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Penguins/Red Wings Recap: Pittsburgh’s comeback effort falls short in Detroit

Nightmare of a night for the Pens’ defense, who dig too deep of a hole early and end up falling 6-3 to the Red Wings

Pittsburgh Penguins v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images


The Penguins stick with the same combinations that they’ve run all season and Tristan Jarry gets the crease back.

Detroit makes a couple of changes from their shutout win the previous game, Ville Husso is back in the net and Jeff Petry is in the lineup against his old club.

First period

If nothing else, it was a great start for Pittsburgh. Kris Letang holds the puck while a change is made, Erik Karlsson makes a long stretch pass to Evgeni Malkin for a routine looking entry. Then the sequence heats up in a hurry, Malkin drops the puck to Reilly Smith and heads to the net. Smith makes a tremendous backhand pass for Geno to pop in the net for a goal inside of the first minute of the game.

The Pens get the first power play but do little with it. Almost immediately later, the Red Wings crack the Pens’ third pair for a goal. Austin Czarnik skates through Chad Ruhwedel and makes a nice pass of his own that P.O Joseph can’t stop. It is perfect for Alex Debrincat to have an easy finish to tie the game.

Pittsburgh gets a glorious chance off Letang springing Jeff Carter for a breakaway, but the veteran can’t tuck the puck five-hole on Husso.

Shots are 7-6 Detroit, game is tied which would cost Pittsburgh going forward.

Second period

The third pair’s night to forget popped up again when Ruhwedel created havoc in his own crease bumping a Red Wing into Jarry and then getting in the way when Ben Chariot of all players shot an innocent enough looking puck right in. 2-1 Detroit.

Petry unleashed a point shot that Andrew Copp tipped from point blank range to extend the lead to 3-1. This one was a hair away from being a little too high of a tip, but there wasn’t clear enough evidence to warrant a challenge.

The game spirals out of control on the scoreboard with Pittsburgh killing their first penalty. Jarry fights off a shot from the slot but leaves a rebound that David Perron quickly slams into the net. Ruhwedel with the best seat in the house again. 4-1.

Frustrations mount and the game gets a little out of control when Jake Wallman and Sidney Crosby come together after a whistle. Both teams engage each other, Larkin and Marcus Pettersson have a “fight” where no punches are landing, but Larkin falls over less than gracefully after a wild swing.

The Pens get another power play, but Malkin gets tangled up after the whistle and dummies Moritz Seider roughly into the ice to wash out the advantage.

Bad period for the Pens in every way, out-scored 3-0 to fall behind 4-1 overall, out-shot and looking a step slow behind the Wings.

Third period

The Pens stick with it, Crosby feathers a backhand pass to Karlsson who steps into a wrister ticketed to the far-side of the net. Brings the game to 4-2 with 16:23 to play on Karlsson’s first goal with Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh gets a power play and the first group gets a couple of good looks on the net. With the second group out, a desperate Letang was losing the foot race but hooked Copp. He didn’t need to since Jarry stopped it anyways. The ref awarded Copp a penalty shot but Jarry out-waited him and blockered away the shot.

Malkin setup Rickard Rakell for a nice chance right in front, but he couldn’t chip it past Husso.

Pittsburgh’s push continued hard, Karlsson unleashed another heavy wrister from distance that Bryan Rust battled to the net and tipped in. 4-3 game with 6:57 to go.

The Pens keep battling but can’t find the equalizer. They pull Jarry to go all out but Copp picks up the puck and has less problems with the empty net than his penalty shot. 5-3.

Pittsburgh challenges that a Red Wing was ahead of Copp entering the zone for the empty netter, a last ditch attempt to take the goal off the board. It’s very close but not conclusive. Pittsburgh takes a penalty for delay of game.

With nothing to lose, the Pens pull Jarry again to even up the skaters but concede another empty net goal. 6-3.

Some thoughts

  • Given that the Pens have eight defensemen and liked John Ludvig enough to claim him recently, it will be interesting to track what does or doesn’t happen for adjustments there. Ruhwedel had an uncharacteristically awful performance. Joseph wasn’t much better. Both opened the door to sit next game.
  • Ruhwedel crashed hard into the back boards early in the third and would only return to the game for a few more shifts, including playing out the last minute of the game once it was decided. How long his benching might be will remain to be seen.
  • In other “early benching” watching: other than skating to the bench after a late second period penalty, Jansen Harkins only took three shifts and played just 1:33 in the third, significantly less than bottom-six options like Matt Nieto (5:33 of ES time in the third), Jeff Carter (3:07) and Noel Acciari (2:47). Harkins’ normal linemates of O’Connor and Eller played almost 4 ES minutes. The whole third line has failed to get much traction in the early going, and Harkins’ penalty was a catalyst to shuffle him mostly out after that.
  • The problem with having defensive-first (and largely defensive-only) third and fourth lines showed again. Might stand out more when Carter has a glorious chance to score and didn’t. Puts a lot of pressure on the big guns to fire away.
  • The Smith-Malkin connection continues to be real and very fun to watch. Much like Rickard Rakell, Smith is somewhat quietly just a tremendous supporting player
  • The TNT broadcast pointed out that Copp had a penalty shot last game before getting another in this one. Don’t see that every day. He failed on both, so Detroit probably knows who not to use in a shootout.
  • Jarry took the loss but was far from the Pens’ problem tonight. Between the defense allowing cross-ice passes and not taking away sticks in front, to handing out penalty shots, they asked too much of the netminder.
  • Similarly, failing to finish was a problem. Between Carter’s chance, Rakell in front, a couple of power play looks, it wasn’t to be. They needed one extra play somewhere to claw out of the hole they dug and couldn’t find it.
  • Karlsson’s emergence in the third was also undeniable. A bit earlier he knocked a hard clearing attempt a few feet out of the air. Then deeper in the game his offense and control of the puck resulted in a three-point night and was almost just enough to complete the come back. Karlsson ended up with 11 total shot attempts (5 on goal) and was all over the ice with his passing.

In the end, the Pens dug a little too deep of a hole, but at least can take the effort from the comeback push with them moving onto the next game on Saturday against St. Louis.