Red Wings blunt Penguins' recent momentum, 3-0

Ex-teammate Conklin registers shutout



Ty Conklin is the other guy who left the Penguins and signed with Detroit last summer.

The one who didn't reject a contract proposal for millions of dollars and lots of years.

The one who wasn't the target of ferocious booing and the occasional vulgar chant at Mellon Arena yesterday.

The one who would have been completely overlooked in the wake of the Red Wings' 3-0 victory against the Penguins (26-24-5) if he hadn't turned aside all 25 shots they tossed at him.

Then again, Conklin nearly went unnoticed because the most demanding shots he faced came during the pregame warmup.

Conklin was named the game's No. 3 star almost by default, because any goalie who records a shutout had to do something right. It's just that in this case, it wasn't much.

"The number of quality saves, I don't think there was a ton of them," said Conklin, whose shutout was his fifth of the season. "If I had to make a quality save, the rebound was gone. The guys did a great job in front of me."

The Red Wings do that a lot, which is part of the reason they remain a popular choice to win the Stanley Cup this spring. They don't play perfect hockey; they just come a lot closer than most other clubs.

"They don't make a ton [of mistakes]," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "And, when they make them, they're not usually devastating mistakes."

Detroit's biggest lapse yesterday was giving Evgeni Malkin a crack at a rebound from the right side of the crease during a power play in the middle of the first period. But Malkin didn't get good wood on his first attempt, a backhander, then put his second try wide.

The Red Wings also donated a breakaway to Eric Godard a couple of minutes after Pavel Datsyuk had given them a 1-0 lead in the second period, but, given that he has scored four goals in 249 career games, likely figured they could get away with it. And, if so, were correct.

Datsyuk's goal was the first of two he would score, although Detroit would need only the first. He got it at 10:08 while Petr Sykora was serving a hooking minor, converting a Henrik Zetterberg rebound that Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had express-delivered to him.

"I tried to tip it into the corner, but it went over my stick, hit my pad and went right to Datsyuk," Fleury said. "It was a mistake, and it cost a goal.

"It's such a tight game, every goal matters. I wish I could have that back."

So did his co-workers, who had been battling the Red Wings on fairly even terms.

"The first half of the game, we created a lot of [scoring] chances," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "It was a matter of execution. We didn't execute well around the net."

Datsyuk's goal didn't kill the Penguins -- "We've proven we can come back, even against Detroit," Crosby said -- but the one ex-Penguins winger Marian Hossa scored at 11:09 of the third did.

"They got a big goal there, the second one," Crosby said.

After marinating in verbal abuse from the crowd all day, Hossa muzzled it by whipping a backhander from well above the right hash that went through traffic and past Fleury for his 30th of the season.

"I saw him skate in, then lost [sight of the puck] when he shot it," Fleury said.

Datsyuk put an exclamation point on the Red Wings' victory by scoring from the inner edge of the left circle at 1:48, but, by that time, only Detroit's margin of victory was in doubt.

The Penguins had played well enough to compete with most opponents -- "We didn't get dominated," center Max Talbot said. "For the most part, it was a solid hockey game" -- but that's scant consolation, given that they're still two slots removed from a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

"There's not much positive about losing," Crosby said. "Our effort was there, but we have to expect that from here on in. We have to find ways to win."

Had they beaten the Wings, the Penguins would have tied Carolina for eighth place in the East. Instead, they will be marooned in 10th when San Jose, the only team ahead of Detroit in the Western Conference standings, visits Mellon Arena two nights from now.

"We can't get down too much because of one loss," Therrien said. "We're playing pretty good lately. We have to make sure we re-focus and come up with another good effort Wednesday."


Dave Molinari can be reached at dmolinari@post-gazette.com . First Published February 9, 2009 5:00 AM


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