Conner made it 2-0 by going from his forehand to his backup to beat backup goalie Joey MacDonald between the pads 11:29 into the first period -- about eight minutes after Jordan Staal opened the scoring. He was awarded the penalty shot after being hooked by Kris Draper.
"I kind of knew what I was going to do the whole time going in, you just have to execute and make it work," Conner said after ending Pittsburgh's 0-for-12 drought on penalty shots since Jarkko Ruutu scored against Toronto on Jan. 20, 2007. They had been 0-for-5 this season.
"The adrenaline was going a little bit," Conner said when he learned he was getting the shot. "It felt good, and it felt good that it went in. I kind of knew what I was going to do the whole time going in, just got to execute and make it work."
The Penguins won their third in a row without Crosby after going 0-1-2 in their first three games without him.
The 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup Finalists both were at less than full strength.
The Penguins were missing Crosby, who's sat out the last six games with a concussion and may not be back until after the All-Star Game. But don't expect any sympathy from the Wings, who were without goalies Jimmy Howard andChris Osgood, forwards Tomas Holmstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary and defenseman Brad Stuart. Howard, idled by a bruised knee, had to dress as MacDonald's backup because rookie Thomas McCollum broke a finger during the morning skate.
The Red Wings took 18 of a possible 26 points in their first 13 games after Datsyuk started their run of injuries by breaking his right hand. But they are 1-2-1 in their last four games.
MacDonald, playing in only his fifth NHL game this season, made an early mistake that led to Staal's goal 3:02 into the game. He The goalie took too long to play the puck behind the net, allowing Tyler Kennedy to steal a short pass intended for defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and feed it to an unguarded Staal at the side of the net. Staal, who missed the first half of the season with an infected foot and broken hand, put the puck into the wide-open net for his third goal in his last three games.
"A turnover off the goalie, a penalty shot, we paid attention these little details," Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. "Our forwards did a great job to capitalize on it."
Given a 2-0 lead, All-Star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made the lead stand up by making 36 saves. Fleury, now 21-11-2 after winning only once in his first seven starts, has 80 saves in his last two starts. He stopped 44 shots in a 3-2 victory over Boston on Saturday.
"Guys played well in the defensive zone and got the puck out pretty quick," Fleury said. "Guys were blocking shots and we got some big goals up front. The PK was good also. It did a great job and it gave us some momentum after it."
Injuries have hurt the Wings, but so has repeatedly falling behind early in games -- they've been down 2-0 in each of their last three.
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall said the Wings can't use injuries as an excuse.
"Every team goes through injuries," he said. "We have to find a way to prepare way better than we have, especially at the start of the game. It's tough to be down 2-0 early."
Johan Franzen's 20th goal got Detroit within 2-1 at 17:28 of the second, but Chris Kunitz restored Pittsburgh's two-goal lead just 30 seconds later, deflecting Kronwall's up-ice pass toEvgeni Malkin before scoring off a rebound of Pascal Dupuis' backhander.
Matt Cooke scored into an empty net with 1:19 remaining.
"Sloppy plays and mistakes and giveaways and the puck ended up in our net. It is disappointing," said Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who was selected All-Star captain earlier in the day.
Crosby said earlier in the day he is getting better, but still has headaches and is uncertain when he will return. He has not played or practiced since being driven headfirst into the boards by the Lightning's Victor Hedman on Jan. 5.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report