Penguins fall to Red Wings, 5-4, in overtime



DETROIT -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma keeps his hair cut fairly short.

Probably does it because he likes the way it looks.

Or perhaps because it makes it tougher to pull out when he sees his team do some of the things it did in a 5-4 overtime loss Thursday night to Detroit night at Joe Louis Arena.

The way Daniel Alfredsson scored the winner with 0.4 seconds left in overtime -- Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped his shot on an odd-man rush, only to have the puck bounce off teammate Rob Scuderi and into the net -- likely would have been enough to convince Bylsma to grab a few handfuls on the flight home.

But while that sequence ended the game, a lot that the Penguins had done earlier put them in a position to lose.

For much of the first 35 minutes, they were sloppy and undisciplined, and took a series of unnecessary penalties that helped the Red Wings build and protect a 2-0 lead.

"We definitely took some unforced penalties and bad penalties," Scuderi said. "And that puts us behind."

But as pointless as, say, James Neal's cross-checking minor at 5:19 of the second or Jussi Jokinen's blatant cross-check just over five minutes later, appeared to be, it was a minor that the Penguins didn't believe was a penalty that might have had the biggest impact on the outcome.

The Penguins had rebounded to take a 3-2 lead on two goals by Evgeni Malkin and one by Lee Stempniak in a span of 2:41 late in the second period, and appeared to have the game well under control as it entered the third.

"At that point, you think you've gotten through it and you're playing good hockey," center Sidney Crosby said.

But with the Penguins on a power play and looking to take a two-goal lead, Neal nudged a stick that one of the penalty-killers had lost out of the area where the Penguins were trying to get some puck movement.

No one was trying to pick up the stick when that happened, and Neal definitely did not push it toward the puck, but he was assessed a penalty for interference, anyway.

"We were kind of perplexed by [the call]," Scuderi said. "It's a play we've all made at one time of another."

But it's not one for which they are accustomed to being penalized.

On the subsequent four-on-four situation, Tomas Tatar pulled the Red Wings even and, with Detroit's momentum restored, Todd Bertuzzi put the Red Wings back on top when his shot from along the left-wing boards caromed off Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta and into the net.

If there seems to be a theme -- Detroit shots that go off Penguins and past Fleury -- seems to be developing, well, that's not a mistake.

"There were like four goals [that went in] off our guys," Fleury said.

Scuderi agreed, saying "that was probably three months' worth of goal bounces in one game."

Alfredsson got the only goal of the opening period, beating Fleury after carrying the puck through the left circle at 7:21.

Gustav Nyqvist put Detroit up by two at 4:35 of the second, when his centering pass caromed off Scuderi's stick and into the net while Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen was serving a boarding minor.

The Penguins, after playing without discipline or focus for much of the first 30-plus minutes, regained their equilibrium with two goals in 25 seconds.

Stempniak got them on the board at 15:17 when, with his back to the net, he fought off a check and deflected a Robert Bortuzzo shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard for his 10th of the season.

Bortuzzo's assist stretched his scoring streak to three games, a personal best.

Malkin pulled the Penguins even at 15:47, when his shot from behind the goal line hit Howard and dropped into the net for his 20th and he made it 3-2 on a five-on-three power play at 17:58, lashing a slap shot from the slot through a Chris Kunitz screen and past Howard.

But the Neal penalty for shooting that loose stick altered the course of the game, and the Penguins failed to capitalize on a five-minute power play that began late in regulation and spilled into overtime.

"We had a five-minute power play late in the game and no matter what the game looks like, you have to find a way to [score then]," Crosby said.

The Penguins didn't, and paid for it with a point.

"Sometimes," Crosby said, "the game is tough to explain."


Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published March 20, 2014 10:36 PM

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