Share This Page

Pens blow big lead, pull out shootout win

DETROIT -- Bumps in the road in the Motor City were just another obstacle for these Penguins.

"Every one of these guys would lay down in traffic for one another," goalie Brent Johnson said Monday night after a 5-4 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings at Jose Louis Arena.

Seriously, what is a blown four-goal lead to this team?

"Just another obstacle," winger Chris Kunitz said. "We've had a lot of them, so maybe we're used to it."

Winger James Neal scored the lone shootout goal to help the Penguins earn the rarest of victories.

It wasn't just a win in this building, where they've had some highs (Games 5 and 7 of the 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup Final series, respectively); but where they have also lost six times over the last three years.

It was winning in this building after blowing a huge lead, after learning before the game that another one of their leaders, winger Matt Cooke, would miss significant time.

Cooke has been suspended through Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs for his elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in a home loss Sunday afternoon.

The Penguins (42-23-8, 92 points) might hold home ice in that first playoff round -- a seemingly improbable possibility given the 296 man-games they had lost to injury before this win, including the combined services of superstar centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the past two months.

Survival this season has required role players to raise their level of play, and often a couple of standout performances each night.

This 20th road victory was brought to the Penguins by the number 37 -- the saves by Michigan-native Johnson.

Two goals by winger Pascal Dupuis, his first markers in 10 games, and one apiece from Kunitz and Tyler Kennedy -- a duo that has combined for 39 markers -- had staked the Penguins a 4-0 lead by 13:16 of the second period.

However, the absence of Cooke -- a top penalty killer, a point often overlooked because of his dirty-player-rep -- was evident in the third period, where two of the Red Wings' three goals were scored on the power play.

Winger Dan Cleary and center Mike Modano scored within 2:21 of each other to pull the Red Wings even, 4-4. A late second-period goal by stud center Henrik Zetterberg and an early third-period marker by fellow center Valtteri Filppula also contributed to a rousing comeback by Detroit.

The Penguins were outshot, 14-5, in the third.

In fact, only a suave save by Johnson late in regulation -- with his club on a power play, but hoping for the best as the Red Wings broke in on a 2-on-1 -- preserved a point.

Red Wings center Darren Helm couldn't convert that rush into a go-ahead score, one that might have totally deflated a Penguins squad that has absorbed enough emotional blows through the opening three months of 2011 to deflate any club.

"They were humming," Johnson said of the Red Wings, adding that he changed his goalie glove before the shootout -- where he pitched a shutout over three rounds.

Actually, the Red Wings appeared to be running the Penguins into a breaking point on the season.

"I wouldn't assume so," Kunitz said.

Notes: Crosby skated in Pittsburgh, but there remains no timetable for his return to full practice. ... Defenseman Brooks Orpik is expected to resume practicing with teammates next week. ... Center Mark Letestu missed a second straight game because of an upper-body injury.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.