Penguins defeat Red Wings, 4-1
Penguins forward Chris Conner celebrates after beating Red Wings goaltender Joey MacDonald on a penalty shot in the first period of Tuesday's game at Consol Energy Center.
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Chris Conner admits that he didn't have much of a book on Detroit goalie Joey MacDonald.
Likely didn't have an index card on him.
Didn't matter, though.
Because when he was awarded a penalty shot late in the first period of the Penguins' 4-1 victory Tuesday night against the Red Wings at Consol Energy Center, Conner wasn't concerned about what MacDonald would do.
He was more worried about not making a mistake himself.
"I wanted to keep it simple," he said.
"I didn't want to lose the puck, or anything like that."
His concerns were understandable -- Conner said it had "been awhile" since he had had a penalty shot -- but proved to be unfounded, as he skated directly down the slot and tossed a backhander between MacDonald's legs for what proved to be the winning goal.
The victory was the Penguins' third in a row -- they are 3-2-1 since Sidney Crosby was diagnosed with a concussion -- and raised their record to 29-14-4.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury again was a dominant force for the Penguins, and he pretty much had to be.
Even though Detroit was missing a handful of prominent players -- including forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Dan Cleary -- because of injuries, the Red Wings still launched 37 shots at him.
"They're a really good club, no matter who they're missing," Conner said.
The Red Wings are particularly dangerous when allowed to play with a lead, but that never happened Tuesday night.
The Penguins capitalized on a puckhandling gaffe by MacDonald to take a 1-0 lead at 3:02 of the opening period, and never were tied after that.
Jordan Staal got the goal, his third in the past three games, but Tyler Kennedy was the guy who made it possible.
Well, with a big assist from MacDonald.
MacDonald got the puck near the right post and nudged it behind the net, with the idea that teammate Jonathan Ericsson would collect it there.
Trouble is, Kennedy got control of the puck and slid a pass to Staal for what amounted to an uncontested layup.
"I could see their goalie was kind of fumbling with it a little bit and I just [gave] him a little whack," Kennedy said.
"The puck came right to me, and [Staal] called for it.
"I knew where he was. It was a great play by [Staal] for calling for it."
Conner's penalty shot at 11:29 ended a run of five unsuccessful ones in a row on home ice -- no Penguin had done it there since Jarkko Ruutu on Jan. 20, 2007 -- and became the winning goal when Johan Franzen scored for Detroit at 17:28.
That goal stemmed from a good play by Red Wings forward Patrick Eaves, who threw his body into the boards behind the net to block a Fleury clearing attempt.
Fleury said he had no misgivings -- "That was the play to do. Brooks [Orpik] told me to play it. I just tried to get it up on the pass, but [Eaves] was in tight" -- and he did not have to fret about Detroit getting within a goal for long, because the Penguins' lead was two again 30 seconds later.
Evgeni Malkin picked off a Niklas Kronwall pass before it could get across the Red Wings' blue line, keeping play in the Detroit end. A few seconds later, Chris Kunitz converted a Pascal Dupuis rebound for his 16th of the season and sixth in the past seven games.
"I tried a pass up to [Darren] Helm up the middle," Kronwall said.
"A guy got a stick on it. It ended up in our net. Obviously, that was a crucial point of the game."
Certainly, it lowered the Penguins' stress level, and Matt Cooke got the only goal of the third when he hit an empty net at 18:41.
The Penguins were not particularly impressed with their own work -- "For long periods, we didn't play real well," coach Dan Bylsma said -- but Detroit coach Mike Babcock's critique of his club was even more blunt.
"We weren't good enough," he said. "They were better than we were."
NOTES -- Penguins center Mark Letestu has agreed to a two-year, one-way contract extension with an annual salary-cap hit of $625,000. "It's just good to know somebody wants you for two years," Letestu said. ... Kennedy's first assist was his 100th point in the NHL.
First Published January 19, 2011 12:00 am