The Pittsburgh Penguins (45-23-11) had moments of dominance, moments of maddening sloppiness, and got a goal that probably should not have counted. Eventually, the hapless Detroit Red Wings could not keep up with the Penguins talent when the star players filled the net. Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Evgeni Malkin (2) scored as the Penguins pulled away for a 7-2 win at Little Caesar’s Arena.
Casey DeSmith won again as the de facto No. 1 goalie. He stopped 23 of 25 shots.
After a slow start, the Penguins outshot Detroit 38-25.
Rickard Rakell was fantastic with a pretty goal and slick assist on Crosby’s goal. The win put the Penguins (101 points) two points up on the Washington Capitals for third place in the Metro Division and two up on the Boston Bruins in a potential wild-card race.
Kris Letang earned some criticism for a few decisions in the second period but finished with three points (1-2-3).
If you picked Chad Ruhwedel to score the game’s first goal, you could have made a lot of money from DraftKings. Midway through a cautious, somewhat boring (Ok, very boring) first period, Ruhwedel noticed Detroit overcommitted to the corner, leaving the slot wide open.
Ruhwedel (4) beelined for the net and quickly finished Teddy Blueger’s pass behind Detroit netminder Tomas Greiss.
Sidney Crosby scored later in the first period after a give-and-go and give-and-go with Rickard Rakell. The Penguins’ top line with Rakell continued to dazzle as Rakell fed a charging Crosby at center ice, got a pass back at the blue line, and perfectly led Crosby near the net. Crosby (30) neatly deflected it past Greiss for a two-goal lead.
Old Washington Capitals nemesis Jakub Vrana burned the Penguins late in the first period. After a Jeff Carter tripping minor, Calder Trophy favorite Moritz zipped a pass across the slot, and Vrana (13) sneaked the shot past a stretched Casey DeSmith.
Underscoring the low-event nature of the period, Detroit outshot the Penguins 9-7.
However, Detroit tied the game just 17 seconds into the second period. Michael Rasmussen received a Kris Letang pinch without coverage over the top. Rasmussen (13) kept the puck on the resulting two-on-one and beat DeSmith with a glove-side wrister.
The Pittsburgh Penguins lost the script for the first half of the second period. Mistakes compounded. Mental mistakes and lackluster play gave Detroit a significant advantage. DeSmith made a couple of 10-bell saves to preserve a tie game until the Penguins’ stars turned the tide.
Midway through the period, the Penguins’ top-line began to show off. After a couple of scoring chances on one shift, Rakell stormed the offensive zone, stickhandled around a sprawled defenseman, and tucked a tight-angle shot past Greiss.
A few minutes later, Letang atoned for the bad pinch and a couple of other mistakes with a wicked goal. Letang raced from the top of the zone below the dot and snapped a wrister over Greiss for a 4-2 Penguins lead.
The game settled after that.
Late in the second period, officials awarded a power-play goal to Evgeni Malkin. Officials blew the whistle before Malkin (18) stuffed the loose rebound into a yawning cage, but after review, ruled it was a good goal based on the continuation rule. Essentially, the goal was allowed because Malkin was uncontested, and the whistle didn’t prevent Detroit from defending.
Disputed, yes, but they don’t put asterisks on goals.
Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, widely rumored to be on a scorching hot seat, pulled Greiss after the second period and replaced him with Alex Nedeljkovic.
Pittsburgh Penguins winger Danton Heinen (18) scored midway through the third period after Letang again skated the puck deep into the offensive zone. Letang fed Heinen, who flipped it over Nedeljkovic. It was Heinen’s fourth goal in the last five games.
Crosby and Rakell each had two points (1-1-2). Ruhwedel had two assists. Mike Matheson had the primary assist on Rakell’s goal to reach the 30-point plateau.
Evgeni Malkin (19) added a garbage time blast for his second goal of the game.