DETROIT, Michigan -- Before the game, the 2001-2002 Stanley Cup Championship banner was raised to the rafters of Joe Louis Arena with all due ceremony. Scotty Bowman, Dominik Hasek, Steve Duchesne, and Vladimir Konstantinov all were on hand to salute the Stanley Cup one last time before it was taken back to its home in Toronto's Hockey Hall of Fame. It was one last chance for fans, players, coaches, and staff to revel in last season's glorious ending before settling down to the regular season grind and hopeful road to the 2003 playoffs.
Detroit's Original Six rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, were on hand to be the first home opponent of the young season. The Canadiens got a slow start in the game, but their excellent goaltending bought them the time they needed to find their rhythm, and they wound up beating the Red Wings by a score of 3-2.
The Red Wings got a power play early in the game, when Richard Zednik was sent out for hooking, and that was all they needed to jump out to an early lead. Tomas Holmstrom brought the puck into the zone and made a short pass to Henrik Zetterberg on the left side. Zetterberg headed for the goal, drawing the defensemen to himself. Meanwhile, Brendan Shanahan had quietly maneuvered in behind the two defensemen. Zetterberg passed across the goal crease, and Shanahan's tap-in goal caught all of the Canadiens by surprise, including goaltender Jeff Hackett.
The bigger surprise for both teams was that Detroit only had a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period. They applied steady offensive pressure to a Montreal team who looked to be not entirely prepared defensively. Perhaps Hackett sensed a chance at becoming the Canadiens' starting goalie if last year's star Jose Theodore is unable to break out of his slump soon; the winner of last year's Hart and Vezina Trophies has allowed twelve goals in Montreal's past two games. Hackett came up huge for his team, stopping eleven shots in the first period alone.
The Canadiens regained their rhythm in the second period, their confidence aided by scoring a goal in the early going. Andreas Dackell was able to backhand the rebound into the net after Joe Juneau's shot just barely trickled free from Curtis Joseph's catching glove. The Red Wings continued to put the puck on net at every opportunity, but Hackett remained solid, and the game was tied after two periods.
The Red Wings lost their lead a few minutes into the third period. Zednik and Saku Koivu got away on a two on one rush against Dimitri Bykov, with defensive partner Max Kuznetsov held up in the neutral zone. Bykov tried to take the passing lane away, while Pavel Datsyuk tried at top speed to get to Koivu and take him out of the play, but the pass was released and Koivu sent the shot into the net just as Datsyuk got him enough off balance to send them both sliding into the end boards.
Danny Markov scored what would be Montreal's eventual game-winner just about midway through the period. The teams were four-on-four, resulting from overlapping penalties to Kirk Maltby and Joe Juneau. Yanic Perreault shot the puck towards the Detroit net. The puck deflected off the stick of Nick Lidstrom, but with Joseph out of the net a little way to challenge Perreault's shot, Markov was able to get the deflection and put it in behind Joseph before Luc Robitaille was able to get himself properly positioned to cover Markov.
Datsyuk brought the Wings back within one with just over six minutes left to play. Robitaille got the puck from a left side scrum and centered it to Datsyuk, who let fly a fast, hard, one-time shot that Hackett didn't even see until it was behind him and the red goal light was already on.
The Red Wings went on the attack then. Most of their third period shots on net came in these last few minutes. Hackett was ready. Even when Detroit pulled Joseph to send in the extra attacker, Hackett kept the Canadiens in the lead, stopping shots by Holmstrom, Brett Hull, and Sergei Fedorov in quick succession. Eventually time ran down, and the banner celebrating last year's glory looked down over the reminder that this season still has many, many games left to go.
Shots on net were thirty-two to fourteen in favor of the Red Wings.
The Wings' next game will be on the road; they travel to Minneapolis to face the as-yet unbeaten Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.
Notes: Boyd Devereaux returned to the lineup tonight. His broken thumb healed more quickly than expected, and his "Two Kids and an Old Goat" line with Pavel Datsyuk and Brett Hull was reunited. Stacy Roest was moved to the Grand Rapids Griffins to make room for Devereaux in the lineup.