Suddenly hot Wings win second game in two days

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
The Detroit Red Wings' Nick Jensen scores on Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray in the first period.

Pittsburgh — For a lot of Red Wings fans, this team can’t do anything right.

Now, they’re actually winning and ruining their draft position.

Who saw this coming? Sunday they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2, just 24 hours after defeating the league-leading Washington Capitals in a shootout.

So, the Red Wings (24-25-10), near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, knock off the two best teams in the East in the same weekend.

Who figured that?

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 5, Penguins 2

“When we’re playing good, we’re playing good, we just have to have consistency to stay at this level,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We have one more game (Tuesday against the New York Islanders) before the bye and get two points there and we’ll enjoy our break.

“We’re not giving up. There are a lot of points and games still to play for. We know what we have to do, we have to win games, and we have two here now and we have to prepare for the next one.”

This loss for the Penguins was only their fourth all season in regulation time (24-4-3).

Tomas Tatar and Thomas Vanek scored 1:49 apart early in the third period, Nick Jensen and Steve Ott had first-period goals, and Luke Glendening scored an empty-net goal while goalie Petr Mrazek built upon Saturday’s excellent performance with another strong outing (24 saves).

The penalty kill was outstanding, too, killing all four dangerous Pittsburgh power plays.

“Another night where our goaltending was a huge factor,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Petr was great, our special teams were a big factor. The penalty kill was excellent in the third period when they could have gained momentum and we didn’t allow them to gain momentum.

“We have lots of fight left in us. I’ve been saying that lots, we’ve played pretty good hockey for a long stretch here. We haven’t gotten the results we wanted. I know that’s hard for people to understand. But we’ve played good hockey, we have lots of fight left in us and we’re led by some great grinders, great leaders.

“Let’s play a game Tuesday.”

Tom Kuhnhackl (shorthanded) and Sidney Crosby countered with goals for Pittsburgh (36-14-8).

Tatar scored just 27 seconds into the third period, his 14th goal, after Anthony Mantha intercepted a Penguins pass and Zetterberg set up Tatar in the slot.

Vanek extended the lead to 4-1 with his team-leading 15th goal at 2:16. Vanek skated into the slot, saw room to shoot, and beat Murray cleanly.

Crosby answered with his league-leading 32nd goal, seven seconds after Vanek scored, after the faceoff, cutting the Red Wings lead to 4-2.

But the Red Wings killed two Penguins power plays after that, snuffing any chance of a comeback, before Glendening capped the scoring with 52 seconds remaining.

“Two big wins,” Ott said of defeating the East’s two best teams. “We talk about getting on a little bit of a run here. If we can get one more, that would be a huge win to take into the break, and we continue to keep ourselves in this.”

The Red Wings understand the task ahead if huge, is not impossible. There are so many teams to pass.

But they also understand the significance of this organization having made the playoffs 25 consecutive seasons.

“We know what’s at stake for this organization and the heritage of this hockey club,” Ott said. “We’re trying to play extremely hard for that every single night. We’re not happy with the position we’re in, but if we continue to chip away, there’s a big carrot at the end of this season.”

Twitter @tkulfan