DETROIT – The Pittsburgh Penguins passed their first test after another setback.
James Neal scored the only goal in the shootout, giving Pittsburgh a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Red Wings after blowing a four-goal lead on Monday night.
“We let it slip away a bit and no one likes to see that,” Neal said. “But when you come back and win in the shootout, it’s a great feeling.”
The win picked up a team that was knocked down a couple hours before the game.
Penguins forward Matt Cooke was suspended by the NHL for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for an elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh during a 5-2 home loss on Sunday.
“It’s disappointing,” teammate Jordan Staal said. “Matt’s a big part of our team. He plays on the edge. He has to find a way to play on the edge but play clean.”
Pascal Dupuis had two goals and an assist to help Pittsburgh build a big lead. Tyler Kennedy put Pittsburgh ahead 4-0 at 13:16 of the second period, ending goalie Jimmy Howard’s night. Joey MacDonald stopped all 10 shots he faced before the shootout.
“Howie would like to have the first one back, but I think we hung him out to dry on the other ones,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Mac didn’t have much work, but he made some good saves for us and gave us two rounds in the shootout with an opportunity.”
Henrik Zetterberg’s goal—redirected off a Penguins player—started Detroit’s comeback late in the second period, and Mike Modano tied it midway through the third.
Brent Johnson stopped 37 shots for the Penguins, who gave Marc-Andre Fleury the night off, and denied Todd Bertuzzi, Modano and Danny Cleary in the shootout.
Pittsburgh has had to get used to playing without injured stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Now the Penguins will try to catch the Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia Flyers for the best record in the Eastern Conference without another key player.
Cooke was suspended for the fourth time in three seasons with the Penguins, and the repeat offender wasn’t backed up by his boss. General manager Ray Shero released a statement before the game, saying head shots have no place in hockey.
“We’ve told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen,” Shero said.
Modano said the NHL has to crack down on those players who are marring the sport.
“A handful of guys in those intense situations can’t seem to control themselves,” Modano said.
Crosby took at least one too many hits to the head that have been forced him to sit out since Jan. 5 because of a concussion. Malkin was lost last month for the season after he tore two ligaments in his right knee.
Detroit was missing a star, a standout and a role player.
Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen missed their second straight game with lower body injuries, and Jiri Hudler was out for a third game because of an upper body ailment.
“Both teams had to play without substantial guys,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “Still a pretty good game.”
The Red Wings started strong, taking the first five shots and preventing Pittsburgh from getting a puck on Howard for nearly five minutes, and finished with a flurry of offence in regulation.
In between, Pittsburgh was dominant.
Dupuis scored his first goal on a wide wraparound at 15:14 of the first period, shooting the puck between Howard’s right skate and left knee. Chris Kunitz scored on a rebound of Dupuis’ shot with 43 seconds left in the period.
Dupuis had a short-handed goal midway through the second. He mishandled the puck that bounced off the end boards toward him, but took advantage of the second chance. Dupuis had recorded a season-high three points just 31 minutes in.
When Kennedy scored off his own rebound to make it 4-0, Babcock replaced Howard with MacDonald.
Zetterberg scored with 2:19 left in the second, Valtteri Filppula had a goal early in the third, and Cleary andModano scored 2:21 apart midway through the period to make it 4-4.
“It was a good point for us,” Babcock said.
Notes: Modano, who missed half the season with a wrist injury, scored his first goal since Nov. 3 in his 12th game back. “It’s taken a long time to get up to speed with these guys,” he said. “After three months off, it has been quite an adjustment.”… Cooke will miss the last 10 games of the regular season, costing him $219,512.20, and at least four playoff games. … Crosby skated Monday, but there isn’t a timetable for his return to the lineup. … Pittsburgh beat Detroit 4-1 on Jan. 18 at home. … Pittsburgh C Mark Letestu was scratched because of an undisclosed upper body injury. RW Arron Asham returned after missing 21 games due to a concussion.