The Penguins welcomed back Evgeni Malkin to the lineup after a four game suspension, but it was their top line who continued their dominant run and made the biggest impact in a Saturday afternoon 7-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
After coasting and trying to find their legs over about the first ten minutes of the game with the early 12:30pm start, Pittsburgh got the game’s first goal. Brock McGinn stole the puck from a fumbling Jake Wallman and then the rest of the Red Wings just kinda stood around and watched as Teddy Blueger made a really nice pass to Chad Ruhwedel, who had cut in from his defense position. Ruhwedel’s quick shot beat Thomas Greiss to open the scoring 13:44 into the game.
You Chad me at hello pic.twitter.com/10x30RuyQQ— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 23, 2022
A few minutes later, the Pens’ top line started to make their mark. Sidney Crosby entered the zone and worked a give-and-go with Rickard Rakell. It was a really nice skill play from Rakell, Crosby’s pass was not the greatest and in Rakell’s skates, but he was quickly able to recover it up to his stick and fire over a beautiful pass that Crosby only needed to guide into the net for an easy finish for the captain on his 30th goal of the season.
That's 30 goals for the captain!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 23, 2022
Sidney Crosby joins Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr as the only players in franchise history to have 10 or more 30-goal campaigns with the team. pic.twitter.com/laVwqy5DLZ
To Detroit’s credit, they didn’t fold up shop like a couple of weeks ago and battled back into the game. With Jeff Carter in the penalty box for an offensive zone penalty, rookie phenom Moritz Seider made a great zone entry and found Tyler Bertuzzi with a pass. Bertuzzi was able to wire a cross-ice pass to Jakub Vrana and the Czech quickly fired a shot in the net for a power play goal.
The kid is a goal scorer! #LGRW pic.twitter.com/0uLP1OtzxF— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) April 23, 2022
In the second period, the Red Wings would tie the game, generating a 2-on-1 rush. Brian Dumoulin did his job to take the pass away, leaving Michael Rasmussen all alone on Casey DeSmith. Rasmussen picked a spot and hit the net to tie the game at 2-2.
Big Ras breaks in for his 13th of the season! #LGRW pic.twitter.com/dARaMjpZ5w— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) April 23, 2022
The Pens would wake back up and control the game with three unanswered goals over the rest of the second period.
Rakell dipped past a sliding Red Wing and then squeezed a shot between Greiss’ arm and body to re-establish the lead at 3-2.
YOU LOVE TO SEE IT.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 23, 2022
Rakell has 17 points (7G-10A) in 15 career games against the Red Wings, including points in four-straight games (3G-5A) vs. them. pic.twitter.com/wco8VNKjhR
After that, Kris Letang jumped up in the offensive zone again with no pressure on him and with his right shot on the left side found plenty of room on a high shot over the glove of Greiss to extend the score to 4-2.
Us watching that @Letang_58 shot: pic.twitter.com/jMdzeDGArj— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 23, 2022
Pittsburgh then struck on their first power play of the game. Malkin found Jake Guentzel right in front of the net with a great saucer pass. Guentzel’s shot was stopped by Greiss, but he left a rebound on the doorstep that Malkin was able to slam home.
This caused some controversy, as it really appeared an official had blown the play dead prior to the puck going into the net. After a review, the referees declared that it was in fact a good goal for Malkin to boost the Pittsburgh lead to 5-2.
Hey, we'll take it— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 23, 2022
Ref explanation: "After review, the puck was already shot before the play was whistled down. Therefore, it was a continuous motion. We have a goal on the ice." pic.twitter.com/dr2rsTD44R
Danton Heinen tacks on a goal in the third period, on another play where Letang is activated in the o-zone making a pass over for Heinen to chip past Alex Nedeljkovic, who was thrown into the fire for the last 20 minutes for Detroit. Heinen is wide open, because what are the Red Wings supposed to do, cover the guy in front of their net?
A beautiful pass from Letang.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 23, 2022
A beautiful goal from Heinen.
...and a 6-2 lead for the Penguins. pic.twitter.com/gGsAKNnXcx
With 25 seconds left, Evgeni Malkin puts another exclamation point on the big win, taking a Jason Zucker feed from behind the net and blasting it in to set the final score at 7-2. Hey, all the other lines had recorded a goal, the second line didn’t want to be left out!
- The Pens started slow, scored twice, saw the lead evaporate but it never really felt like they were in much trouble. Sure enough, they were right back on the gas and all of a sudden built a three-goal cushion back up by the end of the second to put them in position to coast to the victory.
- Rakell and Crosby together right now is the heart eyes emoji. The way they move the puck between one another is something special, and Rakell has the hands to score via nice passes or his own shot. They’re really fun to watch and seemingly a threat to put the puck in the net on every shift they’re taking these days, especially against an opponent who isn’t exactly great defensively.
- Rakell and Letang’s goal were almost carbon copies, except Letang’s shot was about a foot higher to the top shelf. It kinda looked on the replay that Greiss kept that arm tight to the body, not wanting to allow the same goal he gave up to Rakell. Unfortunately for him, that meant space up top and Letang hit it.
- Not really sure why the Malkin goal counted, on what was called on the ice that, “the puck was already shot before the play was whistled down. Therefore, it was a continuous motion”. even though apparently the whistle was first? That is a situation where it seems like it’s a disallowed goal way more often than not, but hey, it works. There really shouldn’t have been a whistle in the first place at all.
- With all forwards (finally) available it was Brian Boyle who was given the day off as a healthy scratch. Smart move in a four-game-in-six-day stretch to cycle out the oldest (and slowest) forward. Now it’ll be interesting to see if the team opts to rotate a forward out down the stretch, or if they gear up with the players on hand to establish roles, lines and consistency in the last week of the season.
- Almost all of the Pens’ goals too came from right on the doorstep. Pretty simple formula, players and pucks to the net and some less than great defensive coverage by Detroit turned into a ton of goals, yet again.
Pittsburgh rolls on and meets their rivals on the road tomorrow in Philadelphia. Will they be able to put up any more resistance than the Red Wings? It would be tough to offer less.