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Recap: Crosby leads way, Penguins down Detroit to keep hopes alive

Sidney Crosby records three points and hits a milestone, the Penguins limit Detroit to 20 shots. Pens win and keep going.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images


It’s deja vu for Alex Nylander who is an emergency recall yet again for this game, but this time he gets in the lineup in the spot of the injured Drew O’Connor. Otherwise it’s the same lines and lineup for the Penguins.

And here is how the home team Detroit Red Wings are lining ‘em up.

First period

Pittsburgh isn’t impressive in the early minutes, they’re turning the puck over and unable to cleanly come out of the zone. Detroit starts getting some shots and even hits a post. With nothing much going the Pens’ away, it’s Jeff Carter who provides a spark when he rushes down the right side and fires a shot that Ville Husso stops. The rebound eventually gets to Nylander, who gets to a great shooting spot and fires the puck through Husso. 1-0 Pens.

The Pens get the first power play of the game and the first group has a miserable time of it, failing to even get setup in the offensive zone for 70 seconds before they finally call it quits. The second team does better, Carter even sets up Bryan Rust for a glorious look, but his shot hits the post.

The Red Wings gain momentum from the kill and push the play back the other way. Nylander’s active period continues by taking a penalty. Detroit piles up some zone time and looks at the net, but Tristan Jarry does well to keep everything in front of him.

The Nylander penalty ends and the period end draws near. But then, out of no where, the Pens strike. Jake Guentzel gets in on the forecheck and causes a Red Wing to cough up the puck. Sidney Crosby is right there to jump on it and he wheels and spins a classic top shelf back-hand shot directly to the top of the net, beating the clock by 1.5 seconds. A King doing King things.

Shots are even at 7-7, and truth be told, it could be a 1-1 game based on the pace of play and chances. But it’s a more lopsided 2-0 Penguins thanks to the quick strike of Crosby.

Second period

Not much happening early, which is good enough for the Penguins.

There’s some more Sidney Crosby magic and only the second Danton Heinen goal since late January out of no where. Heinen flips a puck ahead that Crosby gets to and shoots another of his vaunted backhanders. This time Husso stops it, but Crosby’s extra effort pokes the rebound over toward Heinen, who bats it down and in the net. 3-0 Pens.

Pittsburgh gets a power play, the less said the better about the next two disjointed minutes.

Detroit builds on that and back at even gets their first goal of the game. A Kris Letang bobble at his offensive blueline turns into a turnover and a Red Wing rush. Four very crisp Detroit passes later leave Pius Suter with a tap in goal. 3-1.

Shots are 10-8 Pens in the second, each team scores once and that’s good enough to keep things on track for Pittsburgh.

Third period

Josh Archibald draws a penalty to send Pittsburgh to a power play, which leads to history. After the power play looked uninspiring again all game, Crosby took matters into his own hands and recorded a historic 1,500th career point with a goal to push his team even further ahead.

After a rough game for the Pens’ second line, they at least chip in with a little insurance. Malkin feeds Jason Zucker for a big shot. Husso stops it but the rebound is sitting around for Malkin to chip into the net. 5-1 Pens.

Jan Rutta takes a penalty to give Detroit’s power play another chance. No dice.

That’s it for this one.

Some thoughts

  • Nice for Nylander to get a reward with not only playing, but scoring his first NHL goal since March 11, 2020 - just before the lockdowns and shutdowns happened. It’s been a while. Nylander earned it, toiling in Wilkes-Barre for most of the last 16 months and lately being on the yo-yo of getting called up and sent back multiple times in the past few weeks.
  • A lot of this game was the Sidney Crosby factor. Two goals and an assist for the captain, leading the way as usual. It had been a while since he scored a goal (March 23rd in Dallas), but generally has been playing pretty well. Great to see him get over the hump and break the glass right through 1,500 - no delays or slumps before a major milestone this time.
  • Speaking of that, Heinen netted his first since March 7th. Last year he was one of the more pleasant surprises with 18 goals. This was only his seventh of the season.
  • It was a good thing it was a “Crosby game” on the scoreboard, it was not a very good day in any regard for the Zucker-Malkin-Rakell line. None of them could get anything going up until Malkin scored deep into the third. But those guys have done more than their share in recent games and days, so it was a good thing when they had a quiet game that someone else could step up.
  • Bryan Rust vs. hitting the net is one of the most frustrating aspects of the season right now. For whatever reason he just can’t do it.
  • At the risk of inciting an internet riot, Jeff Carter hasn’t been bad lately. He’s still a lumbering skater that’s a half-step off, but has been able to control and play the puck a lot better lately than earlier on in the year. Sullivan moved Carter to a vastly de-emphasized role since after the All-Star break, and less has been a lot more.
  • This is just the first two-game winning streak for the Penguins since March 11-12. They’ve gotten it in gear now, but is it too little too late?
  • And for the Bob Grove tweet ‘o the day: it’s the first time in 2023 that the Pens have had a lead at the end of the first period in two games in a row (Dec 28-30).
  • Now, Penguin fans find themselves in very uncharted waters: cheering for both the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers today. Has that ever happened in such a key circumstance like this? We’ll see if both fading rival teams can trip up Florida and NYI, respectively. Probably can’t count on it, but sure would be nice.

The Penguins get two days off to rest up. They are back at it on Tuesday against Chicago for the second-to-last game of the year. The home stretch of the season is here, and one way or another it’s shaping up to be a thrilling finish to see which teams make the Wild Card.