In a game of missed opportunities and bad-luck bounces for the Pittsburgh Penguins, they still were one shot away from winning.
Instead, the Detroit Red Wings got that final fortunate hop, claiming a 5-4 overtime victory Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena on Daniel Alfredsson‘s second goal of the game.
Alfredsson’s tally, which capped a three-point night for the 41-year-old winger, caromed into the net off Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi after an initial save by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The puck crossed the goal line with four-tenths of a second on the clock, handing the Red Wings (32-24-13, 77 points) a critical win as they chase a playoff berth.
As easy as it would be to blame poor fortune or Scuderi, who had two Detroit goals bounce in off him, the Penguins (45-19-5, 95 points) had every chance to take home a win.
Todd Bertuzzi had put the Wings ahead 4-3 when his turning shot deflected off the body of Pittsburgh’s Olli Maatta and past Fleury at 12:17 of the third period, but Brandon Sutter set up Craig Adams for the equalizer exactly two minutes later.
The Penguins buzzed the Wings net, especially in the final minute of the third and early in overtime, but they couldn’t score to break the tie. Malkin had the best opportunity, narrowly missing his hat trick when he guided a bouncing puck just wide.
On the game-ending play, the Pens got caught too far up ice and left too much time on the clock for the Wings to counterattack. Alfredsson’s deciding goal was reviewed briefly before being upheld by the video replay officials in Toronto.
Detroit took a 2-0 lead on goals by Alfredsson and rookie Gustav Nyquist, but Pittsburgh surged into the lead with three goals over a span of 2:41 late in the second period. Lee Stempniak started the rally by redirecting Chris Kunitz‘ harmless-looking wrister at 15:17, followed by Malkin’s jam play 25 seconds later, finishing a James Neal chance.
Malkin had only one goal in 10 games entering Thursday, but he confidently blasted a two-man advantage tally past a screened Jimmy Howard with 2:02 remaining in the middle frame. Malkin’s 21st of the season vaulted the Pens ahead of their old Stanley Cup rivals for the first time on the evening.
Sutter could’ve boosted the lead to two goals when he broke in alone on Howard early in the third, but he was denied on a five-hole attempt. The Wings knotted the score at 9:59, with Tomas Tatar finishing a well-timed centering pass from Riley Sheahan on the left wing.
Scuderi and Maatta collided on the play, allowing Sheahan plenty of time to dust the puck off and feed it to the middle. The Pittsburgh defense partners finished a combined minus-5.
Prior to Tatar’s goal, the Penguins had a power play nullified when Neal was penalized for moving Luke Glendening‘s dropped stick to the side boards. According to the NHL rule book, interference shouldn’t have been called because Glendening wasn’t trying to retrieve the stick.
The Penguins outshot the Wings 43-30 and arguably outplayed the home team for much of the night, but they were forced to settle for one point in the standings. It was just the latest rollicking matchup between two franchises who could feasibly meet in the Eastern Conference playoffs next month.
Now four points behind Boston for the top spot in the East, Pittsburgh hosts Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon at Consol Energy Center. The Pens and Bolts face off at 1 p.m.
Notes: Neal and Jussi Jokinen each took bizarre penalties in the second period, but they finished with two assists apiece. Neal launched a game-best 10 shots on goal…Sidney Crosby was held scoreless after his three-point night against Dallas on Tuesday…Despite missing on some key chances late with the man advantage, the Penguins broke a four-game power-play drought.
Matt Lipcsak contributed to this report.