Chris Conner scored on Pittsburgh's first successful penalty shot in nearly four years, Jordan Staal added his third goal in three games and the Sidney Crosby-less Penguins beat the injury-thinned Detroit Red Wings 4-1 on Tuesday night.
Two of the NHL's best teams met for only the third time since they faced each other in the Stanley Cup finals in 2008 and 2009 — they split a pair of games last season — but a number of top names were missing.
Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer, sat out a sixth consecutive game with a concussion. The Red Wings were without goalies Jimmy Howard and Chris Osgood, forwards Tomas Holmstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary and defenseman Brad Stuart.
The Red Wings took 18 of a possible 26 points in their first 13 games after Datsyuk started their run of injuries by breaking his right hand, but Detroit's lack of depth showed up as Pittsburgh won its third in a row. The Penguins were 0-1-2 in their first three games without Crosby, who might not return until after the Jan. 30 All-Star game.
Crosby said earlier in the day he is getting better, but still had headaches and is uncertain when he will return. He has not skated since being driven headfirst into the boards by the Lightning's Victor Hedman on Jan. 5.
Goalie Joey MacDonald, playing in only his fifth game this season, made an early mistake that led to the Staal goal 3:02 into the game.
MacDonald took too long to play the puck behind the net, allowing Tyler Kennedy to steal a short pass intended for Jonathan Ericsson and feed it to an undefended Staal at the side of the net. Staal, who missed the first half of the season with an infected foot and broken hand, has three goals and six points in three games.
Conner, awarded a penalty shot after being hooked by Kris Draper as he broke in on MacDonald, went from his forehand to his backhand before tucking a shot between the goalie's pads. The Penguins had been 0 for 12 on penalty shots since Jarkko Ruutu scored on Jan. 20, 2007 against Toronto with nearly the same move.
Given a 2-0 lead, Penguins All-Star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made the lead stand up by making 36 saves. Fleury, 21-11-2 despite winning only once in his first seven starts, has 80 saves in his last two starts. He stopped 44 shots in a 3-2 victory over Boston on Saturday.
Johan Franzen's 20th goal got Detroit to within 2-1 at 17:28 of the second. Chris Kunitz needed only 30 seconds to restore Pittsburgh's two-goal lead, deflecting Niklas Kronwall's up-ice pass to Evgeni Malkin before scoring off a rebound of Pascal Dupuis' backhander.
Matt Cooke scored into an empty net with 1:19 remaining.
Notes: Each team now has 62 points. Vancouver leads the league with 64. ... MacDonald is 1-4-1 against Pittsburgh. ... Penguins F Max Talbot, who scored both goals for Pittsburgh in a 2-1 win in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals in Detroit two seasons ago, doesn't gave a goal in 21 games. ... Detroit is 14-7-2 on the road. ... Malkin's assist on Kunitz's goal was his third point in Pittsburgh's six games without Crosby, with no goals. ... Penguins F Mark Letestu signed a two-year contract extension that runs through 2012-13 and averages $625,000 per season.