Game 69: Red Wings-Pittsburgh Enotes

If the Red Wings manage to extend their playoff-making streak to 23 straight years at the end of this season, it will be easy to point to tonight’s dramatics against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena and call it the biggest win of the year.

In a game fraught with playoff pressure and wackiness, the Red Wings (32-24-13) picked up two huge points by beating the Pens, 5-4 in overtime—by scoring the winning goal with 0.4 seconds remaining.

The Red Wings’ ageless warrior, Daniel Alfredsson, got credit for the winner—his second goal of the night—when his wrist shot rebounded off Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s had much luckier nights, and bounced off even more unlucky defenseman Rob Scuderi and trickled over the goal line as time ran out.

After a brief confirmation with the folks in Toronto, the goal was affirmed and the Red Wings, with 77 points, are just one point out of the no. 8 seed.

BOX SCORE

It was far from easy, even after Detroit staked itself to a 2-0 lead.

Three Penguin goals within three minutes late in the second period put Pittsburgh ahead, 3-2, after 40 minutes.

The puck was bouncing off Penguins defenders into the net all night, to the tune of three goals.

The second of those three times gave Detroit a 4-3 lead with about seven minutes left in the third period. The goal was credited to Todd Bertuzzi, but it may be changed to Luke Glendening—it would be Glendening’s first career NHL goal—because replays seemed to indicate that Bertuzzi’s wrist shot deflected off Glendening before it bounced off a Pittsburgh defenseman and past Fleury.

Craig Adams tied the game with 5:34 left.

The game winner happened when a Pittsburgh rush with 12 seconds left suddenly turned the other way, with Alfredsson leading a 3-on-1 break. Alfie skated down the right wing and fired the puck with three seconds left, triggering the pinball effect, sending JLA into a frenzy.

It was a big win, and maybe will be considered the biggest, coming against a powerful Penguins team with the Red Wings decimated by injuries.

 

 

 

 

 

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Spotlight on the Opponent: Marc-Andre Fleury

What: Pittsburgh at Detroit
When: Saturday, December 14, 7:00pm (TV: NHLN-US; FSD)

Fleury

They call him “Flower,” although for many old-timers (like yours truly), the REAL “Flower” will always be Guy LaFleur.

But Marc-Andre Fleury is today’s Flower, and for the Pittsburgh Penguins, he continues to blossom every winter.

Fleury, 29, is entrenched better than ever as the Pens’ starting goalie, and he’s playing as good as ever.

Pittsburgh is off to a 22-10-1 start, and if it’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin doing the damage offensively, Fleury is putting the hurt on the opponents between the pipes.

Fleury has a 2.01 GAA and a .924 save percentage. He has already registered three shutouts this season, making his career total a healthy 26.

I was on the ice shortly after the Penguins won the 2009 Stanley Cup at Joe Louis Arena, as Fleury led the Pens to two straight 2-1 victories after falling behind in the series, 3-2.

I asked Fleury, who was just 25 at the time, what the moment felt like, a year after the Red Wings beat Pittsburgh for the Cup.

Fleury gazed upon the celebration going on before us, with champagne being sprayed as the Cup switched hands from Penguin to Penguin.

“Amazing,” he finally stammered.

I asked him about the difference in feelings from a year prior.

“The lowest to the highest,” he said, still in shocked disbelief.

Fleury isn’t normally mentioned when the talk is of the NHL’s elite goalies, and perhaps part of that is because the Penguins annually put high-octane, talented teams on the ice. It’s a franchise that most folks feel doesn’t necessarily need a Hall of Fame goalie to support it.

The lack of respect that Fleury gets was highlighted last week, when some of the San Jose Sharks had some sharp criticism of Fleury, despite losing to Pittsburgh, 5-1.

But Fleury, nonetheless, has been one of the NHL’s most consistent netminders over the past six years.

Tonight, Fleury makes what had been a rare return to the place of his greatest triumph. Now that the Red Wings have moved to the Eastern Conference, Fleury will get more chances to gaze around JLA and recall that June night of 2009.