DETROIT – The Red Wings need a win in the worst way.
The Wings are trying to avoid a three-game losing streak, but they’d like to dodge equaling a low for wins in a calendar year.
In the eight years following the 2004-05 lockout – when the league went to the shootout format – the Red Wings have posted 56, 55, 49, 47, 48, 47, 42 and 41 wins between January and December.
Heading into Thursday’s 2015 finale against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Wings are 41-28-12.
Detroit is hosting the Penguins for the fourth time on New Year’s Eve, since dropping a 5-4 decision in 1978. The Wings posted a 3-1 win in 1980 and settled for a 4-4 tie in 1984.
The Red Wings rarely lack offensive firepower on the final day of the year, scoring four-plus on 34 occasions.
|Danny DeKeyser's shot goes wide of the net early in the first period against the Penguins. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings) |
Limited to a single goal in each of the past two games – losses at Minnesota and Winnipeg this week – the Wings’ offense struck twice against Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff in the first period.
The speed of Dylan Larkin helped set up the Wings’ first goal. The rookie’s wrap-around attempt ended up on the tape of Justin Abdelkader’s stick in front of an open net. Abdelkader buried his chance for his 12th goal of the season, at 6:47.
The Red Wings could have had a lead earlier but Danny DeKeyser misfired on a wide-open net from a beautiful centering pass by Pavel Datsyuk. The Wings’ defenseman slipped into the low slot where he took the pass and tried to direct a one-timer into the open side of the net behind Zatkoff. But DeKeyser’s shot went between the Penguins’ goalie and the far post.
Defenseman Brendan Smith was rewarded for his hustle when he scored from almost the identical spot as Abdelkader, though Smith’s wrist shot made its way through traffic, squeezing through Zatkoff’s pads at 12:15. It was Smith’s sixth point in seven games.
DETROIT 2, PITTSBURGH 0
SCORING: 1. DET, Abdelkader (Larkin, Kronwall) 6:47; 2. DET, Smith (Nyquist, Marchenko) 12:15.
PENALTIES: 1. PIT, Letang (roughing) 10:15; 2. DET, Glendening (slashing) 10:15.
SHOTS: Detroit 10, Pittsburgh 11.
|Tomas Tatar had two shots on goal during seven second-period shifts for the Red Wings. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings) |
The Penguins bounced back in the middle period, tying the score on a pair of power-play goals by Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang. It was the first time this season the Penguins scored more than one power-play goal on the road.
Both Pens’ goals were scored with DeKeyser serving minor penalties, first for hooking David Perron then interfering with Sidney Crosby.
The Penguins trimmed their deficit on Hornqvist’s goal, but not before Wings coach Jeff Blashill challenged the validity of it, claiming goaltender interference on Hornqvist just 46 seconds into period. Moments later, referee Jean Hebert conferred with the league’s situation room in Toronto where the goal was upheld.
Replay showed that Petr Mrazek inadvertently kicked the puck into the net with his right skate.
Letang lost his cool several time through the first 40 minutes, serving separate minors for roughing, slashing and cross-checking. But the nine-year veteran settled down in time to scoring the tying goal at 11:44.
Tomas Jurco, who logged 4:09 of ice time on five first-period shifts, did not come out for the second period. It was later announced that the Wings’ forward would not return to the game because of an upper-body injury.
The Pens may have lost Nick Bonino late in the period. He rushed off the ice favoring his upper right arm when it appeared that DeKeyser may have accidently stepped on the Pens’ center.
DETROIT 2, PITTSBURGH 2
SCORING: 1. PIT, Hornqvist PPG (Malkin, Letang) 0:46; 2. PIT, Letang PPG (Malkin, Hornqvist) 11:44.
PENALTIES: 1. DET, DeKeyser (hooking) 0:15; 2. PIT, Letang (slashing) 2:35; 3. PIT, Letang (cross checking) 8:28; 4. DET, DeKeyser (interference) 11:14; 5. DET, Richards (too many men) 18:17; 6. DET, Glendening (roughing) 19:55; 7. PIT, Perron (cross-checking) 19:55.
SHOTS: Detroit 13 (23), Pittsburgh 16 (28).
Combined, the Red Wings and Penguins have skated to one-goal decisions 59 percent of the time, so entering the third knotted at 2-2, it was conceivable that Thursday’s game would end the same way.
Unfortunately for the Wings, the Penguins wanted nothing to do with a one-goal game, scoring two even-strength goals just 34 seconds apart and turning what had been a two-goal deficit into a two-goal cushion.
Crosby’s goal was definitely a lift for the visitors. Perron’s centering pass from below the goal line found Crosby in the middle of the left circle. From there, the Pens’ captain, while on one knee, whiffed on his first shot, but recoiled in time to lift a shot through traffic and over Mrazek.
Less than a minute later, the Pens’ leading goal scorer, Evgeni Malkin added his 18th of the season from the left circle.
Mrazek made a fine sprawling save to his right on Eric Fehr’s breakaway, keeping the Wings in reach.
The Wings pulled Mrazek for an extra attacker at 15:43.
With 3:27 left and the Red Wings pressing, Abdelkader and Chris Kunitz engaged in a roughing skirmish behind the Pens’ net. Both received minors, however, Abdelkader went to the Wings’ dressing room with what appeared to be a cut to his nose. Tomas Nosek served Abdelkader’s penalty.
The loss extends the Wings’ losing streak to three straight, tying a season long when they dropped three consecutive games in regulation to Carolina, Montreal and Edmonton, in October.
The Wings are now off to a six-game road trip over the next two weeks that will take them to Buffalo, New Jersey, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Arizona.
PITTSBURGH 5, DETROIT 2
SCORING: 1. PIT, Crosby (Perron) 7:48; 2. PIT, Malkin (Kessel, Hornqvist) 8:22; 3. PIT, Letang EN (Bonino) 18:20.
PENALTIES: 1. PIT, Kessel (slashing) 5:13; 2. Abdelkader (roughing) 16:33; 3. PIT, Kunitz (roughing) 16:33.
SHOTS: Detroit 12 (35), Pittsburgh 9 (37).