ST. LOUIS, Missouri -- If there are many more games like this one in St. Louis, the Savvis Center's management may want to consider building an expansion for their penalty boxes. The Red Wings came up with a 6-2 win over the Blues, and the Blues were really letting their frustration show by the game's end. By the final buzzer, there were a total of seventeen players between both teams who hadn't been tossed out of the game. And the playoffs haven't even started yet. Bring it on!
Emotions were running high early. The Blues were fired up at the return of Chris Pronger, who has been out of the lineup all season. However, his first impact on his team was to take a high-sticking penalty. The Blues' penalty killers did a good job of not letting Detroit get set up on that one. Tyson Nash managed to generate a shorthanded scoring chance, but Manny Legace was sharp on the shot and the rebound.
Brett Hull opened the scoring midway through the period. Henrik Zetterberg carried the puck up the right side and passed it back across the crease once he gained the goal line. Hull was following the play, driving to the net with his stick on the ice, and he was in perfect position to lift the puck over Chris Osgood.
Pavel Datsyuk increased the lead a few minutes later. Pronger fanned on a slapshot attempt in the Detroit zone, and Datsyuk stole the puck to carry it up ice. Pronger and Bryce Salvador backed up to defend, but Datsyuk cut right between the two of them and stuffed the puck into the net underneath Osgood.
The Blues got themselves on the board with 3:29 left in the first. Steve Martins won a draw deep in the Red Wings' end. The puck came back to Pronger, who wound up and took the shot. The puck tipped off a Detroit skater on the way through, and flew just past the end of Legace's catching glove.
The second period was a story of penalty killing. Chris Chelios had taken a four minute high-sticking double minor penalty just at the end of the first period. Thirty seconds had gone by in that when the referees saw fit to send Kris Draper out for boarding. Kirk Maltby, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Mathieu Schneider played an excellent penalty kill, and Legace came up with a huge save on Pronger to stop the clock and allow Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan to come over the boards to replace Schneider and Maltby. When play started again, Lidstrom cleared the puck, and that did it for the 5-on-3. The remainder of the Blues' 5-on-4 was negated when Pronger took another penalty, this one for interference, but then the Red Wings' resulting shortened power play was negated when the team was assessed a bench minor for having too many men on the ice.
The one call which probably should have been made in the second was not made at all. Tyson Nash was sticked in the mouth by Shanahan""Nash was falling at the time, so a stick at that height would ordinarily have hit a skater somewhere in the stomach, but the stick did draw blood, which would ordinarily be an automatic four minute penalty. None of the officials saw it, and the Blues apparently swore revenge.
Vengeance was not coming in the second period, however. Corey Stillman received an elbowing penalty shortly thereafter. Shanahan made the pass from behind the net to the high slot which allowed Lidstrom to pinch in from the blue line and wrist a shot through a screen of players over Osgood's shoulder.
Nash, having had his lip stitched up neatly, was out on the ice to take a pass from Alexander Khavanov and fire it into the net from point blank range, bringing the Blues back within one goal with 7:38 left in the game. Just as the goal was called, Reed Low and Darren McCarty were handed coincidental minor penalties for diving and cross-checking respectively. Sergei Fedorov added a goal with a wrist shot just under the crossbar during the resulting four-on-four.
As soon as McCarty and Low were out of the box, they dropped the gloves and went at each other. Both were given five minute fighting majors, and McCarty was given a game misconduct for not having his jersey strap tied down""Low pulled it right off as soon as the fight started.
Scott Mellanby took an interference penalty with 5:11 left to play. Nash decided his goal wasn't good enough revenge and attacked Shanahan directly. While those two fought, Fedorov tangled with Barret Jackman. Once the officials cleared the ice, Hull scored a power play goal. Datsyuk made a pass from behind the net to Schneider. Hull picked up the rebound from Schneider's shot and put it into the empty corner of the net.
Hull's third goal of the night barely two minutes later""set up by amazing passing from Zetterberg and Datsyuk, of course""opened the floodgates to chaos. Mellanby, Jackman, Dallas Drake, Ryan Johnson, Maltby, Draper, and Dmitri Bykov were all thrown out of the game. The very next shift, it started up again. Matt Walker tried to pick a fight with Tomas Holmstrom, who was skating away from it, but Luc Robitaille came in to defend his linemate. From the resulting battle, Walker, Salvador, Shjon Podein, Doug Weight, Holmstrom, Robitaille, Schneider, and Mathieu Dandenault were sent out. The Detroit bench took a penalty when assistant coach Joey Kocur threw a chair onto the ice in frustration at the way the Blues had simply decided to run at his players, and he and St. Louis coach Joel Quenneville screamed obscenities at each other until calmer heads prevailed, the linesman dropped the puck, and the few remaining players let the clock run down.
The count of shots on net was 24 to 21 in favor of the Blues. The total number of penalty minutes, for those who count such things, was 114 for Detroit and 129 for St. Louis. The Red Wings' next game will be Monday night at the Joe against the Nashville Predators.