In the middle of the third period, Anthony Mantha sped past Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson as the puck bounced in the Penguins zone. Mantha then deked Penguins goalie Matt Murray for the backbreaking goal as a symbol of the young Detroit Red Wings speed and skill. The Penguins peppered Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard but found precious few second chances as Detroit prevented the Penguins from clinching a playoff berth and beat the Penguins 4-1 at Little Caesars Arena Tuesday night.
Mantha (22, 23) and Tyler Bertuzzi (20, 21) each had two goals for Detroit, which has won six in a row. The Penguins will get another chance to clinch a playoff spot Thursday night in Pittsburgh, also against Detroit.
Montreal also scored two third period goals against Tampa Bay for a 4-2 win, so the Penguins magic number to clinch a playoff spot remained two points, their magic number to clinch third place and a date with New York Islanders instead of the Washington Capitals or even Tampa Bay in Round One is three points.
Midway through the first period, Detroit created some defensive confusion with the Penguins. The end result was Todd Bertuzzi was uncovered as he bolted towards the net. Bertuzzi thought he buried his wrister but Penguins goalie Matt Murray dove to snag the shot with his glove. However, Bertuzzi (20) was given the goal after a lengthy review showed the puck was just across the line despite being in Murray’s mitt.
“They got some Grade A’s, we got some good looks. They did a better job of finishing,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said.
Bertuzzi struck again midway through the second period. Detroit looked like the Red Wings of old and they connected on tape-to-tape passes into the Penguins zone until they found Bertuzzi again uncovered as he streaked towards the net. Again, Bertuzzi (21) didn’t miss.
Mantha’s short breakaway goal early in the third period was the backbreaker.
“They’ve got speed. There were times in the third, we were carrying the play. We got good zone time,” Crosby said. “They flick a puck and get an opportunity (Mantha’s goal).”
The Penguins tied the game with a little line juggling in the final seconds of the first period. Head coach Mike Sullivan slipped Phil Kessel beside Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. The sleight of hand and a quick transition game by Sidney Crosby spawned a two-on-one with Kessel. Crosby laid a saucer pass on Kessel’s bendy stick and Kessel (25) one-timed it.
It was Kessel’s first 5v5 goal since Jan. 30.
The Penguins had plenty of shots but lacked the intensity against lowly Detroit. The Penguins thumped Detroit with numerous highlight reel hits including one by Zach Trotman on Ryan Kuffner which sent Kuffner to the ice with his skates in the air.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray also had to be sharp as he faced a myriad of Grade A scoring chances against the quick Detroit forwards who were able to slip behind the Penguins defense. Murray stopped 21 of 24 shots before being pulled for the extra attacker.
Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard stopped 38 of 39 shots.
Mantha (23) also added the empty net goal.