|Picard gave the Penguins' Sunday effort a double facepalm.|
The two teams famously met in consecutive Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, with each squad taking home a championship.
Both franchises still feature their two all-world talents (Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk for the Red Wings, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the Penguins), but Pittsburgh was without the services of #71 as he dealt with the always-mysterious "lower body injury" suffered in yesterday's game against the Boston Bruins.
With the playoffs firmly in the sights of both teams, Sunday's contest was one of immediate redemption, with the Pittsburgh looking to avenge a miserable 2-0 loss to Boston while the Red Wings were ritually slaughtered by the otherwise laughable Philadelphia Flyers 7-2 less than 24 hours ago.
The Penguins made a roster move to bring back Andrew Ebbett to replace Malkin, with Derrick Pouliot being sent down to make room (head coach Mike Johnston explained that Pouliot's demotion was the only move possible to allow Ebbett to join the team).
Despite Thomas Greiss's excellent effort against the B's, Marc-Andre Fleury was in net for the Penguins while Detroit (carrying an unusual three goalies) went with Petr Mrazek.
First Period Action:
The Pens and Red Wings became more frequent combatants when Detroit relocated to the Eastern Conference following the NHL's realignment, although Detroit resides in the generally soft Atlantic Conference while the Pens contend in the fancy schmancy Metropolitan Division.
Kyle Quincey and David Perron got the proverbial party going early, with the two jousting foes each sent off for "Unsportsmanlike Conduct" (they call this "foreshadowing") a mere 33 seconds into the game.
Not even a minute later, Riley Sheahan got a piece of a Marek Zidlickey shot from the point and the Red Wings were off and running to the tune of a 1-0 lead.
Fleury seemed to be fighting the puck early, nearly surrendering a second goal following an uncontrolled rebound, but #29's snow angel kept the deficit at one.
Play turned contentious following a high hit on Henrik Zetterberg, and in an ensuing scrum, Steve "Misconduct" Downie was sent off the ice for 10 minutes but sans a penalty that typically accompanies a misconduct.
At this point, Pittsburgh held the advantage in shots on goal, 7-5, but Detroit was controlling the play with controlled zone entries and sustained offensive pressure.
After the Penguins squandered a developing 3-on-2 with a careless turnover at the blue line, it became obvious that once again, Pittsburgh was eschewing puck-controlled zone entries in lieu of dumping or chipping and then chasing after the puck.
The problem with that tactic is that the Red Wings are the WWE Intercontinental Champions of interference, and with the pedigree of Detroit coach Mike Babcock, their players are granted wide leniency when it comes to impeding the puck retrieval efforts of opposing players.
With two minutes left to go, the Penguins couldn't clear their own end, and Teemu Pulkkinen blasted a slapshot from the left circle past Fleury to set the flightless birds back two goals.
Pulkkinen's shot was not tipped, and not screened, and was the type of soft goal that plagued Fleury for years.
The Penguins attempted to push back, but a Blake Comeau check resulted in the Pittsburgh forward falling backward and suffering an apparent concussion when his head struck the surface.
Paul Martin and Justin Abdelkader then started to square off behind Fleury, only to have Chris "Cabbage Patch Kid" Kunitz run Abdelkader into the boards to give Detroit an automatic power-play.
Seconds later, Brandon "the Savior" Sutter took a lazy tripping penalty, putting the Red Wing and their #1 ranked power-play onto a sustained two-man advantage as the first horn sounded.
Okay, normally, when the horn sounds, things can't progress from "horribad" to "horriworse," but Chris Kunitz defied convention and earned another penalty (along with a 10 minute misconduct) for flipping/throwing (depending on your perspective) the puck toward the referee.
Second Period Action; or, the WHYYYYs of March:
Armed with a power-play that was scheduled to last until 2017, the Red Wings' Marek Zidlicky lasered an unstoppable blast through Fleury to put Detroit up 3-0.
To reiterate: while the second goal Fleury gave up was Mike Therrien "soffffffff," Zidlicky's shot was invisible even while in slow-motion replays. Jesus couldn't have saved that shot.
The Penguins managed to kill off the remainder of the 5-3 penalty kill situation with no further damage done, and Patric Hornqvist nearly got the Pens on the board following a steal along the boards. Unfortunately, Mrazek stopped the short-side backhander, and Crosby's rebound attempt was likewise denied by the Red Wing netminder.
Moments later, Ian Cole took a cross-ice feed and rifled a a slapper that nearly decapitated Mrazek, stopping play.
Beau "I Got a (Frosted) Tip For You: Score a Freaking Goal" Bennett made a nice defensive backcheck, and the Penguins managed some sustained offensive pressure but were unable to muster any shots on net.
