Should this be a playoff preview, buckle up. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings were knotted up after 65 minutes, the Pens eventually getting the shootout win on the strength of Marc-Andre Fleury making some circus saves in the skills contest.
Before that though there was plenty to grow on for the Penguins, who ended up being out-shot 37-24 on the night and were often times pinned in their own zone for entire shifts, usually from the bottom six forwards getting trapped (stop me if you've heard that before).
Regardless, there were obviously bright spots too. James Neal and the power play were very effective, Neal potted two with the man-advantage on the night. Fleury had his moments, and it was nice to see Kris Letang return 10 weeks after suffering a stroke. It was nicer still to see Letang streak down the right wing (looking A-OK) and throwing a shot on net that the goalie couldn't corral and was a prime loose puck for Jussi Jokinen to bat into the net.
The penalty kill has also tightened up, killing both Detroit power plays tonight and stretching their consecutive kills to 12 in a row. All this despite Craig Adams again having difficulty getting the puck from off his stick and out of the zone. The PP (as mentioned above) also took back over for the top unit in the league on it's 2 for 4 night.
Tonight's win also marked the Pens 100th career win inside of Consol Energy Center, a nice little footnote. Defensemen Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen each notched two assists.
Other than that, a nice game to move on from. Detroit was clearly the team with more to play for, and frankly, they showed more desperation. For their part, the Penguins didn't back down and hung right in there. Should this be the matchup next week- and that would depend on if Detroit can finish above Columbus- Pittsburgh will know they have to play a lot better. Especially since Detroit's #1 goalie, Jimmy Howard, didn't play in this one.
But, all in all, nice to see Letang back, nice to win and nice to be one game closer to the playoffs.