The Red Wings came back hard from a slightly shaky first period to dominate the game and defeat their archrivals the Colorado Avalanche, 3-1, in front of 20,058 ecstatic fans at Joe Louis Arena.
The Avalanche opened the scoring 3:39 into the game. Marty Skoula picked up the rebound from a shot by Milan Hejduk, and fired it past Dominik Hasek to take an early lead.
Colorado tightened up its defense for the rest of the period, making it difficult for the Red Wings to get control of the puck in the offensive zone. Most of the shots on net were blocked by the Avalanche, and those that got through were easily blocked by David Aebischer, playing in net for Patrick Roy who was sitting out to recover from the flu.
The second period was a different matter. The Red Wings opened up their offense, as well as shutting down any offense Colorado might have tried to muster. Shots on net were twelve to three in favor of Detroit in the second period alone. Aebischer continued to come up huge, stopping strong shots from Brendan Shanahan and Luc Robitaille, not to mention a shorthanded two-on-one breakaway chance by Steve Yzerman and Brett Hull.
It was rookie Pavel Datsyuk who put Detroit on the scoreboard. Greg DeVries was sent to the penalty box for hooking. The power play got off to a slow start, but the Red Wings did manage to set up the scoring play. Igor Larionov took the puck behind the net and passed out to Datsyuk at the right side. Datsyuk shot the puck into the tiny space between the goalpost and Aebischer’s left armpit to score his first NHL power play goal and tie the game.
The Red Wings continued their offensive pressure into the third period. Three minutes in, Todd Gill was the last man back in the Colorado zone, attempting to clear the puck. Larionov poke checked it away from him to get a breakaway chance. He cut to the right to fool Aebischer, then quickly flipped the puck into the net on the left side.
Detroit scored again less than two minutes later. Darren McCarty sent a breakout pass from the Red Wings’ zone up to Yzerman at neutral ice. Yzerman and Shanahan took off on a two-on-one, Yzerman passed left to Shanahan, and Shanahan ripped the one-timer past Aebischer.
Having a sufficient lead, the Wings began to concentrate on the defense, keeping the puck in Colorado’s zone, but not making any plays that could risk turning the puck over to the Avalanche. Colorado managed to carry the play just enough into Detroit’s zone to pull Aebischer in favor of the sixth skater with a minute and a half left to play, but the Red Wings effectively kept the puck away from the Avalanche until the final buzzer, gaining their thirtieth win of the season.
Hasek stopped thirteen of the mere fourteen shots he faced during the game, while Aebischer managed to stop thirty-two of the thirty-five he was shelled with. The Detroit defense was effective enough to keep Colorado superstar Joe Sakic from getting any shots against Hasek at all.
The Red Wings will play next Wednesday night against the Vancouver Canucks.