Throughout it all, multiple Pittsburgh players were dumped on the ice but no penalties were called, continuing a theme that has extended for the better part of the season.
While there's unlikely to ever be a specific league or referee admission, Pittsburgh's Dejan Kovacevic theorized that the zebras are levying their own brand of justice for what they perceive to be excessive Penguin player complaining.
|There were no words for how bad the 2nd period was.|
Sutter then confused holidays and served up a Thanksgiving turkey of a turnover that resulted in a wide open goal for the Detroit captain, Henrik Zetterberg.
Now needing a grand slam to tie the game, the Penguins and their 1-for-18 powerplay then went to work following a Brendan Smith trip.
There was a mad scrum in front of the Detroit net, and Patric Hornqvist tossed a puck outside to Ehrhoff, whose shot redirected into the net.
Predictably, the goal was waived off, and not because of the blatant hand pass, but because of a a phantom goaltender interference.
As the power-play went on, Mrazek was bowled over (again by his own man) and an enraged Kris Letang then took a full-blown game misconduct penalty
Now, this game was only half over timewise (the outcome was pretty much determined), and it was obvious that Pittsburgh no longer had any interest in playing the team in red & white: the Pens only wanted to engage the crew in black & white.
|Yep. Pretty much this.|
Mock cheers would thus erupt when Henrik Zetterberg was sent off for an infraction, but much like Kevin James in "Hitch," the Pens were hopeless and couldn't score.
Pittsburgh would then be handed yet another man-advantage (this time courtesy of Jonathan Ericsson), but much like that Mail-in-Rebate for your Best Buy laptop, the Pens refused to cash it in, and Detroit maintained its 4-0 lead.
The second period was the hockey equivalent of your worst ever game of fraternity beer pong: your team was totally dominated with zero redemption.
The only positive that could gleaned is that Letang got a chance to rest, and Kunitz managed to skate into the locker room without putting his team on the penalty-kill.
Third Period Action:
Throughout the course of the season, there are certain games where, as a fan, a part of your soul doesn't want your favorite team to mount a furious comeback; rather, you'd prefer the players go the Heath Ledger "Joker" route and just watch the world burn.
The last commercial break before the start of the third period featured a new Rob Lowe DirectTV commercial, but heck, even that stunk: seriously, finding and eating a tuna sandwich on the bus is supposed to induce laughter?
THE PEOPLE WANT MORE OF PAINFULLY AWKWARD ROB LOWE (...and he has caaaable)
Detroit nearly made the score 5-0 when two Penguins defenders simultaneously collapsed on a Red Wing stationed behind the net, but Greiss turned aside the ensuing scoring opportunity.
(quite unrelated: in a rare moment of good news, Blake Comeau resumed his normal shift duties in the third period (he played just under 4 minutes in the second stanza).
Beau "My NHL15 Hair Rating is a 99" Bennett and the 4th line had the best effort of the afternoon for the Penguins...........................
........which, of course, meant that at the end of the shift, Detroit would skate down on a 2-on-1 and a flubbed shot would redirect off of a Pittsburgh defender and behind Greiss to put Pittsburgh down a lovely 5-0 (PUKEanin's second goal of the game).
Not long after, in what can only be described as an ultra-rare act of defiance, Steve Downie tried to encroach Brendan Smith into a fight, but only managed to skate away with yet another 10 minute misconduct.
|The Penguins scored this weekend?! QUICK, ASSEMBLE THE CHOIR!|
Henrik Zetterberg then took another uncharacteristic penalty, putting Pittsburgh back onto the man-advantage.
While trying to set up offensively, Patric Hornqvist suddenly skated down the runway with the medical team in tow, adding insult to a literal injury and just piling onto what had already been a miserable weekend of hockey.
To the surprise of nobody...well, maybe Howard Camping (he failed to foresee his own demise), the Pens' PP unit was unable to convert, and so the score remained 5-1.
Crosby and Perron almost connected again at the 4:25 mark, but #87's cross-ice feed barely eluded his linemate's blade, and so Crosby remained a few points behind in the Art Ross Trophy scoring race.
On a subsequent drive, Sutter tried his Primanti's Almost Famous backhander, but for some reason, the shot failed to have the same effect from 35 feet out.
NBC play-by-play man Doc Emrick fulfilled his contractual obligation and made a Pittsburgh Pirates reference with 2:22 left to go, giving fans everywhere reason to raise a glass (responsibly, of course).
The Wings' eventual 5-1 victory gave Detroit some cushion in the playoff chase, while the Penguins have but no choice to try and regroup and right a ship that listed badly this weekend.