Detroit forward had two goals, including No. 100 of his career, in team's 4-1 victory over the Penguins. Ted Kulfan
Detroit — The year of 2018 will begin a little brighter for the Red Wings.
The New Year celebration began early Sunday, as the Red Wings defeated the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion — but hardly looking like it these days — Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1.
Gustav Nyquist scored two goals, and Dylan Larkin and Frans Nielsen added goals, while goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped 37 shots.
Evgeni Malkin (power play) had the lone Penguins' goal.
The crowd at Little Caesars Arena was festive, and noisy for one of the rare times this season, and the Red Wings responded.
“It was nice to see the crowd get into it,” said Nyquist, whose two goals matched his season total of a year ago (12) and gave him 100 for his career. “It just helps us, it’s a positive when the crowd gets loud and it gives us energy for sure.”
The victory was the second consecutive — and third straight at the LCA — for the Red Wings (15-16-7, 37 points), who close the five-game home stand later this week before going on a five-day bye week.
“Every point right now is important for us,” Nielsen said. “We still have a huge mountain to climb here. We have to put a long streak together if we want to get back into it.
“But two (wins) is absolutely a start. Hopefully, we can keep rolling here for a little bit.”
Pittsburgh (19-18-3, 41 points) has lost seven of its last 10 games.
Red Wings coach discusses team's 4-1 victory over two-time defending Stanley Cup champions at Little Caesars Arena, which was highlighted by a four-minute penalty kill and two goals by Gustav Nyquist. Ted Kulfan
The Penguins cut the Red Wings’ lead to 2-1 on Malkin’s video-confirmed goal in the second period.
Malkin took a pass from Phil Kessel between the goal line and circle, and from a tough angle, lined a shot that Howard appeared to make a sparkling glove save but video confirmed Malkin’s shot completely crossed the goal line.
But the Red Wings quickly regained a crucial two-goal lead at 15:18 on Nielsen’s goal.
Nyquist crushed any Penguins' hopes in the third period with his second goal of the game — and 12th of the season, matching his total of a year ago — at 16 minutes, 34 seconds.
Nyquist also opened the scoring at 11:31 of the first period.
“I don’t know, it’s a tough question to answer,” said Nyquist, of what’s the difference from a season ago for him. “Last year I didn’t score as much as I would have liked and it’s hard to put a finger on it.
“Obviously it’s nice to see them go in right now.”
The Red Wings created huge momentum for themselves by killing a four-minute high-sticking penalty to Tyler Bertuzzi, just 33 seconds after Nyquist’s goal.
“Huge,” said coach Jeff Blashill of the four-minute penalty kill. “A little bit of an unfortunate stick, but I get it, I get the call. But we did an overall excellent job on that kill.
“The energy was great, this building is definitely loud with people in the stands and giving them some good hockey.
“It’s two games and Jimmy Howard was great in both. It’s no huge difference from before but we have to stay with it. We’re a lot better team in a lot of ways than last year at this time but the results haven’t shown it.”