By Stefan Kubus –
DETROIT – Pittsburgh made the trip to Detroit for its last preseason game Wednesday night with what will essentially be its regular season roster.
And the big guns did not disappoint for the visitors, as former Ferris State Bulldog Chris Kunitz potted two goals and an assist and Sidney Crosby added two assists en route to a 5-1 Penguins win.
To the Red Wings’ credit, they were without the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson, Jimmy Howard and Niklas Kronwall in their effort against Pittsburgh.
“Today we didn’t have the puck,” coach Mike Babcock said. “They made us look bad. We made some mistakes. They had it, we chased it the whole game. We were never on the offense. They were better than us. They executed and came out of their zone fast. We didn’t execute at all.”
One underlying benefit of the Penguins’ onslaught is that young Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek saw a lot of action against one of the league’s top squads.
“He got lots of opportunities to makes saves, that’s for sure,” Babcock said. “We broke down enough to give him lots of opportunities. It’s like anything – you don’t like to give up goals as a goaltender, but we gave up point-blank chances and I thought he made some good saves.”
Mrazek said he knew coming in that he would be facing some of the league’s top gunners and is now looking to learn from this experience.
“It wasn’t an easy night,” Mrazek said. “That was my first game I played the whole game. I felt good before the game and during the game, but it was a tough night for us… We have to look at the goals and see what happened, be quicker and out of the (crease), so that’s the most important stuff.”
During the Penguins’ first power play, Jussi Jokinen skated in behind the defense, took a feed from Matt Niskanen and beat goaltender Petr Mrazek with a forehand-backhand deke for the 1-0 lead at 15:06 of the first period.
With 2:25 to go in the opening frame, the always-dangerous Penguins top line of Crosby, Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis struck for the visitors. Coming down on a 2-on-1, Crosby dished a feed over to Dupuis, who beat Mrazek for a 2-0 Pittsburgh lead heading into the dressing room after 20 minutes.
“I thought we had a couple breakdowns tonight and gave them a couple easy ones,” Red Wings forward Stephen Weiss said. “Against a team like that, it’s tough to come back.”
Evgeni Malkin literally stepped out of the penalty box after his tripping minor expired and had to move all of six feet before he took a short feed from defenseman Rob Scuderi and ripped a slap shot from just inside the blue line that was tipped by Craig Adams and past Mrazek for a 3-0 Penguins lead, just 3:14 into the second.
But with 7:11 remaining in the period, Detroit found the back of the net. Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre Fleury came straight out of his crease to play a loose puck, but Drew Miller beat him there, chipped a puck up and over Fleury and into the gaping 4×6 opening for the goal to make it a 3-1 game.
With just under three minutes remaining in the second stanza, Kunitz stole the puck, walked in alone on Mrazek and ripped a half slap shot upstairs over the glove to regain the three-goal lead for his club. Pittsburgh continued to outshoot the Red Wings after 40 minutes, holding a 24-11 lead.
Midway through the third period on a 4-on-3 power play, Kunitz added his second of the game on a pass from Crosby for his third point of the game, extending the Pens’ lead to 5-1.
“We had a tough time getting out of our zone clean tonight and getting through the neutral zone clean and when you’re having a tough time with that, you’re turning pucks over and they’re coming back at you,” Weiss said. “It’s tough to generate offense a lot of times. By the time you get in their zone, you’re changing and you can’t sustain anything.”