Suter, Bertuzzi highlight Red Wings 4-2 rally over Pittsburgh

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — There's only one exhibition game left, and everyone is pretty excited about that.

Players are counting the hours until the real games begin next week and at this point, no one can blame them.

Detroit defenseman Moritz Seider moves the puck away from Pittsburgh center Jonathan Gruden during the second period.

There were stretches Thursday night where the Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins were probably guilty of trying to advance the clock and calendar. But there was a game to be played, and thank goodness for Joe Veleno's late third-period goal, giving the Wings a 4-2 victory and squashing the need for overtime.

Veleno, at the right dot, took a pass from Gustav Lindstrom and one-timed a blast high over Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith at 15:28 of the third period.

Tyler Bertuzzi, in his first game since January and coming off back surgery, capped things with an empty-net goal.

BOX SCORE: Wings 4, Penguins 2

Pius Suter, who has looked like a productive, understated free-agent signing by general manager Steve Yzerman, and Filip Hronek added Wings goals. Goalie Thomas Greiss stopped 22 shots.

The Wings improved to 4-3-0 in the exhibition season, and stopped a three-game losing streak.

Drew O'Connor (power play) and Dominik Simon answered for the Penguins. 

This late in camp, young players are searching to make an impact and Veleno made a good one with his second goal of the exhibition season.

"I just try to go out there and play my game, try to leave the distractions out of my head and just focus on playing the game and have fun with it," said Veleno, on continuing speculation over if he will make the opening-night roster.

"I work as hard as I can and see what kind of happens. It's definitely not easy, especially during the preseason. You want to make the best impression and limit mistakes and play the right way and earn the coach's trust, chip in offensively and get some points on the board.

"But you tune that out and play your game and I focus on what got me here and do my best."

Veleno has bulked up to 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, and is beginning to use his size around the net and in the corners. The transformation of his body since being drafted three years ago is impressive.

"Using my size to my advantage is a big part of my game now, it's a huge plus," Veleno said. "I worked real hard this offseason to build my body and be strong in the corners and be more physical and finish hits. 

"I knew I wasn't as strong (in juniors) and I'd be timid of going into the corners against bigger guys. But now I'm really confident going into battles and being hungry for the puck and knowing I have the strength and confidence to do so coming out of that corner (with the puck). It's a big advantage in my game."

Veleno's emphasis on his strength, and his defensive game, has been noticed by coach Jeff Blashill.

"Is Joe taking steps in the right direction? One hundred percent," Blashill said. "He's worked his tail off the last two years, worked on his body, being real good on the defensive side of the puck, he's taking strides in the right direction."

Bertuzzi, in his exhibition debut for the Wings, had 16 minutes of ice time playing on a line with Suter and Lucas Raymond. 

"Tyler did a good job for a guy that hasn't played, has gone through a lot," Blashill said. "What I liked is he played without fear. That's a hard thing psychologically, when you've been banged up, and he blocked a number of shots and was totally involved in a whole bunch of battles."

Suter's goal opened the scoring, just two seconds after a Wings' power play expired early in the first period.

It was the second goal, with four assists, for Suter this preseason, after signing a two-year contract in the offseason. Suter had 14 goals with 13 assists in Chicago last season, but the Blackhawks declined to re-sign him.

Suter has been impressive in all three zones, with a knack for creating offense despite not having exceptional speed or size.

"I knew him but it's way different when you have a guy on your bench than when you're coaching against him," Blashill said. "Coaching against him, you see flashes of skills. You get to know his brain (when you coach him) and his brain is real good. What do I know about him now? He's real smart, real smart offensively and defensively and he can fill a whole bunch of different roles and can make a lot of plays.

"I've been real happy with his game. He's a no-nonsense player, kind of goes out and does his job and doesn't get too high or too low. But he's a real smart hockey player and that's real important to have those players on your team."

Hronek pushed the Wings lead to 2-1 at 6:06 of the second period. He pounced on a puck that glanced off the glass near the blue line, skated to near the hashmarks and blistered a shot past DeSmith.

Blashill said forward Givani Smith, who was listed in the morning lineup, was scratched because of "a minor injury."

Twitter: @tkulfan