Sure, there are still patches of snow and ice on the ground, and sure, the fans walking from the parking garage to Joe Louis Arena had leftover salt crunching beneath their feet. But it was 50 degrees and sunny, the red and white jerseys were visible instead of hidden under heavy coats, the Captain was in the lineup, and there are now only eleven (that's ELEVEN) games left before the playoffs! Better yet, the Colorado Avalanche left Hockeytown Saturday afternoon with a 5-3 loss added to their record.
The Avalanche struck twice before the first period was over to take a 2-1 lead into the locker room for the first intermission. The first goal came shorthanded, as Greg DeVries sprung Steven Reinprecht on a breakaway. Reinprecht went in all alone on Curtis Joseph and fooled the Detroit goalie with a move to the right before putting the puck in high.
Rob Blake's goal came on a power play. He took a pass from Joe Sakic, then shot from the blue line. Joseph was screened and never saw the puck on its way through.
The second period started with an entirely different feeling to it. Detroit was completely dominant, and Colorado didn't have much of a chance. The Wings outshot the Avalanche 15 to 4 in the second twenty minutes of play. Roy stopped 12 of the shots, but the shots from Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, and Igor Larionov were too much for him to handle.
"Paaaaaaaa-triiiiiiiiiiick! Paaaaaaaa-triiiiiiiiiiick!" taunted the fans at the Joe, as Shanahan stuffed a pass by Fedorov into the net, as Fedorov scored on a feed by Steve Yzerman, and as Larionov turned a pass by Luc Robitaille into the eventual game-winning goal. "Paaaaaaaa-triiiiiiiiiiick!"
Brett Hull didn't want to be left out of the fun. He scored his 30th goal of the season, the 709th of his career, on an excellent give-and-go passing play with Datsyuk early in the third period. Datsyuk rushed up left and passed to Hull on the right. Hull passed it back to Datsyuk. Roy slid to his right, thinking that Hull's angle to the net negated him as a threat. Datsyuk passed back anyway, and Hull scored into the empty side of the net at such a tight angle that he couldn't have had a space any wider than the puck itself to shoot at.
Even Roy was impressed by the goal. "Let's give them credit for that play,'' he said. "He made a great pass to (Datsyuk) and he made a super pass back to (Hull), and he tapped it in. That's one we'll see the highlights of a lot." Hull, characteristically, seemed prouder of his young linemate than of his own accomplishment. "That's the way you're supposed to play," he beamed. "Pass the puck, and get it back."
Derek Morris did score a power play goal for Colorado before the game was over. The Red Wings played a passing game of "keep-away" with the puck as the game wound down, causing the Avalanche to have to keep Roy in goal instead of pulling him for an extra skater. They did finally get puck control and pull their goalie out in the final minute, but Joseph was ready with some excellent saves to keep the win and tie the regular-season-series between these two teams at 2-2.
The final count of shots on net was 38-24 in favor of Detroit. The Red Wings' next opponent is the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators. The teams will square off Sunday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Notes: Hull's goal propelled him past Mike Gartner into sole possession of the fifth place on the all-time goal scorers list.... Peter Forsberg left the game with a bruised leg after a collision with Dmitri Bykov at center ice. Bykov was uninjured.
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