Crosby reaches 1,000 assists, Karlsson nets winner as Pens boost playoff odds by edging Detroit

Red Wings Penguins Hockey
Posted at 10:23 PM, Apr 11, 2024

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Erik Karlsson scored 1:40 into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins bolstered their playoff odds with a 6-5 win over Detroit on Thursday night.

Sidney Crosby set up Karlsson's winner to become the 14th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 career assists. Crosby finished with a goal and two assists to move past Hall of Famer Phil Esposito and into 10th on the NHL's all-time scoring list.

The longtime Penguins captain assisted on Drew O'Connor's first-period goal to reach 999 career assists. Crosby then redirected a beautiful pass from Bryan Rust in the second period to move into a tie with Esposito with 1,590 points. Crosby moved past Esposito in the extra period by feeding Karlsson.

Rust added a goal for Pittsburgh. Kris Letang and Jeff Carter both scored their 10th goals and Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 25 shots as the Penguins leapfrogged Washington to move into the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot with three games remaining.

Pittsburgh was nine points out of postseason position two weeks ago. Crosby and Nedeljkovic have keyed a surprising late run. The Penguins are 7-0-3 in their last 10 games to close ground quickly on Washington, Philadelphia and Detroit.

The Red Wings' hopes of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 took another hit after losing for the third time in four games.

Lucas Raymond had his second career hat trick for Detroit. Jeff Petry, a former Penguin, added his third of the season. Dylan Larkin scored his 33rd for the Red Wings. Alex Lyon made 21 saves, but couldn't stop Karlsson late as the Penguins earned the extra point.

The game had a postseason feel from the opening faceoff, a marked contrast to a month ago when PPG Paints Arena sounded like a library at times with the Penguins skidding and chances of making the playoffs remote at best.

Those odds have improved considerably behind Crosby's sustained brilliance and the emergence of Nedeljkovic, signed in the offseason to be the backup behind Tristan Jarry, only to find himself a fixture in net during the most important stretch of the season.

The teams traded goals during a sometimes chaotic opening period, with Crosby moving within one assist of 1,000 when he earned the secondary helper on O'Connor's 15th goal.

Pittsburgh took the lead for good in the second when Rust threaded a cross-ice pass to a streaking Crosby at the left post. Crosby, voted Pittsburgh's Most Valuable Player by his teammates for the 12th time in his 19-year career earlier in the day, pushed it by Lyon for his 41st goal of the season.

Rust pushed Pittsburgh's advantage to 4-2 with a flick from the slot 12:44 into the second. Reilly Smith's pass to Rust became Smith's 300th career assist.

Petry's blast from the point with 35 seconds left in the second pulled the Red Wings within one, but Carter, who has become a role-player during his 19th season, appeared to give the Penguins the cushion they needed by breaking up a pass high in the Pittsburgh zone, then chasing it down before beating Lyon to the far side for a short-handed goal 3:32 into the third.

Turns out, it wasn't.

Larkin and Raymond erased the deficit late, but Crosby — as he's done time and again — and the Penguins found a way.


Red Wings: Travel to Toronto on Saturday.

Penguins: Host Boston on Saturday night.