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Penguins erase 2-goal deficit, rally to victory over Red Wings

| Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, 9:03 p.m.
Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek deflects a shot by Penguins center Matt Cullen during the first period Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Detroit.
Penguins left wing Conor Sheary and Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith reach for the puck during the first period Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Detroit.
Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader is congratulated by teammates after scoring during the first period against the Penguins on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Detroit.
Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff stops a redirect from Red Wings center Riley Sheahan during the second period Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Detroit.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and Red Wings center Darren Helm chase the puck during the second period Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Detroit.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby (right) celebrates his goal with left wing Chris Kunitz during the third period against the Red Wings on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Detroit.
Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek kneels in the crease as a shot by Penguins center Sidney Crosby bounces out of the net for a goal during the third period Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Detroit.

Midway through the second period, a young gentleman got down on a knee and proposed marriage via the Joe Louis Arena Jumbotron. Cheesy or not, it was a sign of things to come.

With the score tied in the third period, Sidney Crosby settled down a tumbling puck, and in an awkward one-knee-down, shooting-across-his-body motion, flipped the puck over the shoulder of Petr Mrazek for what wound up being the winning tally.

Before the Red Wings could catch their breath, it was Evgeni Malkin snapping a wrist shot by Mrazek 34 seconds later for an insurance goal.

The Penguins ended 2015 on a high note, erasing an early two-goal deficit to beat the reeling Red Wings, 5-2, before a deflated Joe Louis Arena crowd.

Coach Mike Sullivan was pleased not only to grab a gritty road win but for what this performance could mean going forward.

“It's exciting because it is hard evidence that when we play the right way, we can be a very good team,” he said.

The Pens had entered their New Year's Eve game looking to get off to a hot start. Apparently, the Red Wings had the same idea.

Justin Abdelkader opened the scoring less than seven minutes into the game, taking a wraparound pass from promising youngster Dylan Larkin and beating Jeff Zatkoff on the short side.

Later in the period, Zatkoff stopped a long shot from Alexey Marchenko but coughed up a rebound opportunity in the process. Brendan Smith rammed it home and suddenly the Penguins were in a 2-0 hole, not the best place for the NHL's 28th-ranked offense.

But the middle period saw the Penguins blessed with a couple of much-needed power-play opportunities, and they took full advantage.

In the period's opening minute, the Penguins cut the lead in half just 31 seconds into their man-advantage. Malkin ripped a shot from the blue line, and despite Mrazek making the initial stop, he wound up nudging the puck back into his own net. Patric Hornqvist received credit for the goal on a deflection from in the crease. The Red Wings challenged the goal, to no avail.

Halfway through the period, the Penguins went on another power play and again capitalized almost immediately.

Kris Letang, in his third game back from injury, put a nifty move on Mrazek from the right circle and flicked in a forehand to even the score 2-2, this time just 30 seconds into the power play.

When asked what he liked about the power play, Sullivan deadpanned, “I loved the fact that they scored a couple of goals.”

The Penguins nearly took the lead two different times later in the period.

Again it was Hornqvist wreaking havoc in the crease, forcing the puck in off Mrazek's pad. The referees ruled, however, that the puck was not shot in but instead jammed in along with the goaltender. Later, Crosby glided into the offensive zone with room to operate, but Mrazek got just enough of his blocker on the puck to send it wide.

After struggling early, Zatkoff recovered to shut out the Red Wings over the final two periods. It was extra special for him getting a win in his hometown.

“I had a lot of family here,” Zatkoff said. “They were probably a little nervous after that first period, but thankfully we turned it around.”

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