Pittsburgh Penguins Outskate Detroit Red Wings

Jan 15, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Phil Kessel (81) skates with the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 15, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Phil Kessel (81) skates with the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings in their first matchup this season, 5-2, on New Year’s Eve, in a come from behind victory that set the tone for the Pens heading into 2016.

Their second meeting of the season got off to a lightning fast pace. Early on in the game, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz had a 2 on 1 and it looked like a prime opportunity to put the puck in the net. Wouldn’t happen this time though.

The Pens would keep up the pressure, with several more opportunities, including a Phil Kessel breakaway where the puck was sent wide of the net. Halfway through the period, Ben Lovejoy took an innocuous looking wrister, which wound up deflected in front of the Red Wings’ goaltender, Petr Mrazek, and getting past him to put the Pens up 1-0.  We’ll take the goals any way they come.

As we expected, the fast pace of the game would continue, on both sides of the ice. The Red Wings move the puck well and that team skill paid off for them when Gustav Nyquist backhanded the puck from the boards to the slot where Tomas Jurco sent it screaming past Marc-Andre Fleury to tie the game at 1.

The game would remain tied for only about three minutes though, before a loose puck battle in front of Mrazek was won by Matt Cullen, who made the most of it, putting the Pens in the lead 2-1.  Cullen really showed some grit on that goal.  Another reason we should look to re-sign him before he becomes a free agent.

Towards the end of the period, in a scrum behind the net, Kyle Quincey repeatedly shoved Sidney Crosby in the back. The refs did their job and called a roughing penalty on Quincey.  Sid stayed cool and gave us the man advantage which would continue into the second period.

The relentless pace kept up in the second period.  The fastest man on two skates, aka Dylan Larkin, found a loose puck in front of the Penguins’ net, stickhandled briefly and put the puck through Fleury’s five hole.  Wasn’t much M-A could have done to stop the puck on that one.  

We could certainly say this wasn’t a boring game.  Less than a minute later, Crosby connected with Kessel to put the Pens up 3-2.  Assist number 30 for Crosby, and goal number 17 for Kessel.

Crosby’s presence was felt on offense as well as in defense of his netminder.  With a scrum in front of the net, Justin Abdelkader rushed the net and pushed Fleury literally into the net.   Crosby quickly strong-armed Abdelkader, putting him in a pseudo head-lock to get him out of the crease.  The refs took a look to see if the puck went into the net, but it was quickly called a no-goal.

With just under three minutes left in the second period, Scott Wilson scored his first NHL goal, assisted by Conor Sheary and Benoit Pouliot, to put us up by two.  Hopefully we can see Wilson continue to produce similar to what he did while with Wilkes-Barre / Scranton this season (22 goals in 34 games).  

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Heading into the third period, Kessel continued to put the pressure on and earned his second goal of the game, and 18th of the season, by being in the right place at the right time.   After an early missed net on the breakaway, Phil was having himself quite the game, and was now circling for the hat trick.

Fleury, by the way, was having a phenomenal game.  He kept the Pens in a position to win this contest.  The Red Wings are no joke on offense, and Fleury largely shut them down.

That being said, Henrik Zetterberg did score what could be termed an incredible goal.  Fleury had him on the appropriate angle, and actually seemed to charge the puck a bit.  Zetterberg looked like he was going forehand but quickly pulled it to the backhand and flipped the puck top shelf over Fleury’s shoulder.  Pretty amazing.  Pens still led 5-3 however.

Detroit had also pulled Petr Mrazek, who was relieved by Jimmy Howard.  Considering that Mrazek leads the entire league in goals against average, you certainly have to say the Pens offense was hitting on all cylinders tonight.

With time winding down, the Red Wings pulled Howard and really put a “flurry” on Fleury.  M-A turned away all comers however, keeping the Pens up by two.  And with under a minute, who else but Crosby,  sealed the game by hitting an empty net from the red line to put the Pens ahead 6-3, which would be the final score.

It was nice to see Kessel get two goals tonight as he’s certainly been putting in the effort.  He’s a machine when it comes to being on the ice and putting the time in.  And Fleury continues to impress, while the Pens get into some offensive battles, he’s been giving Pittsburgh the edge in the vast majority of their games this year.