The Games That Weren’t is one of many projects simulating the games lost by the NHL lockout. In the absence of actual games to write about, I’ll be checking in periodically on the fictional Red Wings’ season.
Three consecutive losses dropped the Detroit Red Wings out of a tie for first place in the National Hockey League in the season’s sixth week but the team remains in a tie with the Los Angeles Kings atop the Western Conference.
The Red Wings dropped their first overtime game of the season on Tuesday when they hosted the Dallas Stars. Dallas’ Vern Fiddler opened the game’s scoring at 9:27 of the first but Johan Franzen responded for the Wings with 49 seconds left in the period to even things up. Pavel Datsyuk made it 2-1 in Detroit’s favor at 1:51 of the second, a score that would hold until Michael Ryder made it a 2-2 tie with 7:38 left in regulation. At 1:34 of the overtime period, Eric Nystrom gave Dallas the win.
Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard allowed the three goals on just 19 shots while Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen made 19 saves on 21 shots. The lone bright spot for the Red Wings was the return of Todd Bertuzzi to the lineup after missing two games with concussion-like symptoms.
The Wings’ skid continued on Thursday with a 5-3 loss to the visiting New Jersey Devils, fueled by three quick goals in the middle of the third period. Datsyuk got the Red Wings out to a quick start, scoring just a minute into the game and adding another at 9:38 of the first on a power play. Ilya Kovalchuk got the Devils on the board at 3:21 of the second and Dainius tied things up with a power play goal at 6:14 of the third. Jordin Tootoo‘s first as a Red Wing put Detroit back out in front at 8:05 but Tim Sestito re-tied it 23 seconds later. Adam Larsson gave the Devils their first lead with 9:32 remaining and Zubrus extended after only three seconds, chasing Howard from the crease in favor of Jonas Gustavsson.
Gustavsson stopped the three shots he saw in the final 9:29 of play after Howard made 24 saves on 29 shots. New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced.
A six-round shootout loss in Minnesota closed out the week for the Red Wings. Cal Clutterbuck got the Wild out to an early lead at 1:04 of the first before Darren Helm responded with his first of the season at 6:46. Valtteri Filppula put the Red Wings out front at 6:58 of the second with a power play goal and Jakub Kindl extended the lead 53 seconds later. With 8:35 left in the third, Jared Spurgeon cut Detroit’s lead to a goal. Just eight seconds later, Kyle Brodziak tied things up.
Franzen and Brodziak scored to open the shootout. Datsyuk was stopped and Devin Setoguchi scored in the second round but Henrik Zetteberg scored and Howard stopped Pierre-Marc Bouchard to keep the Wings alive. Mikael Samuelsson, Matt Cullen, Bertuzzi, Steven Kampfer and Drew Miller would all fail to score before Ryan Suter beat Howard to give the Wild the win.
Howard finished the night with 24 saves on 27 shots. Niklas Backstrom made 29 saves on 32 chances.
After six weeks of play, Filppula remains the team’s leading scorer with 26 points, five more than Datsyuk and good for second in the NHL, one behind Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin. Datsyuk sits fourth in the league in scoring. Howard’s 2.09 GAA puts him at fifth in the league.
The next week will see the Wings host the Penguins and Blues before visiting the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.