Penguins feel fortunate after win over Red Wings
Jussi Jokinen had luck on his side Wednesday night.
The Penguins felt fortunate, too.
A 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings — earned in a shootout when goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's three saves made Jokinen's Round 3 score stand — provided the Penguins a 100th regular-season win at Consol Energy Center.
Nobody really cared about that, though.
Making the right play again proved problematic for the Penguins, who blew a late lead that allowed the Red Wings to claim a valuable point in their quest to secure the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“I think our (defensive)-zone play is fine,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “The problem has been making the right puck decisions. Sometimes you have to make the simple play, flip it out. Sometimes it's a 10-foot pass.
“It's making the right decisions in big situations.”
Right winger James Neal, who scored twice on the power play in the second period, wrapped a puck around the boards behind the Penguins' net late in regulation. The Penguins were ahead 3-2.
The Red Wings intercepted and moved the puck to the point. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall took a shot that was deflected by center Riley Sheahan, whose goal caromed off Fleury with one minute, 15 seconds remaining.
Sheahan's seventh goal helped the Red Wings stay ahead of Columbus for wild-card seeding. Detroit (38-27-15, 91 points) and Columbus (41-31-7, 89 points) each clinched playoff berths to set the Eastern field. With more regulation wins, Columbus owns a tiebreaker if the teams finish with equal point totals.
The Penguins (51-24-5, 107 points) will open the playoffs with a best-of-seven series against the No. 7 seed.
Facing the Red Wings would provide a rematch of the 2008 and '09 Cup Final series, which the franchises split for their respective last championships.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock sounded ready.
“I thought we were better than them,” he said. “We carried the play.”
Babcock also jabbed the Penguins for “always talking to the referees.”
The Red Wings still rely on skilled forwards to win puck battles near the boards and around the cage. Basically, they force turnovers.
Penguins players said the Red Wings forced more than the seven giveaways credited to coach Dan Bylsma's squad.
That should provide the Penguins something to remember for a potential playoff series, winger Tanner Glass said.
“It's fresh in our minds,” Glass said, noting the “dangle” skills of Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk. “I like seeing a team just before the playoffs.”
Bylsma would like to see the Penguins prove as opportunistic on the power player. Neal's goals, Nos. 25 and 26, were on advantages and erased 1-0 and 2-1 deficits.
The Penguins also would like to see more of what returning defenseman Kris Letang showed near the midpoint of the final period when he raced up ice near the right boards to set up a scoring chance. His shot was not controlled by Red Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson, and Jokinen pushed into the net a puck that provided the Penguins their only lead at 3-2.
“For him to step in and look pretty good, make good decisions with the puck, keep things simple and to look so good skating, he was really good,” Scuderi said of Letang, who had been out 10 weeks because of a stroke. “He looked like himself. He didn't miss a beat.”
After Sheahan's late goal and an overtime period, Jokinen and Fleury dominated the shootout.
Even Jokinen could not really describe his crazy score, which benefitted from an attempted poke-check by Gustavsson. The backhanded poke hit off Gustavsson for an own-goal.
“I haven't seen that before,” Jokinen said.
Fleury, who finished with 34 saves, was perfect in the shootout – including a snow-angle stop on Red Wings winger Daniel Alfredsson.
Still, Fleury conceded the Penguins cannot surrender 64 attempted shots, as they did in this victory.
“We got better as the game went on,” Fleury said. “We'll be better if we see them again, too.”
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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