Niklas Kronwall talks about the Red Wings' win streak coming to an end. The Detroit News
Pittsburgh — They’re not going to win them all.
The way the Red Wings had been playing, it appeared they’d run the table heading to the end of the regular season — and pummel the hopes and dreams of every “tank” proponent out there.
But it’s not going to happen — the run the table part.
The Pittsburgh Penguins shook themselves into playoff mode — it helped they had Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang back in the lineup — and defeated the Wings, 4-1, Thursday night.
“We were on our heels a little bit right from the start,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We didn’t have as much determination and urgency that we need to have, and have had lately. It just wasn’t good enough.”
The Penguins simply looked like a different team from the one that lost Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena. Having Malkin and Letang was important, as was the fact the Penguins needed a win to clinch a 13th consecutive year in the playoffs (currently the longest playoff run in the NHL).
Matt Puempel, one of the many Grand Rapids Griffins who’ve been promoted this month, scored a power-play goal for the Wings, his first goal with the team.
“For sure it’s nice to score a goal, and obviously to get that first one with a specific team, it’s nice to get it out of the way,” Puempel said. “They’re pretty a deep team and they are where they are in the standings and going to be in the playoffs for a reason, we knew that going into it. A bounce here or there early, you never know what happens.”
Phil Kessel had two goals (one a power play) and Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby (power play) added the others for Pittsburgh. Both Crosby and Kessel had three points in the game.
Coach Jeff Blashill felt there were many factors leading to Pittsburgh's win. The Detroit News
“There were a number of factors that led to them outplaying us,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Certainly they got healthier, and when you add Malkin and Letang to your lineup, you’re a way better team. It creates real hard matchups, especially on the road.”
As good as the Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha line has been during this win streak, they weren’t as big a factor in this game.
They were held off the scoresheet and didn’t create as much offense.
“In that case you’d like other people to step up, but certainly with the amount of injuries we’ve had, it’s hard for other people to carry the load,” Blashill said.
With the loss, the Wings (32-39-10) saw their six-game win streak end. They’ve won eight of their last 10 games.
The Wings close the season Saturday at home against Buffalo, a game which is going to be lacking in excitement, for sure, but will mean quite a bit in the overall standings (and draft lottery odds).
With Buffalo’s victory Thursday, both the Wings and Sabres have 74 points. Saturday’s winner will obviously leapfrog the other team, and could even move up another step in the standings and pass the New York Rangers (75 points), depending on what the Rangers do their last two games.
“There’s no doubt they’re (Penguins) a good team, we’re not taking anything away from them, but we have to be a lot better than that,” Kronwall said. “It doesn’t matter what the lineup is, we have to be better than we were.”