James Neal's the Hero: Pens Beat Red Wings 5-4 in Shootout

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 08: James Neal #18 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his first goal as a Penguin against the Buffalo Sabres at Consol Energy Center on March 8, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Wings Blog: Winging it in Motown

The Penguins looked like a force to be reckoned with for roughly 35 minutes of tonight's game.  Four unanswered goals to open up the game chased Jimmy Howard from Detroit's crease, but the next 25 minutes was strictly Red Wings hockey after they answered right back with four of their own.  And then, after five minutes of a stalemate in overtime, the teams sent it to a shootout.

But there's no way in hell this game should have gotten to that point.

In case you missed the play-by-play on Versus, the announcers were quick to point out that Detroit had never come back from a 4-0 hole in Joe Louis Arena.  In fact, the last time that mounted a comeback along those lines was back in 1972.  The pessimistic Pens fan would automatically perceive that statement as the kiss of death.  And really, what other choice did any Penguins fan have at that point?  The Wings were pressuring, Brent Johnson was saving and the offense couldn't get anything going.

If we're looking strictly at the second-half of the third period (plus overtime), both goalies were the ones who kept their teams in it.  Johnson's ridiculous glove save on a two-on-one secured that second point.  Sure, James Neal buried the only goal in the shootout, but without Johnson doing his best Patrick Roy impersonation, the Pens skate out of Detroit with just one point.

As I said in the game thread, this was a game of luck for both teams.  Exciting as it is to see a shootout, no points should have been distributed to both teams in this one.  The Pens were lucky to push it to OT.  No question that the Wings had the momentum.  But on the other hand, Detroit was lucky to get it to that point as well.  You can bring skill into the mix as well if you'd like, but the underlying point is that - well, Detroit got the point they earned and the Penguins secured the extra one they deserved.

Great game from Tyler Kennedy tonight.  Outside of his second period goal to put the Pens up 4-0, he kept buzzing all around the ice in an attempt to not only create his own scoring chances but also open up the game to his teammates.  At times it feels like TK can be that kind of player every night.  Or at least you hope he could be.  But despite his streaky tendencies, there's no doubt that he's turned it up a notch since Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin went down with their injuries.

And then there's Pascal Dupuis.  When he's not taking 25-foot slap shots into the crest of the goalie, he's showed that he has some hands too.  As Lavender would agree, Dupuis can be a dangerous player when he has some hands.  His shorthanded goal was simply a thing of beauty. 

I'd be remissed if I didn't make mention of Matt Cooke.  I can't exactly say his presence was missing for the Pens, and that was pretty evident in the scoring chances created by that third line in his absence.  But for all the comments coming from the Pens' front office, it's good to see that his players are not casting him out or throwing him to the wolves.  The best thing he can do from here is come back a "rehabilitated" man, so to speak.  My words, not theirs.

And finally, thank Shero (or your deity of choice) for James Neal.

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