The Red Wings gave head coach Dave Lewis a gift few first-year head coaches can attain as their 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers guaranteed that Lewis will be either head coach or assistant coach of the Western Conference All-Star Team.
The first period was owned by Detroit. They outshot Florida by a count of 16-6 through the first. Florida goalie Roberto Luongo practically stood on his head to keep the Red Wings off the scoreboard, while Manny Legace was sharp when he had to be at the other end of the rink. Detroit was generating scoring chances all period, and when the Panthers got the first power play of the game, the Wings nearly scored shorthanded. Brett Hull had the puck past Luongo, but it rang off the goalpost.
The Panthers opened up their attack a little more in the second period, but Legace continued his strong game, and the Red Wings continued to pressure. Hull and Pavel Datsyuk made an amazing passing play to set up Henrik Zetterberg near the wide open side of the net, but somehow, Luongo got just enough of his glove on the shot that it redirected and hit the post, then dropped back down in front of the goaltender.
Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Hull were far from done. When the Red Wings got to go on the power play just a few minutes later, they were the three to open up the scoring. Datsyuk made a nice play to keep the puck away from a Florida player and get it to Zetterberg behind the net. Zetterberg made a pass out front to a wide-open Hull, and Hull blasted a shot right post Luongo.
The Panthers scored a power play goal of their own early in the third to even the game back up. Viktor Kozlov made the pass to Marcus Nilson, who used other players as a screen and fired the puck into the net before Legace could see it.
The goal seemed to energize the Panthers, and they went on the attack. Legace made save after save to keep the game tied. When Florida was awarded over a minute and a half of 5-on-3 power play with calls to Kirk Maltby and Dimitri Bykov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, and Kris Draper did an incredible job at keeping the puck away from the net, even carrying the puck almost to Luongo’s net at one point.
Both goaltenders continued their excellent play through the rest of the period, sending the game to overtime. Kozlov nearly put an end to the game with a breakaway attempt, and the shot deflected off of Legace’s catching glove, then off the crossbar, and up over the net.
The Wings were away in the other direction then, and Datsyuk carried the puck in across the Panthers’ blue line. He passed across to Jason Woolley in the high slot, and Woolley saw that Hull was in and open near the left faceoff circle. The pass went across, and Hull’s one-timer sailed past Luongo for the goal.
The final count of shots on net was 32-29 for Detroit. The Red Wings will finish up their road trip on Saturday afternoon when they head north to face the Philadelphia Flyers.
Pavel Datsyuk played his first game back after missing 19 with an injured knee, and looked as solid as ever, helping to set up both of Detroit’s goals…. Chris Chelios sat out again with his vaguely described leg injury…. Dave Lewis’s position with the All-Star Team is now up to the Vancouver Canucks. If the Canucks lose or tie in their late night game with the Ottawa Senators, then the Red Wings will have a larger win percentage, so Lewis will be the head coach, and the Canucks’ Marc Crawford will be his assistant. If the Canucks win, Crawford will be the head coach and Lewis the assistant.