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Penguins

Reeling Penguins end year with loss to Red Wings

Jonathan Bombulie
| Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, 9:51 p.m.

DETROIT — As Conor Sheary took off up the left wing on a two-on-one break in the second period Sunday night, a golden scoring chance was materializing.

Just as Sheary attempted a cross-ice pass to Carter Rowney, the blade of his stick flew off and hit the end boards with a thud.

Welcome to the 2017-18 Penguins season, where things are falling apart at the seams.

Gustav Nyqvist scored twice and the Penguins fell 4-1 to the Detroit Red Wings on New Year's Eve at Little Caesars Arena.

The reeling Penguins have lost seven of their past 10 games.

“I think we're trying. I don't think anyone's out there not trying,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “Sometimes you just gotta simplify things and make sure you don't hurt yourself with mistakes.”

The Penguins were coming off a demoralizing 2-1 loss in Carolina where they were trapped in their own zone for long stretches of the game.

They responded Sunday night. They took the first six shots of the game. They finished with a 38-23 advantage in shots and a 61-43 edge in shot attempts.

They were beaten decisively anyway.

“Tonight's probably different than the last one, a little different in the sense that, yeah, we did generate some good chances, probably chances that if we bury one or two of those, it's a much different outcome,” Crosby said. “We've got to find a way to get one and then build on it. It's not coming easy right now.”

And while the goals aren't coming easy, especially at even strength, the solutions aren't either.

“I think we've got to make sure we keep our heads up and we keep getting more determined and making sure that we try to learn from each experience and move on,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think at this point, that's the only approach we can take.”

The Penguins fell behind 1-0 when Gustav Nyqvist pulled up in front of defenseman Frankie Corrado at the right hash marks and snapped a shot past goalie Matt Murray's glove.

Detroit made it 2-0 in the second period when a Patric Hornqvist entry pass hit a skate and started a Dylan Larkin counter-attack the other way.

The Penguins sprung to life momentarily when, on a second-period power play, Evgeni Malkin took a cross-ice pass from Phil Kessel and rocketed a one-timer that seemed destined for the back of the net.

Goalie Jimmy Howard snared the puck with the webbing of his catching glove, but a video review showed his whole hand was across the goal line, so the goal counted.

It was a good break for the Penguins, but it led to nothing. Before the period ended, Frans Nielsen, taking advantage of a Brian Dumoulin pinch, motored up the left wing, faked a slap shot and slipped a puck under Murray to make it 3-1.

Murray made 19 saves. Howard made 37.

“I think Matt has certainly had games where he's been better for us,” Sullivan said. “I don't think it's any one guy. We all have to look in the mirror. We all have to make sure we stay together and we try to find ways to help each other to get out of this.

“We believe in this group of players, Matt included. He's a real good goalie. He's helped us win a lot of games. We just have to help each other here.”

Winger Daniel Sprong, making his season debut, was a bright spot for the Penguins. He had a game-high six shots on goal and created a handful of solid scoring chances.

“We had a lot of shots. We had a lot of good chances,” Sprong said. “Bounces just not going our way. We just have to keep working hard and they're going to go in.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (52), of Sweden, is hit from behind by Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71), of Russia, during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (52), of Sweden, is hit from behind by Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71), of Russia, during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (30) drinks as Detroit Red Wings congratulate center Frans Nielsen (51), of Denmark, after he scored a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (30) drinks as Detroit Red Wings congratulate center Frans Nielsen (51), of Denmark, after he scored a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
Detroit Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg (40), of Sweden, skates with the puck past Pittsburgh Penguins center Riley Sheahan (15) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
Detroit Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg (40), of Sweden, skates with the puck past Pittsburgh Penguins center Riley Sheahan (15) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
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