The President's Trophy may be out of reach now, but the top spot in the Western Conference is still within grasp. The one point the Red Wings gained in tonight's 5-5 tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets ties Detroit with Dallas for first seed.
On paper and by the numbers, it looked as if the Red Wings should be able to romp right over the Blue Jackets. Yet Columbus consistently plays their very best games against Detroit, and tonight was certainly no exception.
David Vyborny opened the scoring for Columbus just 2:39 into the game. He was up ice on a three on two rush with Andrew Cassels and Geoff Sanderson. Sanderson sent the pass across, and Vyborny was able to lift it high into the net before Manny Legace could slide across to block the shot.
Cassels scored next for Columbus, midway through the period. He picked the puck away from Mathieu Dandenault at the Columbus blue line, then carried up through center. Cassels shot from the Red Wings' blue line and the puck flew into the net.
Tyler Wright increased the Blue Jacket's lead to three goals early in the second period. Rick Nash had three Red Wings covering him, but he managed to get the puck away to Vyborny, who gave it to Wright. Wright was all alone in front of the net and he was able to lift the puck high over Legace.
Kris Draper took away some of the Blue Jackets' momentum. Darren McCarty made the pass crossing the blue line. Draper carried the puck up the right side and snapped a shot on net. The puck went off the far goalpost and in past Marc Denis.
The Red Wings got a power play shortly after that, on a holding call to Duvie Westcott. Sergei Fedorov shot the puck on net. Tomas Holmstrom scooped it away from Denis and tossed it over to the side of the crease, where Brendan Shanahan had plenty of empty space to slap the puck into the net.
Legace made a huge save on Vyborny on the very next shift to keep the Wings within one, and Denis answered with an equally huge save on Fedorov. Ray Whitney was the one to increase the Blue Jackets' lead to 4-2. He carried the puck into the zone past Dmitri Bykov and took a hard shot which brushed the top of Legace's blocker on its way through to the net.
Brett Hull brought the Red Wings back within one early in the third. Pavel Datsyuk made the pass from the slot area to the left boards, and Hull wristed the shot off both goalposts and into the net. The momentum swing was short-lived, unfortunately. Just a minute later, Lasse Pirjeta was able to get the rebound from a mad scramble in front of the Detroit net and slide it into the net beneath Legace's ankle.
Kirk Maltby added a goal with 4:01 left to play, just aafter a Detroit power play had ended. He came over the boards, took the puck at center, and skated right through the standing Columbus skaters to backhand the puck past Denis.
The shots came in a flurry after that. With 1:22 remaining, Detroit called a timeout and pulled Legace out of the net to send in six skaters. The Blue Jackets thought that Vyborny scored into the empty net with 0:41 remaining, but the goal was waved off because the referee had been blowing his whistle to stop the play beforehand due to player injury. Shanahan had been hit in the mouth by the puck and had dropped to the ice.
The tying goal finally came with just 0:12 left to play. Fedorov passed the puck from the right corner to Hull along the opposite boards. Hull threw it out into the slot for Datsyuk, and Datysuk slapped it into the net past Denis.
Given the intense pace of the last few minutes of regulation, the overtime started quietly. Each team took only two shots on net in the extra five minutes. Maltby and Wright got into a scuffle in front of the Columbus net with just under a minute to play, but nothing came of it, and the game ended in a 5-5 tie.
Each team had 35 shots on net. Detroit was 1 for 5 on the power play; Columbus was 0 for 3. The Red Wings will close out the regular season on Sunday afternoon with a matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Notes: Denis set a new record for minutes played in a season. He had 4451 at the end of this game, passing Martin Brodeur's record of 4439 set in the 1995-96 season.... Shanahan's goal was his 30th of the season and the 533rd of his career, tying him with Frank Mahovlich for 22nd on the all-time goal scorers list.... Hull is now just one goal away from tying Phil Esposito for 4th place on the goal scorers list.... The Red Wings are now tied with the Stars with 109 points each. If the two teams are still tied for points after their final games on Sunday, the Red Wings will take first spot because they have the higher number of wins. The Ottawa Senators have 111 points, but they also have 51 wins to the Red Wings' 48 and the Stars' 45, so the Senators will be awarded the President's Trophy.
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