DETROIT -- Andreas Athanasiou went end to end with the puck, split two defenders and flipped a fluttering puck into the net.
"It's definitely a feel-good moment," Athanasiou said.
Detroit is in desperate need of points as its streak of playing in 25 straight postseasons is in jeopardy after starting the day tied for last in the Eastern Conference.
"Yeah, it's a big win," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said.
Shortly after Athanasiou scored, Detroit coach Jeff Blashill won a challenge on Pittsburgh's potential tying goal. It was negated because of goaltender interference caused by Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin pushing Detroit's Justin Abdelkader into Jared Coreau.
"We didn't see it that way," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "And it was obviously a major turning point in the game, but can't stop playing."
Mike Green scored a power-play goal and Zetterberg added another goal in a 1:33 stretch midway through the third period.
Malkin got his 18th goal of the season early in the second period and Kris Letang scored 27 seconds into the game, giving Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead. Letang left the game in the first period with what appeared to be an injured left knee . Sullivan said he didn't have an update on Letang's injury.
Coreau made 28 saves for the Red Wings in his first start at home.
"I waited a long time to play here, and finally got a chance," said the 25-year-old goalie, signed by Detroit in 2013.
Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury also stopped 28 shots.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins have lost a season-high three straight.
"We're not happy right now," Malkin said. "We have to play better than this. We aren't playing our game, and I am not playing my game. It is frustrating. This isn't right."
Sidney Crosby extended his season-long goal drought to five games.
"He's a world-class player," Coreau said. "You have to give those guys more attention"
Red Wings fans gave Crosby plenty of attention, booing him every time he touched the puck. As a young superstar, he helped Pittsburgh beat the Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup in 2009 after losing to them in the 2008 finals. Crosby ended the game in the penalty box in what will likely be his last appearance at Joe Louis Arena, which is being replaced by a new arena next season.
"You can definitely tell the rivalry with those two Stanley Cup Finals that they had back to back," Coreau said. "The crowd was crazy."
Pittsburgh scored two go-ahead goals but allowed the Red Wings to match their season high in scoring.
Matt Cullen was credited with a goal that gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead late in the second period, though it appeared to be knocked into the net by Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson. Detroit's Frans Nielsen tied it again with 54 seconds left in the third period.
Green has eight goals, one more than he had in 74 games during his debut season in Detroit. ... The Penguins scratched F Eric Fehr and D Steve Oleksy. ... The Red Wings scratched F Tomas Jurco, F Steve Ott and D Ryan Sproul.
Penguins: Host Washington on Monday night.
Red Wings: Host Montreal on Monday.
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