The media hype was tremendous. Sergei Fedorov returns to Detroit! Red Wings to face the team who shut them out in the playoffs! The Red Wings are used to media scrutiny, here in the heart of Hockeytown, and they put it all aside to play a solid game and beat the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, 7-2.
Manny Legace was solid in his fourth start in a row, and saved a potentially game-breaking goal early in the first period when Petr Sykora got in all alone on a breakaway. Legace’s save led right into Detroit’s first goal. The Red Wings got the puck back down the ice, but the Ducks tried to clear it out of their zone. Kris Draper stole it away from Niclas Havelid. He handed the puck off to Kirk Maltby, who centered the puck for Mark Mowers to chip into the net.
Maltby and Jason Williams scored within 50 seconds of each other midway through the second period, both with hard wrist shots which sailed over Giguere’s glove hand. Four goals was enough for Giguere, who reluctantly left the net to be replaced by Martin Gerber.
Gerber didn’t fare any better than did his counterpart. Detroit kept pressing their advantage. “They just got better and better and faster and faster and we got slower and slower,” said Ducks coach Mike Babcock.
Detroit’s speed led to their fifth goal. Steve Thomas held the puck in at the blue line. He passed it to Hull on the left wing side, who passed it to Schneider on the right side of the crease. Schneider lured Gerber over, then made a fast pass to Datsyuk, who had a wide open net into which he shot the puck.
Fedorov finally got Anaheim onto the scoreboard with 4:40 left in the second. He carried into the zone, then took a hard shot which beat Legace high on the stick side. However, Datsyuk answered with hardly a minute gone by. He beat Fedorov in a faceoff, drew the puck back to Schneider, then deflected Schneider’s shot down to slide beneath Gerber’s glove.
Brendan Shanahan beat Ruslan Salei to what should have been an icing call against Detroit””Salei went right past the puck without touching it””and Shanahan slapped the puck past Gerber to cap off Detroit’s scoring 1:53 into the third period. Tony Martensson scored his first goal for Anaheim at 8:53, leaving the final score at 7 to 2.
The Red Wings outshot the Mighty Ducks by a count of 40 to 23. The Wings won 35 of the 60 faceoffs.
In the end, the game wasn’t about avenging Detroit’s loss to Anaheim in last year’s playoffs. Nor was it about Fedorov’s much-ballyhooed first game against his old teammates. In the end, this game was about the present, with veterans Hull and Maltby playing strongly, and the future, with young stars-to-be Datsyuk, Williams, and Mowers running up the score. Sure, it was satisfying to see Detroit repeatedly beat Giguere, their bane of last spring, and finally chase him from the net. On some slightly shame-faced level, it was even satisfying to hear the fans booing Fedorov every time he got near the puck. But in the end, it was simply two points well-earned, a fine display of offensive talent, and a tide of momentum to carry Detroit into St. Louis to face the Blues tomorrow night.