Bad breaks slow Malkin, Penguins in setback

The Red Wings' Jiri Hudler checks the Penguins' Evgeni Malkin off the puck in the third period at of their game Tuesday at Consol Energy Center.
The Red Wings' Jiri Hudler checks the Penguins' Evgeni Malkin off the puck in the third period at of their game Tuesday at Consol Energy Center.
| Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Two Russian superstars put on a show Monday at Consol Energy Center.

One received an exceptional break, while the other endured total frustration.

Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk scored a goal and made a miraculous setup of another, while Penguins center Evgeni Malkin came tantalizingly close to a big night in Detroit's 4-1 win.

"Not good luck," Malkin said.

Not at all.

Malkin scored with 4.5 seconds left in the first period to give the Penguins a lead, but he could have had three or four goals against Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.

In the second period, Malkin's shot trickled through Howard and struck the inside of the post. Malkin then lunged toward the net and slapped a shot toward the empty cage, only to see Howard make a dazzling stick save.

Later in a contest that saw Malkin register nine shots — the second most he has produced in a game this season — Howard made spectacular saves on a rush down the right wing and on a slap shot taken from the center point.

For good measure, Malkin hit the post again in the third period.

"He played extremely well tonight," Penguins left wing Steve Sullivan said. "He had a lot of good chances to score. He really gave us a chance to win. It was nice to see him play like that."

It was nice to see him play at all.

Coach Dan Bylsma said before the game that Malkin, who did not participate in the morning skate, was a "game-time decision."

Malkin never seemed to think that he would not play and said he is not injured.

"I feel good," Malkin said. "He just gave me rest."

Datsyuk must be feeling pretty good about himself.

The star center played a terrific game, including his goal on a backhand shot that evened the game late in the second period.

"He is amazing to watch," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom play. "Just watch him play away from the play, his puck retrieval. He never stops."

When Datsyuk wasn't beating the Penguins with his skill, he was doing so with a touch of luck.

The Penguins were killing defenseman Matt Niskanen's penalty in the third period when left wing Matt Cooke attempted to clear the puck. Datsyuk stopped the puck with the shaft of his stick, even though that wasn't his intention.

"It was by accident," Datsyuk said. "I didn't really do anything."

Accident or not, Datsyuk had just made the game's biggest play and then found center Johan Franzen, who buried the game-winner.

Niskanen endured a rough night. He was knocked off the puck by right wing Todd Bertuzzi, who set up Datsyuk's goal in the second period.

Niskanen wasn't thrilled with the holding call he received in the third period.

"I don't know where he was on the ice," said Niskanen, referring to the official who made the call. "It may have appeared that it was worse than what I was really doing. I got caught in a bad position."

Danny Cleary put the game away with a couple of goals late in the third period.

Detroit's victory thwarted goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's attempt at his 200th career win.

The Penguins play Friday in Ottawa, and they are hoping for better luck in that contest.

"That's a really good team," Malkin said. "And we just made a couple of mistakes."

Scoring summary

First period

Penguins, 1-0 (19:56): D Brooks Orpik blocked a shot in the direction of RW James Neal, whose pass to C Evgeni Malkin sprung the Penguins to an odd-man rush. Malkin fired a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Detroit G Jimmy Howard to the stick side.

Second period

Red Wings, 1-1 (16:01): LW Todd Bertuzzi worked over D Matt Niskanen behind the net, creating a turnover and setting up C Pavel Datsyuk in the slot. Datsyuk whipped a high, backhand shot past Fleury's stick side.

Third period

Red Wings, 2-1 (5:15): LW Matt Cooke's shorthanded clearing attempt was stopped by the shaft of Datsyuk's stick. Datsyuk then found C Johan Franzen, who buried a shot past Fleury.

Red Wings, 3-1 (15:36): LW Danny Cleary tapped in a pass from RW Chris Conner on a two-on-one.

Red Wings, 4-3 (19:54): With Malkin attempting to play the role of goaltender, Cleary scored an empty-netter.

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