Daniel Cleary scored two third period goals and Jimmy Howard made 25 saves as the Detroit Red Wings rolled into CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh and defeated a shorthanded Penguins club Tuesday night, 4-1.
The contest was tied heading into the third period, but it was the visiting Red Wings who tallied three times to take the two points. Detroit has now won three consecutive games, and have gone 10-2 in their last 12 games to pull within one point of the idle Chicago Blackhawks for the Western Conference's Central Division lead. The Red Wings also hold a game in hand on Chicago.
The Penguins -- who are missing Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Zbynek Michalek, among others -- dropped to 6-6-1 in their last 13 games, and failed to score on four power play opportunities on the night.
In evening up their road record at 7-7-0, Detroit had to come from behind after yielding a late first-period goal to Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin. The Pens' Russian superstar carried the puck in on Howard as part of a two-on-one with Chris Kunitz, and beat the Red Wings' netminder to the stick side and inside the far post for his 11th goal of the year.
Malkin nearly added to the lead early in the second period, when his shot trickled through Howard and came to rest against the post. As Malkin dove and attempted to poke the puck into the open side of the net, Howard dove back and and made a stick save.
The Red Wings knotted the contest late in the middle frame, as Pavel Datsyuk scored his ninth of the season on a backhander from the slot that beat Marc-Andre Fleury to the stick side with 3:59 remaining in the second period to tie the game at 1-1.
Pittsburgh almost took a lead early in the third period when Malkin beat Howard from the right circle, but his shot hit the far post and stayed out.
After Matt Niskanen went to the penalty box for holding at 4:51, it didn't take long for Detroit to grab a 2-1 lead, as Johan Franzen scored his 14th goal of the season just 24 seconds later. Datsyuk set up "The Mule," who fired it past Fleury before getting buried with a hard hit.
Cleary put the game out of reach at 15:36 of the third period, putting perfect pass from ex-Penguin Chris Conner past Fleury for his sixth goal of the season to make it a 3-1 Red Wings' lead.
For the coup de grace, with Fleury pulled in favor of an extra Penguins' attacker, Cleary hit the empty net with just six seconds left to round out the scoring.