A positive end to the year wasn’t in the cards for the Red Wings. They allowed five unanswered goals to the Penguins losing 5-2 at Joe Louis Arena Thursday night. Pittsburgh ended a two game skid while the Red Wings continued on a three game slide.
Detroit looked to end 2015 with a victory after losing two straight on the road. Now that they are back on home ice, the focus went upon the Penguins who are still a rival to defeat. One bit of good news for the Red Wings was the return of Jonathan Ericsson. He suffered a shoulder injury that had him out for five games. With nearly every key defenseman back on the roster, they can rely on the back line to work while the offense starts to produce.
So far the only player to have scored in the past few days was Pavel Datsyuk who kept the Red Wings from being shutout. While that didn’t produce points in the standings, Detroit hopes that getting two from Pittsburgh will help before they begin another road trip lasting six games.
The first period saw action from both teams early as the race to hold control would be the ones to perhaps control the pace. The Penguins were already leading on shots to the net through six minutes but the Red Wings were eyeing any chances to get the puck.
They took control of the puck waiting for a new shift to come on. Niklas Kronwall setup teammate Dylan Larkin who went deep into the Penguins zone only to fail on the wrap around behind goaltender Jeff Zatkoff. The puck got loose in front of the net where Justin Abdelkader took a shot scoring his 12th of the season. The energy in the Detroit bench was high after their opening goal and wanted to take advantage of the third year Penguins netminder.
Midway into the period, both the Red Wings and the Penguins took penalties on one another sending the game to 4 on 4 for two minutes. For the Red Wings, they wanted to keep the puck in the offensive zone by any means. A takeaway ended with Brendan Smith scoring on a rebound for his third on the year and gave Detroit a 2-0 lead. Finishing out the last seven minutes were enough for the Red Wings to hold on to their lead and move into the second with much to protect.
To start the second period, the Penguins got themselves a goal 30 seconds into the power play but Detroit coach Jeff Blashill took a challenge. The challenge was that Patrick Hornqvist interfered with Petr Mrazek in net causing the Detroit netminder to kick the puck in behind him. Officials ruled it a good goal giving Hornqvist his seventh goal. Detroit tried to counter by returning their lead back to a pair but the shots weren’t good enough to get by Zatkoff.
A second chance came for the Red Wings but the special teams weren’t yet up to par to convert on the man advantage. To make matters worse, the Penguins were awarded a power play where the chance to tie the game was present.
Just 30 seconds in, Pittsburgh’s special teams did work moving into the Detroit zone where defenseman Kris Letang scored on a wrister for just his second. With the Penguins successful on the man advantage, it angered Detroit who let their frustrations out their opponents to rile them up. It didn’t work out as Pittsburgh continued to attack the net of Mrazek hoping to gain the lead. In the final minute of play a scuffle for the puck occurred with some fighting along with it. In the end the score remained the same with Pittsburgh gaining some leverage shooting 17 while Detroit took 13.
The third would become the most critical for both teams to make a strong stance on ice facing victory or defeat. It wouldn’t take the Penguins long as they had the advantage shooting big on the Detroit net that had Mrazek in trouble. After eight minutes of doing so, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby masterfully rifled a shot that went into the top corner of the net that gave Pittsburgh their third unanswered of the night.
It became four straight on a third goal for Evgeni Malkin who wristed one in to double their margin on the Red Wings. Both goals came just 34 seconds apart, which conquered the Red Wings with jus 11 minutes to make a comeback. For them, time was now playing against them as they faced going down three games in a row to end 2015.
Six minutes were left on the clock and still no sign of Detroit finding a new gear to get things going. Pittsburgh had them covered like gravy on meatloaf as their odds of winning were getting better as each second ticked off the board. As four minutes remained, the Red Wings decided to go for a sixth attacker and pull Mrazek from net.
On the faceoff in the Pittsburgh zone, Abdelkader picked a fight with Chris Kunitz and the two went at it despite attempts from officials to break them up. Both were sent to the box with three and a half left to play where the Red Wings were still 5 on 4. Blocked shots from the Penguins and another penalty for Detroit had them struggling by losing the two man advantage.
The Penguins sealed the deal in their favor as he got the puck from a faceoff in the neutral zone scoring his second of the night and third point in the game. All that was left was the time to expire and a horn that Detroit wished they didn’t have to hear to end 2015.
Zatkoff had a big night as well as his team making 33 saves against the Red Wings giving him his first victory in six starts. Detroit faced reality for a second time as they lost three straight again this season. There was not time for them to think back on their past failures as they get set for a six game road trip out west that begins eastward to face the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.