Goals by Brett Hull and Chris Chelios, along with a strong goaltending effort by Manny Legace, were not enough to inspire the Red Wings in their last home game before March 6, and the Columbus Blue Jackets got their first-ever victory at Joe Louis Arena, 3-2.
The Blue Jackets opened the scoring four minutes into the game. Jiri Fischer was not able to get the puck out of Detroit’s zone, and Ray Whitney was able to grab it up and fire on the net from the left side of the ice. The puck deflected off the skate of Chris Chelios and past Manny Legace for the goal.
Detroit came back with some offensive pressure after this, and the “Two Young Kids and an Old Goat Line,” as Brett Hull refers to himself and linemates Boyd Devereaux and Pavel Datsyuk, was especially hard for Columbus to handle. The pressure finally paid off for the Red Wings with just over seven minutes left in the first. Datsyuk got past the Blue Jackets’ defensemen to carry the puck around the net, then sent a sharp pass right across the goal crease to Brett Hull, who had his stick on the ice in perfect position to direct the puck into the net past goaltender Marc Denis.
Columbus controlled the play for most of the second period, causing Legace to make some big saves to keep the score tied. In spite of Legace’s efforts, the Blue Jackets regained the lead midway through the period, just as a tripping penalty to Steve Duchesne expired. Deron Quint took a shot from the right side, using one of his own teammates as a screen. The puck hit Legace and rolled off his chest, barely crossing the goalline before he could get his glove over it.
Chelios brought the Red Wings back to an even score a few minutes later. Kirk Maltby fired a hard shot from the blue line, and the rebound came to Chelios at the right point. The rising shot barely missed bouncing off Darren McCarty, screening Denis, and the puck went into the top corner of the net.
The Blue Jackets scored again only nineteen seconds into the third period, once again just as a penalty was expiring. David Vyborny shot the puck from the left side, and it went into the net over Legace’s shoulder.
Columbus tightened up to protect their fragile lead through the rest of the game. Detroit pulled Legace from the net for the sixth skater with just over a minute left to play, and they wound up having the last twenty-four seconds of the game as a six-on-four power play when Lyle Odelein was penalized for cross-checking, but Denis made a number of acrobatic saves and kept the puck out of the net.
Legace stopped twenty-two of twenty-five shots, while Denis stopped thirty-three of the thirty-five shots he faced. The Red Wings’ next game is Saturday night in Ottawa.
Steve Yzerman’s recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery is progressing as expected. Yzerman expects to play with the Red Wings next week at Montreal and Minnesota before going to Salt Lake City to play for Team Canada in the Olympics.