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Recap: Penguins lose to Red Wings, despite taking 4-0 lead

In a stunning collapse, the Penguins start very, very strong and take a 4-0 lead, but only play for 20 minutes and end up losing 5-4 in OT to Detroit.

NHL: DEC 28 Red Wings at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


The Penguins shuffle Kasperi Kapanen down to the fourth line, bump Danton Heinen up to the third following last night’s tough game. On defense, Mark Friedman draws into the lineup for his NHL season debut at the expense of the injured Chad Ruhwedel. Casey DeSmith gets the honors in net on night two of the back-to-back set.

The visiting Red Wings are going with Ville Husso in net and the following lines for their first game back from the holiday break.

First period

The Pens strike first, and it’s the new look fourth line scoring on their very first shift together. Teddy Blueger does really well to keep the puck in the zone from the lumbering 6’8” Elmer Soderberg’s clearing attempt and Kasperi Kapanen feeds Drew O’Connor. O’Connor does well to rip a shot short-side and get Pittsburgh on the board early.

Detroit gets the game’s first power play when P.O. Joseph’s stick inadvertently comes up and scrapes the face of a Red Wing. But the Pens’ PK’ers earn their 23rd straight penalty kill with another solid effort.

Pittsburgh then gets a chance on their first power play of the night, and wouldn’t you know the second group scores? Bryan Rust does a good job battling with a Red Wing who has pinned the puck against the wall, eventually he and Kapanen are able to have Kapanen to come away with it and make a nice centering pass for a wide open Jeff Carter. Carter has a lot of space to shoot for and makes no mistake wiring a great shot to the top of the net. 2-0 Pens with 9:45 left in the first.

A few minutes later, it was Jason Zucker’s turn to shine. Zucker steps out of the corner with the puck. Defenseman Filip Hronek is basically waving him on in a really bad effort and then the goalie Husso looks totally out of his element as if surprised to see Zucker bearing in on him untouched. Makes it easy for Zucker to flip a backhander past him. 3-0 Pens.

Before the first end, more pain for Detroit. David Perron takes his second penalty of the game, and the Pens’ second PP group scores their second goal of the first period. Zucker and Carter get themselves and the puck to the net and just create enough havoc until eventually Zucker can swat the puck over the line. 4-0 to the good guys.

Shots in the first were 14-12 Red Wings, but my goodness they didn’t look very put together.

Second period

Detroit makes a goalie change for the start of the second, Husso’s night is over and 31-year old Magnus Hellberg is thrown into the fire. And he steps up early and denies Sidney Crosby on a clean breakaway, which is a lot better play than what was happening earlier for the Red Wings.

Rickard Rakell takes an interference penalty, and sadly Detroit ends Pittsburgh’s long PK streak. Dylan Larkin is there to pickup a bouncing puck after it hits the end boards and lift it past DeSmith to get the Red Wings on the board.

Detroit has regrouped slightly and stays somewhat close in the game by getting another goal back after Brian Dumoulin’s attempted clear doesn’t make it out of the zone (feels like a familiar sentence these days...). It’s a cruel, cruel world for Sidney Crosby to break his stick and then end up getting walked around by Ben Chiarot of all people. Even without a stick, it just isn’t right when Chiarot is better at hockey than Sidney freakin Crosby. Anyways, nice move by Chiarot to fake the shot and get past Sid, then get the puck low when he centers it for Joe Veleno to bump into the net while DeSmith apparently did his tribute to Husso by just watching the puck slide to the far post on him. 4-2 game.

Shots in the second period end up 15-9 in favor of Detroit. The Pens were very much encouraging score effects to kick in by throwing ‘er in neutral in this game after building up the commanding lead in the first period.

Third period

Jake Guentzel takes a penalty but the team starts a new PK streak by killing it off.

Still, the Red Wings keep chipping away and on their 41st shot on goal on the evening, they draw within one goal. This is a broken play and really bad luck, Crosby swings his stick and dislodges the puck from a Red Wing, but it flies directly to Jonatan Berggren who is staring at nothing but a wide open net from a new angle. 4-3 Pens clinging to their lead with 5:00 left.

Pittsburgh gets rung up for a too many men penalty, and the Red Wings make them pay quickly to tie the game. Carter loses the d-zone draw to start the PK and it’s all downhill from there. Lucas Raymond makes a nice pass through Jan Rutta and David Perron has plenty of space to fire it home. 4-4 game.


After some back and forth action, Detroit hits the post and narrowly avoids scoring. The Pens get a chance on a 2-on-1 but P.O. Joseph elects to shoot and doesn’t score. Play goes back the other way and Andrew Copp makes a nice pass over to Jake Wallman for the game ender.

Some thoughts

  • Well, it was a great night for slump busters: Carter only had one goal in his last 15 games entering tonight, and Zucker wasn’t far behind with just one in 14. O’Connor had no goals in his first five NHL games of the season. Kasperi Kapanen hadn’t had a multi-assist game since October 22nd, Bryan Rust recorded his first multi-point game since December 6th. Great to see those names pop up on scoresheet after going a while without.
  • Liked to see the good game from guys like Carter, Blueger and Kapanen. They have heard the coach say he’s going to shuffle up the bottom-six, and those players are all under a microscope right now with their performances and just what they are (or aren’t) providing. It was definitely a “good night to have a good night” for those players.
  • But, that said the Red Wings were not very good early on. The Pens looked like sharks in the water smelling blood. These guys surely had to flashback to scoring 11 goals in a game against Detroit last year. They know when a team is weak and vulnerable, and hell, the Pens WERE that unfortunate team just 24 hours ago.
  • Unfortunately, the foot went way too far off the gas way too early. 4-0 should be enough to win, and there’s no excuses for why it wasn’t. This team needs a big gut check for situations like that, score effects are a natural thing in sports to let up once up big, but it can’t go like that.
  • Who knew Hellberg stopping Crosby on a breakaway early in the second period in a 4-0 game would actually last as a potential game turning point?
  • The Pens fall to 1-6 with games decided in overtime this year (they’re 1-0 in shootouts).
  • Brian Dumoulin and Jan Rutta on ice for three goals against (albeit two on the PK). Not sure how poorly Dumoulin would have to perform or how many goals he would have to be on the ice for to be removed from the lineup by this coaching staff that has a lot of trust and faith in him (perhaps, ahem, a little too much). At this point I’m scared that we just might find out what that bottom point could to be, with him continuing to find new lows all the time.
  • DeSmith wasn’t very sharp, but shots in regulation were also 44-29 for Detroit. 45 shots was Detroit’s prior season-high before tonight. That’s also really bad.
  • Crosby, Guentzel and Malkin combined for no points and three shots on goal (two for Sid, one for Jake). For a while it looked like the team could getaway with a quiet night from their stars, until they couldn’t.

Brutal loss for the Pens, who exorcised some of the demons from playing poorly last night, only to be unable to finish out what they started after maybe TOO good of a start. It’s always something, isn’t it? Some of the most nitpicked players on the team stepped up with very good performances, but the continued Achilles’ heel of reliance on Dumoulin and Rutta together has done nothing but brought pain. It was a big time collapse and now the Pens have to shake it off, the speedy and impressive Devils will be in town on Friday and not feeling sorry for Pittsburgh.