Detroit Red Wings routed by Penguins, 5-1, in a result good for their draft lottery odds

Detroit Free Press

Good news for the Detroit Red Wings’ draft lottery odds: They lost in regulation Saturday.

After racking up nine points over their previous six games, their second-to-last outing of the season at Little Caesars Arena ended with a 5-1 loss to the playoff-chasing Pittsburgh Penguins.

The game was the Wings’ first after being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for a seventh straight season. The current crop of players have focused on making these last weeks meaningful, and winning habits do matter, but it is to the organization’s advantage that the Wings at least remain among the 11 worst teams in the standings. That puts them in contention for the lottery to select No. 1 overall in this summer’s draft.

Pius Suter had the Wings’ lone goal. It was a banner outing for longtime Wings adversary Sidney Crosby, who earned his 1,500th career point when he picked up his second goal and third point of the game early in the third period; it was serendipitously timed, coming just as a number of fans had started jeering him. Evgeni Malkin added to the rout with a goal at the 13-minute mark.

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Watch out

It’s a good idea to be aware when Crosby is on the ice and not make a risky play. But that is what defenseman Jake Walman did with seconds to spare in the first period, when he tried to make a pass to Andrew Copp because Jake Guentzel was pressuring. Walman lost the puck, Crosby pounced, and one backhand shot later, the Penguins had a 2-0 lead. Alex Nylander, a 25-year-old who has spent most of his pro career in the minors, had scored at 9:25 when he swatted a loose puck behind Ville Husso. Crosby added an assist on the Penguins’ third goal, taking the puck to the net, where Danton Heinen swatted a loose puck into the net. Crosby scored again early in the third period when he converted on a power play.

A case for Suter

Suter put the Wings on the scoreboard at 11:58 of the second, building some momentum for their side. It was his 14th goal of the season, and first in 10 games. He’s winding up a two-year deal, but could be re-signed for less than the $3 million average he has been making. Suter, 26, is a sound defensive forward who has been a capable bottom-six center and filled in on the wing in the top six when needed. He’s a good penalty killer, too, regularly able to push the puck up ice to create a scoring chance and eat up valuable seconds.

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Pensionist Penguins

More than a decade has passed since the Wings and Penguins were hardcore rivals, battling it out in the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 and 2009; each time winning on one another’s home ice. Crosby is 35 (and signed through 2024-25) now, and Malkin is 36 (and signed through 2025-26). Back in the days, the Wings had Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk (both retired) to match up against those two. Crosby and Malkin have led the Penguins to 16 straight playoff berths, the longest active streak in the NHL, but they are in a tight battle to make it 17. Their win put them in the top wild-card spot, a point ahead of the Florida Panthers and the New York Islanders, both of whom played later Saturday.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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