Brendan Shanahan did NOT manage to get his 500th career goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs. But Jason Williams got his first, and Sean Avery got his second, and Sergei Fedorov, Luc Robitaille, and Igor Larionov all contributed to give the Red Wings a true team victory of 6-2 over the Maple Leafs in their first game at Joe Louis Arena in over a month.
With star goaltender Curtis Joseph out of the lineup with a broken wrist, it seemed like the Maple Leafs would be an easy mark for the Red Wings. Detroit opened the scoring just over halfway through the period. Chris Chelios brought the puck into the Leafs’ zone and passed to rookie Jason Williams at the right point. Williams fired a hard shot which redirected slightly off the skate of Cory Cross and into the net past goalie Corey Schwab, giving Williams his first NHL goal.
Detroit scored next during a tripping penalty to Bryan McCabe. Defenseman Aki Berg had lost his stick, and Brendan Shanahan neatly feathered a pass right by to Sergei Fedorov, who tipped the puck into the net.
Luc Robitaille put the Red Wings up by three goals during another power play, this time on an unsportsmanlike conduct call against Shane Corson. Nick Lidstrom’s shot from the blue line was deflected wide of the net. Robitaille caught the puck and banged it in from the right side of the net, getting it in on the second try.
Toronto started the second period with a goalie switch, putting in 20-year-old Sebastien Centomo. It looked as if the Leafs would be able to get on the board, when Igor Larionov and Brendan Shanahan were sent to the penalty box within five seconds of each other, but Dominik Hasek stayed steady, and the penalty killers Chelios, Lidstrom, Fedorov, and Kris Draper stayed strong, allowing the Leafs only two shots on net during a full 1:55 of five-on-three hockey.
As if to add insult to injury, the Red Wings scored yet again on their power play, when Marc Moro was in the box for holding the stick. Pavel Datsyuk sent a perfectly aimed pass from the corner to Igor Larionov waiting in front of the net, and Larionov was easily able to redirect the puck past Centomo.
Tomas Kaberle finally ended Hasek’s potential shutout with six and a half minutes left in the second. The Wings were again killing off a five-on-three penalty, and Kaberle took a shot from the blue line which redirected off the stick of Draper and past a screened Hasek.
Mats Sundin scored while the Leafs were shorthanded, putting the game within reach. Sundin stole the puck from Larionov. Hasek came out to cut down the angle of Sundin’s shot, but Sundin instead kicked it between Hasek’s legs. Just before two Detroit defensemen could get back to clear it away, Sundin made a diving play and tapped the puck into the empty net.
The Red Wings answered both Toronto goals in the third period. Fedorov scored his second of the night just thirty-eight seconds in, going to the front of the net and tipping in Mathieu Dandenault’s pass from the right wing corner.
Sean Avery put the game out of Toronto’s reach for good midway through the period. Angering Toronto tough guy Tie Domi with a hard, clean hit early in the game just wasn’t enough for Avery, so he skated hard for the front of the net, trailing Kirk Maltby on the right wing. Maltby faked a goal line shot, but instead passed across the crease to Avery, who flipped the puck into the wide open net.
Shots on net were thirty-five to twenty-five in Toronto’s favor. Detroit converted on three of six power plays, while Toronto converted on one of five. The Red Wings’ next game will be Saturday afternoon in St. Louis.
Darren McCarty had surgery on his infected finger, and should be back in the lineup by next week. The Red Wings record now stands at 45-11-6-2, meaning that even if they win only half of their remaining eighteen games, no other team in the Western Conference will be able to pass them.