The Pittsburgh Penguins got the best start they could have hoped for at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit Wednesday night.
Too bad for them they had to stick around for a lot of the 59 minutes that followed.
Detroit fell behind on the second shift of the game, then ran off four unanswered goals en route to a 6-3 victory that snapped the Penguins’ modest two-game winning streak and dropped their record to 2-2.
The Penguins’ season-long streak of getting all of their goals from members of the top two lines continued in this game, but it was hard to hold that against guys who play on the bottom-six since none of them had made it onto the ice when Evgeni Malkin put the Penguins in front.
He staked them to a 1-0 lead just 53 seconds into the opening period, as he took a cross-ice feed from linemate Reilly Smith and banked a shot off goalie Ville Husso’s skate and into the net for his third of the season. Erik Karlsson got the second assist.
The Penguins had a chance to pad their lead when Detroit forward Klim Kostin was penalized for interference at 9:55, but they failed to convert on that power play, which never really got in synch.
That proved to be costly, because less than a half-minute after Kostin’s minor expired, Alex DeBrincat pulled Detroit even. He set up at the right side of the crease and steered an Austin Czarnik pass from the left circle behind goalie Tristan Jarry after Czarnik had gotten by Chad Ruhwedel along the left-wing boards.
Jeff Carter could have restored the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lead when he got a breakaway with just over two minutes remaining before the intermission, but Husso stopped his backhander from close range.
Ruhwedel was victimized, to some extent, on Detroit’s go-ahead goal at 5:21 of the second period.
Red Wings winger Lucas Raymond bumped him into Jarry, which appeared to distract Jarry enough that he couldn’t stop defenseman Ben Chariot’s shot from outside the left dot.
Another defensive breakdown by the Penguins led directly to Detroit’s third goal.
Andrew Copp was left alone in front of Jarry, making it possible for him to deflect a shot by former Penguins defenseman Jeff Petry out of the air and into the net at 15:42.
The Red Wings finally got a chance with the extra man when Jansen Harkins was sent off for tripping at 17:32, and needed just 17 seconds to make it 4-1.
Penguins alum David Perron got the goal, rapping a rebound past Jarry.
The Penguins finally showed some fight — literally and figuratively — in the final minute of the period. Marcus Pettersson traded punches with Red Wings center Dylan Larkin to highlight a scuffle that involved most of the players on the ice with 51.7 seconds to go, and Malkin and Moritz Seider wrestled with 13.3 seconds remaining.
Those skirmishes seemed to get the Penguins’ attention and restore their focus.
Karlsson sliced Detroit’s advantage to 4-2 at 3:37 with his first of the season, as he beat Husso from just below the top of the left circle. Sidney Crosby and Ryan Graves got the assists.
Jarry stopped Copp on a penalty shot at 7:17 to keep the Penguins within two, and Bryan Rust tipped a Karlsson shot out of the air and into the net at 13:03 for his team-leading fourth goal. The second assist went to Pettersson.
The Penguins pressed for the goal that would have forced overtime, but Copp scored into an empty net with 1:32 remaining to seal Detroit’s victory. The Penguins challenged that the play had been offside, but a video review in the NHL Situation Room did not find conclusive evidence to disallow the goal.
The failed challenge led to a delay-of-game minor against the Penguins and, after Jarry was again pulled for an extra attacker, DeBrincat hit the open net at 18:49.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to practice Thursday at noon at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.