Where to begin with Pittsburgh’s wild, frenetic 5-4 overtime loss to Detroit on Thursday at Joe Louis Arena?
- The Pens got down 2-0 early.
- They rallied with three goals in 2:41 minutes late in the second period, two by Evgeni Malkin, to take a 3-2 lead into the third period.
- After James Neal was whistled for sweeping an errant stick out of the slot during a Pens power play, the Wings tied it at 3-3 seconds later during 4-on-4 play.
- “The explanation I got (from the referees) was that James Neal shot the stick away and that's a penalty,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. When asked to elaborate, Bylsma responded, “It's neither here nor there. We were on the power play and the referee made the judgment that shooting the stick away gave the advantage to us so he called a penalty.”
- The Wings took a 4-3 lead less than two minutes later when Todd Bertuzzi’s centering pass bounced off Pens defenseman Olli Maatta and into the net.
- But the Pens answered exactly two minutes later when Craig Adams scored his first goal in 65 games to make it 4-4.
- With minutes remaining in regulation, David Legwand butt-ended Malkin with his stick behind the play and received a five-minute penalty that carried into overtime.
- The Pens failed to convert on their five-minute power play.
- With 0.4 seconds left in overtime, the rebound from Daniel Alfredsson’s shot bounced off Rob Scuderi and into the net. It was the third Detroit goal that had deflected off a Pens defenseman.
“We didn’t agree with the call (on Neal), but we had plenty of chances to win the game,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “It was a very frustrating night for us.”
With so much happening in this game, what do Crosby and the Pens take away from such an eventful night?
“I think just the importance of timely goals and when we have a lead in the third period, you can't give it up, number one,” Crosby said. “And then when you have the opportunity to win the game on a five-minute major, you've got to finish the game off. Those are tough lessons, but I think teams that are successful find ways to make sure they take advantage of those opportunities.”
WHAT A COMEBACK
Overall, this was certainly a tale of two games for the Penguins.
The Pens team that showed up for the first half was one that got dominated by the fast, skilled Wings and their puck possession game. They got frustrated and lost their composure, taking three straight undisciplined penalties that got them into a 2-0 hole.
“That was one area of the game that got away from us there,” Bylsma said. “The three penalties we took in the second period. Certainly put us in the box. Our PKers had to come up big. That was one area in the game we did get off our game and too many of those.”
But three goals in a span of 2:41 minutes late in the second period made that performance into a distant memory, and turned this game into a completely different one for the Pens.
The comeback started when Lee Stempniak, providing a screen in front of Wings goalie Jimmy Howard while battling with defenseman Niklas Kronwall, perfectly tipped a Chris Kunitz shot past the screened netminder.
From there, Malkin took over. On an offensive zone faceoff, he won the puck forward behind the net to Neal, who tried a wraparound on Howard. Malkin followed the play up, found the rebound and put the bouncing puck in for a tremendously dirty goal. His second came on a 5-on-3 power play. From the point, Malkin was clearly thinking shot first. He wasn't hesitating to wind up and it paid off. His first shot went high, but the second sailed past Howard to give Pittsburgh the lead.
We can’t say enough about the play of Malkin in this game, as he was absolutely dominant.
Coming up with two huge, timely goals to hoist his team out of that 2-0 hole was a tremendous show of leadership by Malkin, who had just one tally in his past 10 games dating back to Feb. 7 vs. NYR entering tonight.
His linemates Neal and Jokinen also had big nights on the scoresheet, as they both assisted on Malkin’s goals. Neal finished the contest with a game-high 10 shots to Malkin’s seven, who credited his winger’s return from a concussion as a catalyst to his big game.
“I feel pretty good right now,” Malkin said. “Feel better that Nealsy came back. We play good (together). We spent lots of time in the offensive zone. Just bad luck in overtime and we'll see next game. Lots of games this month. Just focus on every game.”
Author: Michelle Crechiolo