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Sullivan Juggles Lines, Penguins Come to Life, but Detroit Wins 3-2 in SO

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Pittsburgh Penguins game, Detroit Red Wings

The Pittsburgh Penguins sleepwalked through the first half of the game. Flat might be too kind of an adjective. The Penguins were jolted to life when head coach Mike Sullivan put his lines in a blender and made wholesale changes. The team responded.

The Penguins outshot Detroit 15-5 in the third period but couldn’t get the winner in regulation. Evgeni Malkin had some pep with new linemates, Brock McGinn and Evan Rodrigues. Malkin led all players with six shots in regulation.

Detroit rookie Lucas Raymond scored in the shootout and Detroit won 3-2 in the shootout at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins have an eight-game point streak, but are 0-0-2 in the last two days.

Casey DeSmith, who has largely struggled this season, returned to the Penguins net for the first time since he was pulled after one period, just seven days prior. DeSmith was stellar as he stopped 30 of 32 shots but could not get his fourth win this season nor his first win in calendar 2022. However, his glove save on Dylan Larkin in overtime was a thing of beauty.

Detroit goalie Calvin Pickard was also pretty good. He stopped 36 of 38.

Nearly midway through the game, Sullivan saw enough of the Penguins lines and their flat as three-week-old soda performance. They had just five shots in the first period and were not on a greater pace in the second. Sullivan juggled the lines, and the Penguins came to life like they had a corncob pipe and button nose.

“It’s not a message to anybody. We’re trying to find combinations that are going to help us win. And so if the coaching staff feels as though it’s stale and we’re not getting production and we’re not getting any sort of traction from some of the lines, then we’re going to be proactive and we’re going to move people around,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to give guys an opportunity to take advantage of a situation and that’s what we’ve done for most of this year.”

Earlier in the second period, defenseman Mike Matheson drew a Penguins power play when Michael Rasmussen cross-checked him in retaliation for a hard hit from behind near center ice.

The Penguins’ power play whirred as they zipped the puck around the zone with renewed energy. Sidney Crosby’s shot hit Evgeni Malkin near the net, and Jake Guentzel (22) buried the loose puck to tie the game, 1-1.

In the second period, the Penguins flipped the script to fire 17 shots at Detroit goalie Calvin Pickard. However, Detroit didn’t turtle.

Later in the second period, Filip Zadina (5) scored a power-play goal near the crease on Michael Rasmussen’s rebound.

Detroit led 2-1 after two periods, but Sidney Crosby and Guentzel erased the lead just 27 seconds into the third period. Crosby created a turnover along the left-wing wall. Guentzel (23) slipped away from the defensemen and one-timed Crosby’s pass for the tie game.

“When you look at (Guentzel), he’s not imposing physically. He’s not going to overpower guys. He’s not lightning speed,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t have an incredibly hard shot. He has a good shot, but it’s deceptive. He just has real good hockey sense. He’s a hockey player. He knows how to get to the right areas.”

First Period Penguins Slumber

The Penguins’ subpar play and sloppy structure continued into the first period. Detroit outshot the Penguins 11-5 and scored the period’s only goal.

Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson passed it to the wrong team in front of the Penguins net. Penguins goalie Casey DeSmimth stopped Sam Gagner’s initial shot, but Givani Smith (3) outworked everyone in front of the net and slipped his turning shot between DeSmith’s pads.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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