The St. Louis Blues had been unbeaten in the month of December, but they won't be able to carry that streak into the new year. The Red Wings snapped the Blues' streak and tightened their own grasp on the lead in the Central Division with a 2-1 win at Joe Louis Arena.
The Blues came out with plenty of pressure to start the game. The Red Wings, meanwhile, seemed inclined to wait for good scoring chances before joining the rush rather than open up the play and leave Curtis Joseph undefended. St. Louis outshot Detroit 10 to 4 in the first, but Joseph and Chris Osgood were both solid.
The Red Wings ran into a little penalty trouble in the second period, thanks to St. Louis disturber Mike Danton. Apparently he did something to get Mathieu Schneider's temper flared, because Schneider knocked him down and was sent to the penalty box for interference. Joseph made a save against Doug Weight, but Eric Nickulas got the rebound and banked the puck off the end boards. Joseph was still down low from the first save, and Dallas Drake was able to wrist the puck in high under the crossbar.
The Blues thought they'd be able to increase their lead when Jamie Rivers was sent out for cross-checking (Rivers also knocked down Danton), but Pavel Datsyuk had other ideas. Scott Mellanby was unable to keep the puck in the Red Wings' zone, and it squirted free to Datsyuk flying up center ice on a shorthanded breakaway. Christian Backman kept up enough to hook Datsyuk up pretty well, but Datsyuk still got a backhand shot away right in front of the goal crease. The puck hit Osgood's leg pads, then bounced up, over his head, came down off his back, and fell into the net.
The game was even tighter after that""the Wings and Blues didn't fall back into playing a defensive game, but the offensive chances were so even and the goaltending was so solid that the tied score wasn't broken until only 5:15 was left in the game. Datsyuk worked hard along the boards in the St. Louis zone to dig the puck free from two defensemen. Brett Hull got the pass in the left corner and circled behind the net before making a quick pass across the crease to Ray Whitney. Whitney had a mostly open net, and he flipped the puck in to take the lead.
St. Louis pulled Osgood for an extra skater in the last minute of play. Joseph and his defenders were kept busy holding off a desperate Blues attack, but hold it off they did, winding up with 23 shots to the Blues' 25. The Red Wings come away with two valuable points against the team they will most likely need points against when playoff time comes around. The Central Division race looks like it will be a close one all the way into April, which makes any win against St. Louis that much more important.
The Red Wings will have a few days off for the NHL's Christmas break before resuming the season on Friday against the Minnesota Wild.
Notes: The Blues were without regulars Keith Tkachuk and Petr Cajanek.... Hull has scored at least a point in every game he has ever played against Osgood.... With tonight's win, the Wings lead the Blues 48 to 44 in the Conference standings. The Blues have played six games fewer than the Wings, but it does work out that all of those six are road games.
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