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Red Wings Drop Home Finale 7-2 to Penguins

The Detroit Red Wings hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Wings’ home finale of the 2021-22 regular season on Saturday afternoon.

The Red Wings salute their fans during the final home game of the 2021-22 regular season. (Photo by Kevin Sporka)

Although the Red Wings’ playoff hopes were dashed earlier this month when they were eliminated from playoff contention, the team still wanted to finish strong on home ice.

“The atmosphere has been great [at home],” said coach Jeff Blashill. “The fans have been great. The first part of the year we had a real good record here at home. It showed what an electric building this is.”

It was a back-and-forth affair until things went off the rails for the Wings.

Late in the first period, Teddy Blueger retrieved the puck along the corner boards and quickly fed a pass across the crease (and past defenseman Jordan Oesterle) to the awaiting Chad Ruhwedel, who quickly snapped a shot past goalie Thomas Greiss.

Shortly after, Sidney Crosby led an offensive rush into the Wings’ zone, passed to Rickard Rakell and received a return pass which he pocketed into the net, without losing speed.

However, Detroit then found themselves on the power play, where a perfect pass from Tyler Bertuzzi found Jakub Vrana, who quickly slapped a shot past Casey DeSmith. It was Vrana’s 13th goal in just 23 games (after missing most of the season due to injury), and his 6th in the past 10.

17 seconds into the 2nd period, Detroit’s Michael Rasmussen and Adam Erne led a 2-on-1, with Rasmussen opting to shoot and finding the back of the net to tie the game.

Vrana earned a breakaway on DeSmith several minutes later, but shot it wide.

Rakell regained the lead (3-2) for the Penguins 7:44 into the middle frame as he slid the puck past Greiss, despite a valiant diving attempt by Oesterle to block the shot.

With nine minutes left, Joe Veleno had a premium scoring chance as Marc Staal fed a quick cross-crease pass. However, DeSmith made a sprawling pad save to keep the lead for his team.

“We certainly had chances to make it 3-3 and maybe even 4-3 today,” noted Blashill. “You’re just trying to get your guys to play as good as they can in those situations. You’re trying to put guys in positions to be successful.”

Not a minute later, DeSmith’s key save kept the Pittsburgh momentum going as defenseman Kris Letang took the puck into the left circle and wristed a shot over the shoulder of Greiss (4-2).

Later in the second, Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel was shoved into Greiss by Staal, resulting in a power play goal by Evgeni Malkin to make it 5-2. There was much conversation among the on-ice officials to see if the goal would count, as the whistle was blown. It was ultimately deemed a “continuous play.”

“In the rules, they deemed that if within the act of shooting the puck in the net, even if the whistle goes prior to that, then it’s a goal,” said Blashill of his conversation with the referees.

Alex Nedeljkovic replaced Greiss to start the third. His first test came 5:38 into the period, as Letang retrieved the puck from Jeff Carter’s faceoff win and passed to Danton Heinen near the crease, who potted the sixth goal of the game.

And in the final minute, Malkin scored his second of the game to make it 7-2, the Pens’ fifth unanswered goal.

Pittsburgh had outshot Detroit 38-25 and 31 to 16 in the last two periods.

“Obviously they have firepower,” said defenseman Danny DeKeyser. “It’s kind of like that game in Florida the other day, they score two in the last minute, then you’re down 3-1. Today certainly, we gave them chances…I thought we defended a little too much, played a little too much in the D zone.”

And speaking of firepower, the highlight of the afternoon came when the arena’s jumbotron showed the live at-bat of Miguel Cabrera’s 3,000th career hit, which took place just a few blocks away at Comerica Park, and coincided with the first intermission at Little Caesars Arena.

Three road games remain on Detroit’s schedule for this season: Sunday in New Jersey (1:00 ET), Tuesday in Toronto (7:00), and Friday in New Jersey again (7:00).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin Sporka

Kevin Sporka

Kevin Sporka is the Senior Media Analyst and Detroit Red Wings beat writer at HOHM. He is also the author of the Fantasy Hockey Fridays, In Retrospect, Milestone Monday, and Legends By the Number segments.
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