(PHN) — The Pittsburgh Penguins were cruising towards the third straight win and Detroit was headed for their ninth straight regulation loss. However, Detroit scored a pair of goals just a few minutes apart later in the third period, including Dylan Larkin’s long wrister past Penguins goalie Matt Murray with four minutes remaining. However, the Larkin goal which made it 4-3, was as close as Detroit could get. The Penguins survived for their 17th win this season as John Marino scored a late empty netter for a 5-3 Penguins win at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday night.
Evgeni Malkin continued his bull run at the rest of the NHL. In the wake of Sidney Crosby’s surgery for a core muscle injury, Malkin has buoyed the Penguins with spectacular play. Midway through the first period, Malkin cut across the slot but didn’t shoot. Malkin passed up and passed to defenseman Kris Letang on the left wing who zipped another pass to Jake Guentzel near the crease. Detroit goalie Jonathan Bernie made the initial save, but Guentzel (16) slid into Bernier and the puck slid into the net.
After review, officials ruled Guentzel did not kick the puck into the net. Detroit did not challenge.
“I know how he plays and he knows how I play, and we support each other,” Malkin said of he and Guentzel’s success. “We’re happy with what we’re doing right now and helping the team to win.”
Late in the first period, Penguins spare defenseman Chad Ruhwedel scored his first goal of the season and first since Feb. 19 last season. Ruhwedel (1) who was also aggressive at the point on Friday night, walked the blue line and scored with a long wrist shot through traffic.
Evgeni Malkin assisted on Ruhwedel’s goal, then put the dagger through Detroit 10 minutes into the second period. Guentzel earned his third point and second assist by batting a puck out of midair towards Malkin near the net. Malkin (8) spun to his forehand and slipped the puck through Bernier’s five-hole.
In addition to Malkin’s third point, Ruhwedel earned his second point with the secondary assist.
Detroit lept from the starting gate in the second period. They pressed the Penguins and for a moment didn’t look like a team which has lost eight in a row in regulation and 10 in a row overall. After Penguins winger Alex Galchenyuk took a bad tripping penalty on the forecheck, Detroit broke the Penguins two-game plus shutout streak.
Dylan Larkin’s shot hit Tyler Bertuzzi in front of the Penguins net and caromed directly to Robby Fabbri (7), who quickly snapped it into the open net.
Early in the third period, the Penguins thought they salted the win. Dominik Kahun and Jared McCann executed a classic give-and-go at the offensive blue line. Kahun stickhandled around one defender, chipped it to McCann along the wall then got it right back. Kahun (8) ripped a top-shelf shot past Bernier.
The Penguins were coasting to the finish when Detroit scored with seven minutes remaining. Filip Hronek finished what was essentially an odd-man break. Darren Helm streaked past Marcus Pettersson out of the Detroit zone and set up Hronek (6) on the doorstep. The Penguins gave chase but left Hronek open in the scramble.
The goal was the precursor to more drama. Bryan Rust took a high sticking penalty with more than four minutes left, and Detroit pulled the goalie for a six-on-four power play. Detroit caught Penguins goalie Matt Murray deep in his net and Murray allowed Dylan Larkin’s (8) long wrist shot through his pads. Detroit trailed by only one and pushed for the tying goal, which never came.
“I thought he was real solid. He made some big saves for us at key times, especially down the stretch when they pushed,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said of Murray. “When we get both goalies making the types of saves that they’re making over the last couple of games, it certainly gives our team a chance to win.”
The Penguins won their third in a row and sixth of eight. Detroit lost their ninth straight game in regulation, and 11th overall.
“If you win, you always have fun,” Malkin said. “We didn’t play great in the last five minutes. We need to play stronger.”
Penguins goalie Matt Murray won for the first time since Nov. 9 and for the first time in five starts. He stopped 25 of 28 shots. Almost without warning, Detroit coach Jeff Blashill pulled Bernier and replaced him with Eric Comrie midway through the third period. Bernier made 19 saves on 23 shots. Comrie stopped four shots before being pulled for the extra attacker.
Marino (3) ended the drama with an empty-net goal in the waning seconds.