DETROIT, Michigan -- Dan Cloutier has cause to thank his goalposts - five times over.
That's how many times the Red Wings had Vancouver's goalie beaten but rang shots off the posts or crossbar, and that would have given them more than enough goals for a win. Instead, thanks to Cloutier's luck and a strong game by Vancouver, the Canucks took a 4-1 win.
The Red Wings looked very strong to start the first period. Tomas Holmstrom scored early to take a 1-0 lead. Nicklas Lidstrom sent the lead pass up across the blue line, and Holmstrom fired straight on net. The shot got past Cloutier on his short side.
The Red Wings got a power play shortly thereafter when Marek Malik was sent out for obstruction tripping, and the Canucks basically stood there and watched them pass the puck around. Cloutier had to come up with some good saves to keep the puck out.
The skillful power play was basically the last thing to go well for Detroit. Trent Klatt got the Canucks even with 6:39 left in the period. He brought the puck out from behind the net, with a teammate rushing to join him on the other side for a sort of reverse 2-on-1. Maxim Kuznetsov took away the passing play, but Klatt was in close to the net, and his shot deflected off the stick of Curtis Joseph and in for the goal.
The goal seemed to energize the Canucks, and they took the lead before the period was over. Joseph had stopped the first shot by Markus Naslund, but he was down and the rebound slipped away from him. Bryan Allen was able to sneak in from the left point to the low slot and put the puck high into the net.
Joseph did a fine job in the second period to keep the Red Wings within one. He shone in stopping a breakaway by Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. Luc Robitaille, back in the lineup after having been a healthy scratch against Colorado, had multiple scoring chances, but the shots would go just wide or bounce off the posts, contributing to the growing frustration of the team.
Chris Chelios and Bertuzzi continued their feud from last year's playoffs, and their teammates joined them in the fray. Chelios wound up with a double minor for roughing and high-sticking (one was served by Sean Avery), and Kirk Maltby, Naslund, and Bertuzzi each had two minutes for roughing, resulting in a Vancouver power play with just over seven remaining in the second. Sami Salo was able to score by one-timing a pass from Mattias Ohlund. The shot appeared to brush Joseph's elbow on its way into the net.
A horrible defensive breakdown midway through the third led to the Canucks' fourth goal. Malik carried the puck right past two Detroit players with Matt Cooke keeping up on his right side, and the last man back, Mathieu Dandenault, lost a skate edge and fell. Malik looked as if he would shoot, but passed across to Cooke, which fooled Joseph and allowed Cooke to put the puck in for the goal.
The Red Wings made an attempt to come back. Holmstrom was hooked down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot late in the game. He deked well enough to fool Cloutier, but- story of the game- the puck hit the goalpost.
The final count of shots on net was 34-31 in favor of Vancouver. The Red Wings will head out west for a few games after tonight. Their next matchup will be with the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.
Notes: Boyd Devereaux was a healthy scratch to make room for Luc Robitaille in the lineup.... This was Nicklas Lidstrom's 900th career game.... The Red Wings' television color commentator, Mickey Redmond, was back in the broadcast booth after undergoing a successful lung operation to remove a malignant tumor. According to doctors, the cancer was completely removed.