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Comeau returns, leads Penguins past Red Wings

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Blake Comeau returned from a 20-game absence and had a goal and an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday.

Pittsburgh (31-15-8) pulled within one point of the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders. The Red Wings (31-13-9) lost for the first time since Jan. 29 after winning their past three games by a combined score of 10-2.

The Penguins started the first period strong and benefited from the presence of Comeau, who played for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury against the Florida Panthers on Dec. 22.

"You add Comeau to the group and you look at who we've got back in the last 10 days, [Patric] Hornqvist, [Evgeni Malkin], Comeau," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "That line was very good tonight and it gives us some depth. … We've watched every team close, and Detroit's a very good hockey team. They've been playing well lately. They're a dangerous team and I thought, at least for the first part of the game, we kept them back on their heels."

Comeau helped set up Pittsburgh's first goal when he sent a pass to Kris Letang at the point for a slap shot. Letang's shot deflected off Red Wings forward Luke Glendening and the end boards before going to Hornqvist to the right of the net, where he lifted a wrist shot over goalie Petr Mrazek's pad 1:51 into the first.

"It felt good,” Comeau said. "I had never gone through an injury like that where I missed that much time. It felt like longer than it was, just skating on my own. It definitely felt good to get back to practice on Monday and it was nice to skate on Wednesday and it's nice anytime you can contribute. But when you've been out that long, it definitely eases the mind a little bit that you can get on the score sheet right away."

Pittsburgh controlled the bulk of the period by allowing one shot through the first half. Comeau took advantage of the Penguins' strong start when he scored his first goal since Dec. 18.

Hornqvist carried the puck along the boards before sending it behind the Red Wings net. Glendening gained possession and attempted to leave it for Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall, but Hornqvist beat him to the puck and sent a pass to Comeau alone in front. Comeau placed a snap shot past Mrazek's blocker for a 2-0 lead with 7:45 remaining in the first period.

Comeau is sixth on the Penguins with 12 goals in 33 games, seven more than his total with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season.

"They were better on all levels in the first," Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "We were slow and didn't do what we're supposed to do and they scored some goals. … We were the ones making the turnovers. We didn't have enough speed, so we put ourselves in situations where we were forced to make a play instead of keeping it simple and sometimes that happens. We just have to move on."

The Penguins continued their dominance in the second period and took a 4-0 lead before Red Wings forward Stephen Weiss scored to pull Detroit to within one goal before the intermission.

David Perron scored his ninth goal in 16 games with Pittsburgh to extend its lead to 3-0 early in the second. Forward Maxim Lapierre won possession while battling with Brendan Smith behind the net before carrying the puck out front and sending a shot off of Mrazek's right pad.

Perron pounced on the rebound and shoveled it inside the right post 3:04 into the period. Lapierre's assist was his first point in seven games with the Penguins.

"We were able to exploit a little bit in the neutral zone, what the coaches have scouted," Perron said. "It was good we got in their zone pretty well and I think with the guys in here, when we have it down there, it's not going to be a problem to keep it there."

Nick Spaling deflected a shot from defenseman Rob Scuderi past Mrazek 4:48 later for Pittsburgh's fourth goal.

"They were good and we were bad," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We played slowly. … We stood around. If it wasn't for Mrazek, it could've been way worse. We didn't play good, bottom line. I don't know if we just thought it was going to be easy. We won a lot of games here lately and it's been easy or what, but they had a little humble pie for us tonight. We had a lunch fed to us and they were better."

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who had not played since Jan. 10 because of a groin injury, replaced Mrazek at the start of the third period. Howard made four saves.

"We lost, so I'm disappointed for that," said Mrazek, who had won nine of his previous 10 starts. "All four, the goalie could have, but they were good plays. The third one was a rebound and the fourth one, someone tipped in front of me, so it just went in. … It's hockey. Sometimes you have luck and it hits you or it hits someone else in front of you, but sometimes it goes in. There's nothing you can do with that"

Weiss put the Red Wings on the board when he tipped in a pass from Henrik Zetterberg between the faceoff circles for a power-play goal with 6:34 remaining in the second and Steve Downie in the penalty box for hooking.

Weiss' goal ended Marc-Andre Fleury's career-long shutout streak at 165:06. Fleury shut out the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers in his previous two starts and had not allowed a goal since Nashville Predators forward Mike Fisher scored 8:20 into the third period of Pittsburgh's 4-0 loss on Feb. 1.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby played his 600th NHL game. He has 825 points (291 goals, 534 assists).

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