PITTSBURGH (AP) — Blake Comeau scored and picked up an assist in his return from an upper body injury, and the Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 on Wednesday night.
Comeau missed nearly two months after getting hurt in an overtime loss to Florida on Dec. 22. He wasted little time getting back to work, assisting on Patric Hornqvist’s score just 1:51 into the game and firing a one-timer past Petr Mrazek later in the first.
David Perron and Nick Spaling also scored for the Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 shots to earn his fourth win in his last five starts.
Stephen Weiss picked up his seventh goal for the Red Wings, but Detroit was never in it. Mrazek made 13 saves on just 17 shots and was pulled after the second period.
Pittsburgh rebounded from a listless 5-0 loss to Vancouver at the end of a three-game road swing through western Canada last week by putting together perhaps its finest three periods of the season.
The Red Wings came in as the hottest team in the league, ripping off nine wins in their last 10 games even with starting goaltender Jimmy Howard sidelined since Jan. 10 with a groin injury. Howard wasn’t expected to return until Saturday night against Winnipeg, but made an appearance in the third after two ineffective periods by the 22-year-old Mrazek, whose brilliant play has sparked Detroit’s rapid ascension up the Atlantic Division standings.
It disappeared against the Penguins, who have spent most of the last two months scuffling along while competing with an ever evolving lineup that finally appears to be getting healthy.
Paired with Hornqvist and Evgeni Malkin on a rejuvenated second line, Comeau made an immediate impact. On his first shift back he slipped a pass to Kris Letang, whose slap shot went wide of the net but smacked off the end boards and onto Hornqvist’s stick at the side of the net. Hornqvist roofed it by Mrazek and the Penguins were in front.
Comeau doubled Pittsburgh’s lead midway in the first. Hornqvist stripped the puck from Luke Glendening behind the Detroit net and fed to Comeau in the slot for a snap shot Mrazek couldn’t corral.
Perron’s 14th goal of the year — and ninth since joining the Penguins on Jan. 2, — was nearly a carbon copy. Maxim Lapierre took advantage of a giveaway deep in the Red Wings end and hit Perron streaking in front. When Spaling deflected Rob Scuderi’s shot from the point 7:52 into the second period, the Penguins were up 4-0 and in firm control.
Pittsburgh’s only minor letdown came later in the second when Weiss’ power-play goal ended Fleury’s shutout streak at a career-best 165:06. It was merely a hiccup. Fleury was rarely tested the rest of the way as the Penguins pulled within a point of the first-place Islanders in the jam-packed Metropolitan Division. The goaltender improved to 11-1-2 against the Atlantic Division.
NOTES: Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby was held without a point in his 600th career game. Crosby is the eighth player in franchise history to play 600 games with the club. … Howard stopped all four shots in the third period. … The Penguins play at Ottawa on Thursday. … Detroit’s last win in Pittsburgh came on Dec. 13, 2011.