ST. LOUIS, Missouri -- Detroit got off to a slow start, but just as St. Louis seemed to start thinking they could put the game away, the Red Wings came roaring back in the third period to salvage a 4-4 tie with the Blues.
The Blues opened the scoring early, wanting to take advantage of any rust Dominik Hasek may have been feeling after his month-long layoff to recover from a groin injury. The first goal came just 4:41 into the game. Defenseman Chris Pronger scooped up a rebounded shot from his own zone and joined in the offensive rush, causing a 4-on-2. Pronger sent the puck up to Keith Tkachuk, who carried across the blue line before sending it up to Pavol Demitra low on the right side. Demitra threaded a shot right across Hasek's goal crease, and Pronger knocked it into the net from the other side.
St. Louis followed up with power play goal barely over a minute later when Brendan Shanahan was in the box for hooking. Pronger took a shot towards the net from the right point. Scott Mellanby collected the puck, spun around with it, and handed it off to Tkachuk, who blasted a shot through Hasek and into the net.
Steve Thomas made an attempt to get Detroit's game going by getting into a fight with tough guy Mike Danton. Thomas held his own against Danton, but the attempt to swing momentum was not as successful. Detroit only had two shots on net in the first period.
The Red Wings came out more strongly in the second period, generating many more shots on net, but Chris Osgood held them off and gave Bryce Salvador his opportunity to increase the Blues' lead. Ryan Johnson won a faceoff in Detroit's zone. Salvador picked up the puck and shot it through a screen. The puck deflected just slightly off of Kris Draper's stick, thus changing direction and fooling Hasek.
Thomas finally put the Red Wings on the board early in the third period. Nicklas Lidstrom made the clearing pass to send Thomas into the zone with the puck, and his hard shot went just off Osgood's shoulder and in.
Steve Yzerman made it a one-goal game shortly thereafter. Draper passed the puck to Yzerman from behind the net, then moved to the front of the crease to screen Osgood. Yzerman took a shot from the left side. The puck hit the stick of a Blues player trying to push Draper out of the way, and deflected down to slide underneath Osgood.
Pronger lived up to his reputation as a thorn in Detroit's side when he increased the Blues' lead once more less than two minutes after Yzerman's goal. Doug Weight intercepted a pass in the Red Wings' zone, then sent the puck back to Pronger crossing the blue line. Pronger's shot beat Hasek five-hole.
The game seemed to be winding down as a St. Louis victory when Pavel Datsyuk and Brett Hull both scored less than a minute apart. Datsyuk's goal could have been an accident""he was handling the puck at the front of the goal crease when he was jostled by a Blues player, causing him to knock the puck backwards and past Osgood""but there was nothing accidental about Hull's 14th goal of the season. Datsyuk centered the puck from the right corner, and Hull one-timed it from the high slot. Osgood managed to slow it down on the way through, but the puck just barely crossed the goal line and sent the game to overtime.
"With the guys we have, you're never out of the game," explained Hull. "You've got to think luck a little bit, but you've also got some perseverance and a gritty effort."
The Red Wings controlled most of the overtime play, but they weren't able to get the puck past Osgood again. Hasek was grateful for his team's offensive capabilities. "It's wonderful that we tied the game, but I feel a little bit embarrassed," he said. "I don't know what to say about the goals I gave up."
Detroit rallied from their measly two shots in the first period to end up outshooting St. Louis by a count of 27 to 18. The Red Wings will leave St. Louis and head for Toronto, where they will face their ancient enemies the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Notes: Darryl Bootland was a healthy scratch for this game, giving Jamie Rivers a chance to get into the lineup. Rivers played on the fourth line with Jason Williams and Nathan Robinson, and logged 3:01 of ice time.... Hull's goal was the 730th of his career, putting him within one of Marcel Dionne at third place on the all-time goals scored list.... the Wings keep hold of first place in the Central Division with 33 points, two ahead of the Blues.