Penguins' 4-1 loss to Red Wings not as bad as it looks

Detroit, Datsyuk flash just enough brilliance to seize momentum after Malkin scores for 1-0 lead

The Penguins coaching staff will break down the tape of this game, and it will turn up more than a few mistakes.

A poor decision here. A missed assignment there. Some sloppy execution at various times.

They will not, however, find the kind of glaring lapses and breakdowns that might be expected in a typical three-goal loss.

Which simply reinforces the point that Detroit, which beat the Penguins, 4-1, Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center, is not a typical team.

The Red Wings might not be terribly spectacular much of the time, but they are exceptionally efficient and opportunistic. And all of that sound, methodical work is wrapped around an occasional spasm of individual brilliance.

The kind Pavel Datsyuk produced several times over the course of this game.

Like late in the second period, when the Penguins were controlling the play and protecting a 1-0 lead.

That score -- and the game -- changed in the span of a few seconds, as Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi knocked Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen off the puck behind the Penguins goal line and fed it to Datsyuk, who whipped a nasty backhander past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from the slot.

Datsyuk's goal not only tied the score, but short-circuited the momentum the Penguins had been carrying to that point.

"We felt pretty good about our game until maybe they got their first goal," Niskanen said.

The Penguins presumably felt even worse about it after the Red Wings' second goal, another that had Datsyuk's fingerprints all over it.

This time, the Penguins were killing a holding penalty on Niskanen early in the third when Matt Cooke of the Penguins tried to shoot the puck out of the defensive zone.

Datsyuk knocked it out of the air and slipped it to Johan Franzen, who beat Fleury on the stick side at 5:15 to put the Red Wings in front to stay.

Datsyuk is a rare and wondrous talent, though hardly the only one in this game.

Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins did not participate in the morning skate -- his explanation was that "they just gave me a rest" -- and based on the way he performed a few hours later, the coaching staff might want to make a habit of keeping him away from the ice on game days.

He played 23 minutes, 27 seconds, scored the Penguins' only goal, had at least two shots that hit goalposts after eluding Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard and accounted for nine of the Penguins' 26 shots on goal.

Malkin was typically awful on faceoffs, losing 16 of 20, but that detracted only slightly from his overall performances.

"Every single time he touched the puck, it seemed like something was happening," Howard said. "He's a great player. There's no way around it. He makes things happen when he's out there."

Malkin got his goal with 4.5 seconds left in the first period, pulling in a pass James Neal had banked off the left-wing boards, then charging into the Detroit end on a two-on-one break with Chris Kunitz.

He used Kunitz as a decoy and threw a shot past Howard for his 11th of the season and a 1-0 lead.

That was the only shot that made it into the net behind Howard, however, as Detroit ran off the final four goals of the game.

After Datsyuk and Franzen had put the Red Wings in front, Daniel Cleary added an insurance goal at 15:36 of the third, then scored into an empty net with 5.9 seconds left in regulation.

Franzen's game-winner was the only power-play goal by either team, as Detroit was 1 for 2 with the extra man while the Penguins failed to score on four chances.

"They get [that Datsyuk] goal to draw even," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "The story line after that is they get a power-play goal and we do not."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said his penalty-killers "did a good job in the faceoff circle and shooting lanes, and standing at their blue line and getting pucks out."

Of course, those were just a few of the things Detroit did well over the course of the game. The Red Wings are a perennial power, in part, because they minimize their own errors and exploit the ones the opposition makes, regardless of how few there might be.

"When you break down tape, it's a little easier to look at, knowing that you didn't make as many mistakes as you had in the past," Penguins winger Steve Sullivan said. "But you still have to try to find a way to win."

Dave Molinari: or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published December 14, 2011 5:00 AM


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