before the second period was nine minutes old.

But they did.

Jason Zucker started the comeback at 4:40, when he beat Red Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic from between the right circle and the crease for his 25th of the season.

The Penguins got a two-man advantage a few minutes later, and made the most of it, scoring twice to pull into a tie.

Jake Guentzel tipped in an Evgeni Malkin shot from above the right hash during a 5-on-3 at 7:46 for his 33rd, and Jeff Carter rang up his third in four games at 8:50.

Although it was not immediately clear that Carter had scored, a video replay confirmed that the puck was under Nedeljkovic’s left skate and had crossed the goal line before he dragged it out.

The Red Wings then challenged for goaltender interference on the play, but the review upheld Carter’s goal.

Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde was ejected from the game at 11:16 after apparently expressing an, uh, unfavorable assessment of the officials’ performance to that point.

Detroit managed to hold off the Penguins for the rest of the game, though, and Perron put the Red Wings in front, 4-3, at 4:05 of the third, as he whipped a shot past DeSmith from just inside the left dot.

That lead didn’t last long, however, as Josh Archibald scored his sixth of the season on a wraparound at the left post, as he slid a shot between Nedeljkovic’s legs while Nedeljkovic was looking in the other direction.

The Penguins had a chance to grab a lead when Kubalik was penalized for boarding Friedman at 7:07, but they were unable to score.

And Perron was just about to get going.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have called off the practice scheduled for noon Wednesday ay UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in advance of their game against Nashville Thursday at 7:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.