DETROIT – Power-play goals have not come easy for the Red Wings this season, but so far they’re perfect on empty-net opportunities.
Detroit scored two empty-netters in the final 2:29 of regulation to steal two points in Thursday’s 4-3 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins before a frenzied sold-out crowd at Joe Louis Arena.
Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall each scored with goalie Jimmy Howard sitting on the Red Wings’ bench in the final couple minutes, and Justin Abdelkader provided the game-winner with 44 seconds left in overtime.
The Red Wings’ power play has now gone four straight games without producing a goal. Detroit is 2-for-27 with the man advantage this season, which is ranked No. 27 in the NHL.
However, the Wings are a perfect 2-for-2 when lifting their goalie for an extra attacker.
“It’s weird how that works sometimes,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.
Trailing throughout the game, mostly by two goals, the Red Wings turned up the pressure late in this one.
Summing up the electric atmosphere inside the building during the final three minutes of regulation, Abdelkader said, “Pretty exciting, wasn’t it?”
“We just kind of came out flat and they took it to us there,” Abdelkader added. “Howie kept us in it there (in) the first and second made some great saves. We just hung around there and I think we got better as the game went on and found a way. It was the last three minutes to get a couple goals. We don’t want to put ourselves in that situation because the chances of that happening are pretty slim.”
Fortunately for the Red Wings their collective effort defied the odds.
After a Penguins’ icing, Jimmy Howard was pulled for an extra skater at 17:05 of the third. Moments later, Zetterberg was send free by a great cross-ice pass through the neutral zone by Danny DeKeyser. Zetterberg cruised in and put a wrist shot over Thomas Greiss’s left catching glove, cutting the Red Wings’ deficit to 3-2 at 17:21 of the period.
Exactly two minutes later, Kronwall got the equalizer when he took a pass from Pavel Datsyuk and shot from the left of the slot. The puck appeared to deflect off Pascal Dupuis in front and beat the Penguins’ backup goalie at 19:21 to send the game to overtime.
Kronwall also scored in the first period on a nifty move to get around Pens forward Patric Hornqvist in the slot and wristed a shot that beat Greiss at the 15-minute mark. It was Kronwall’s first two-goal game since he scored twice in a 6-4 loss at Vancouver on Nov. 6, 2010.
Kronwall’s three-point night gives him 301 career points, which is two shy from catching Gary Bergman for fourth all-time in club history for points by defensemen.
Meanwhile, Zetterberg’s three-point game tied and then passed legendary forward Ted Lindsay for eighth all-time on the franchise’s points list at 729. The 89-year-old Lindsay was in attendance at Thursday's game.
“I’m extremely happy for Hank,” Kronwall said. “I don’t know what the list looks like but I’m sure he’ll pass a few more guys before he’s done. Hank does it every night.
“It is amazing, but I think it also speaks to how good he really is. He’s one of the top guys in the league and he has been for years.”
Abdelkader got the game-winner when he received a pass from Zetterberg in the slot and fired a shot that beat Greiss to the stick side.
“Actually, I was towards the end of my shift there,” said Abdelkader, who now has three goals in seven games. “Puck kind of squirted loose. I just kind of jumped in front of my guy. I don’t think he saw me coming there from behind him. I wanted to get a shot off quick there. Got it up and just off the post and in.”
The Red Wings’ power play was 0-for-3 against the Penguins. However, their No. 1 ranked penalty kill was perfect again, blanking Pittsburgh’s top-rated power play on three chances.
The penalty kill is now 21-for-21 in short-handed situation.
“They’re doing a great job,” Zetterberg said. “I think the coaching staff with (Tony) Granato in the lead here is doing a really good job preparing us well and then the guys go in and execute and the goaltending has been fantastic, too.”
Detroit’s penalty kill is off to a franchise-best start since 1955-56 when they went eight games without allowing a power-play goal to the opposition.