The Penguins and Red Wings had a Saturday afternoon matchup of huge proportions, with both teams chasing a playoff spot. It would be a second period explosion that carried the day for Pittsburgh to help them complete a season sweep of Detroit.
Detroit pounces on a couple of mistakes to open the scoring. Bryan Rust turns the puck over in the middle of the ice (has to at least get that deep) and then Ian Cole hesitates while making an extended line-change. This gives Andreas Athanasiou enough time to get behind the defense and make a nice shot on Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fortunately for the Penguins, they would turn it on in the second period. Just 20 seconds into the period Letang fires a shot wide, and for the first time in recorded history the boards in Detroit help the Pens score a goal with Chris Kunitz doing well to poke the puck past Petr Mrazek.
The Pens took the lead less than 4 minutes later on the power play with Letang walking in on Mrazek, opening up the 5-hole and snapping one home for his 15th goal of the season.
Carl Hagelin made it 3-1 Pens, stepping out of the corner, losing his man and firing a puck by Mrazek.
Later in the 2nd, Phil Kessel would end Mrazek's night with one of his favorite shots down the right-wing side and snapping the puck far-side on the goalie. Great angle of that goal here.
In the 3rd period the Wings would get a goal closer on a power play of their own. Mike Green takes a fluttering shot that bounces of the ground, then Cole and somehow sputters past Fleury. Crazy break there, but that's why all shots can be good shots, right?
(Sorry, no GIF seems to be on the internet)
The Pens would get it back quickly, nice job by Nick Bonino to drive to take the puck to the net, Jimmy Howard makes a stop but can't freeze the puck. Hagelin takes a crack at it, no dice. Then Eric Fehr comes in with his long stick and chips it by Howard, 5-2 Pittsburgh.
Speed kills and Hagelin and Kessel feel the need. Great play on this 2-on-1 and man what a pass from Phil, followed by a nice finish from the Swedish gentleman to make it 6-2.
Update: Kessel now with 4 points in the game. 1 goal, 3 assists. That ties career high for assists & points in a game #PhilAnthropy -SK— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) March 26, 2016
Pens just piling it on with Bonino making it 7-2 on the power play, great pass by Kessel (a repeated statement in this recap) over to Bonino who fires the puck by Howard.
- The game changed in the 2nd period, the first 13 minutes of it Pittsburgh outscored Detroit 3-0 and outshot them 13-4 in more of the "suppression by possession" strategy that has been working out so well for the Pens under Mike Sullivan.
- Second time in three games that Brian Dumoulin gets knocked out of the game. He was bloodied from the lip and looked a little woozy walking back, hopefully there isn't too much damage. Definitely not his week, after he's been able to play every game so far this season.
- Another injury in the 2nd period, for Kunitz. He wouldn't return for the 3rd period after a big collision with Pavel Datsyuk. They both were leaning in for a lateral type of hit and it looked like Datsyuk's shoulder ended up catching Kunitz right on the button, dropping Kunitz for a few minutes. Fingers crossed for a quick return on a scaring looking hit.
- Kunitz's pain turned out to be Beau Bennett's opportunity who got to play left wing on the Crosby - Patric Hornqvist line. Yes, insert cliche joke here about the irony of an injury actually benefiting Bennett.
- With only 5 defensemen for the majority of the game, it would be an even more taxing game than usual for Letang (who averages 26:19 per game this season). Letang skated 29:52 today, which was actually pretty low, the team was able to keep him on the bench for the final few minutes of the blowout.
- Boss of a 5 point (1g+4a) night for Kessel who was moving the puck well on the power play (where he picked up the primary assists on Letang and Bonino's goals) and Kessel's goal came 8 seconds after a Pens power play ended. Pittsburgh needs more from Kessel on the PP and got it today.
- And a 1 goal, 4 assist night for Bonino as well, who played easily his best game of the season and probably career. Has to be the biggest surprise of the day, since Bonino was officially a game-time decision to play after taking a puck to the hand yesterday in practice. He was able to play, and thank goodness for that.
- 7 goals and a fairly quiet night for Crosby with only 1 assist (on the first goal). That's a positive sign for secondary scoring to be able and produce so much without having to rely on Crosby for everything.
- For a Detroit team that needed to be desperate, they played surprisingly lifelessly and without much urgency. Really surprising that they didn't really "get up" for such an important game.
Great win for Pittsburgh who had to battle a short bench down an injured important forward and defenseman and still chug along and fairly easily steam past a team on the road. Very positive signs there.