It wasn’t the prettiest of wins–certainly not one Dan Bylsma and the Penguins’ coaching staff will use for instructional video. However, given the fact that the Pens triumphed in the Motor City after blowing a 4-0 second-period lead, they’ll gladly take the two points.
Following a disappointing loss to the Rangers on Sunday, the Penguins got the jump on their hosts with two first-period goals. Pascal Dupuis opened the scoring at 15:14 when he wheeled from behind the net and beat Jimmy Howard with a backhander from a sharp angle. Forty-three seconds before the buzzer the Pens struck again. Norris Trophy candidate Kris Letang stole the puck from Dan Cleary and fed Dupuis, who ripped off a hard shot that Howard failed to control. Kris Kunitz scooped up the rebound and made a nifty play to step around the Wings’ goalie before firing the puck home.
Determined to win the game for teammate Matt Cooke, who was suspended for 10 games plus the first round of the playoffs, the Pens continued their onslaught in the second period. While killing a boarding penalty to Matt Niskanen midway through the frame, Dupuis converted a carom off the end boards into his second goal of the night. Moments later Tyler Kennedy struck for his 17th goal of the season to chase the beleaguered Howard, who leaked for four goals on only 15 shots. Although Detroit star Henrik Zetterberg ruined Brent Johnson’s shutout bid at 17:41, the black and gold went to the second intermission holding a seemingly insurmountable three-goal cushion.
Unfortunately, things quickly unraveled in the third period. Valtteri Filppula scored off a pretty feed from Brad Stuart at 1:57. While the Penguins sagged the Red Wings continued to pour it on, pounding a pair of power-play goals past Johnson in rapid succession. Clearly feeling the effects of their second game in two days, it appeared the Pens were in danger of letting the game slip away.
The turning point came in the closing minutes. With the Pens working on a power play, Letang made an ill-advised pinch to send Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm steaming in on a two-on-one break. Working the give-and-go to perfection, Abdelkader set up Helm for a great chance to the right of the Penguins’ net. However, Johnson made spectacular save to rob Helm of a sure goal.
Inspired by “Johnny’s” big stop, the Pens regrouped and pushed the game through overtime to a shootout. Johnson stoned Todd Bertuzzi, Mike Modano and Cleary while his counterpart Joey MacDonald stopped Alexei Kovalev and Letang.
With the game on the line, Bylsma turned to snake-bitten sniper James Neal. The big winger cruised down the right side of the Wings’ zone, cut into the slot and fired a bullet past MacDonald for the game winner.
The Pens swept the season series with Detroit, 2-0 … Arron Asham dressed in place of Matt Cooke … It was Asham’s first game since sustaining a concussion against the Rangers on February 1 … Mark Letestu sat out his second game in a row … The power play continues to flounder (2 for 48) … The Pens have scored 12 shorthanded goals, tying the Flyers for the league lead … Brent Johnson has stopped 16 of 17 shootout attempts as a Penguin … Kennedy’s goal was his 10th in 21 games.
The Penguins visit the city of “Brotherly Shove” Thursday night to take on the Conference-leading Flyers. Philly leads the Pens by four points (96-92) in the Atlantic Division race, with two games in hand.
Be sure to check out Rick’s book, “Total Penguins,” at TriumphBooks.com. A complete and comprehensive book on the team’s rich and colorful history, it’s filled with season-by-season summaries, player profiles and stats, bios on coaches, general managers and owners, photos from the “Post-Gazette” archives, and much, much more. A must have for any true Penguins fan.