Pittsburgh and Detroit both have won their last two games after a season-opening loss. They’ll match up on the Red Wings’ home ice on Wednesday night.
The Penguins were defeated by Chicago 4-2, then won both ends of a back-to-back over the weekend. They shut out Washington 4-0 on the road, then returned home for a 5-2 victory over Calgary.
Evgeni Malkin has gotten off to a strong start. The 37-year-old forward has six points, including a goal and an assist against the Flames.
Malkin drew extra motivation in the offseason after missing the playoffs last season, the first time in his career the Penguins didn’t participate in the postseason.
“We don’t like it, to miss the playoffs,” Malkin said. “Coach says right away, these two points are the same two points in March or February. We understand we need to play hard.”
That coach, Mike Sullivan, says Malkin is as dangerous as ever.
“I think Geno is playing just a great game right now,” Sullivan said. “He’s just all over the puck. I think he’s playing with tons of energy and a lot of confidence, and when he’s like that, he’s as dominant a player as there is in the league.”
Bryan Rust also is making an early mark. He has three goals, including a pair against Calgary.
Pittsburgh’s Reilly Smith, acquired in an offseason deal with Vegas, has scored in each of the victories. He’s skating on the same line with Malkin.
“We were hoping (Smith and Malkin) were going to develop some chemistry, and that’s one of the reasons why we put them together from the first day,” Sullivan said.
The Red Wings lost 4-3 to New Jersey in their opener, then defeated Tampa Bay 6-4 and Columbus 4-0.
James Reimer, signed as a free agent during the offseason, made 23 saves to record his 29th career shutout in his Detroit debut. However, there’s a good chance No. 1 goaltender Ville Husso will start on Wednesday.
Reimer made several tough saves in the opening period before Detroit took control with three second-period goals.
“He’s a huge boost for us, an absolute pro,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “He competes unbelievably hard in there. He had a real good camp, and I expected him to play well (Monday), just how well his camp went. And he did. Again, he was the difference in the first period.”
Shayne Gostisbehere, Michael Rasmussen, Dylan Larkin and Andrew Copp had the goals for Detroit against Columbus.
Rasmussen’s goal was set up on a steal in the Blue Jackets’ zone by second-line center J.T. Compher. The Wings then took advantage of two power plays.
“We had a real good second period,” Lalonde said. “We earned ourselves the second goal, and the power play took over from there. It was probably the difference in the game.”
The Wings are eager to end their seven-season playoff drought. So far, they look like an improved team.
“We know what we have in here, and we’re here to prove a lot of people wrong,” defenseman Moritz Seider said. “It’s always fun to prove them wrong. … We’re confident, but we’re a quiet locker room.”
Detroit’s David Perron scored four goals as the Red Wings won last season’s series with Pittsburgh 2-1.