As dangerous a scoring line as the Red Wings’ penalty kill has been, it isn’t really the way they expect to score. “We don’t go out there thinking we’re going to score a shorthanded goal,” said Kirk Maltby, who has three shorthanded goals already this season. Tonight they didn’t need to. With fewer penalties and more opportunities for offense, the scoring went up. And up. And up, eventually leading to a 7-3 win over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins actually outplayed the Wings in the early going, and came away with the first goal. Alexei Kovalev took a pass from Michal Roszival and skated into the Detroit zone. He skated around Mathieu Dandenault, stealthily getting a grip on Dandenault’s stick so the defenseman couldn’t poke the puck away. Then Kovalev wristed a shot on net. Goaltender Manny Legace was screened by the defensive action in front and couldn’t see the puck until it had passed him.
Luc Robitaille answered for the Wings three minutes later on a power play. Igor Larionov passed the puck across the rink to Nick Lidstrom at the left point, and Robitaille stood at the front of the net to redirect Lidstrom’s shot past Jean-Sebastien Aubin for his first goal of the season.
Once the Red Wings started to score, they never stopped. The Penguins’ defense, on the other hand, seemed to disappear. Robitaille added goal number two less than a minute later. Jason Williams snatched up the rebound from Jiri Fischer’s shot. He carried the puck behind the net and sent it back out front, where Robitaille was waiting, stick on the ice, to blast it into the net.
Before Robitaille could try for his third goal, Sergei Fedorov evidently decided he wanted a hat trick of his own. Fedorov took a penalty for hooking early in the second period, but he stepped back out onto the ice just in time to get the puck from Fischer at center ice and take off on a two-on-one rush with Darren McCarty. Fedorov passed, McCarty shot, and Aubin left a rebound that headed straight for Fedorov’s stick, which slapped the puck past Aubin and into the net.
Fedorov scored twice more before the period was half-over. His first was in close to the net, after taking a pass from Chris Chelios. Brendan Shanahan had gone to the front of the net and was screening Aubin, and he jumped up just at the right time to let Fedorov’s shot slide under his feet for the goal. Fedorov’s third goal came on a two-on-one rush with Shanahan, sprung free by Brett Hull at center ice. Fedorov dropped a pass back for Shanahan at the blue line. The defenseman and goalie looked towards Shanahan, but all they could do was watch as he sent the pass back so Fedorov could put it into the net.
Kovalev brought the Penguins within three goals seconds before the period was over with a power play goal from Jan Hrdina and Mario Lemieux. When Ville Niemenin brought Pittsburgh to three goals early in the third, it looked as if the Penguins might be able to work their way back into the game.
Fischer deflated that possibility in less than a minute. Dandenault got the puck up to Larionov on a three-on-two rush. Larionov threaded a tight pass across the goal crease to Fischer, who tapped it into the empty side of the net.
Lidstrom, McCarty, and Draper put the game out of reach for good with 7:25 left in the game. Draper made a good play to hold the puck in at the blue line and get it to McCarty, who tried to stuff it into the net. The rebound squirted free to Draper, who carried it behind the net and sent it to Lidstrom, who one-timed it past Aubin.
Shots on net were 44 to 27 in favor of Detroit. The Red Wings’ next game will be Saturday night, when they face the yet-winless Predators in Nashville.
Jason Williams played for Henrik Zetterberg, who is still out with a pulled groin. Williams set up Robitaille’s second goal, for his second point in four games played…. Sean Avery will stay with the Grand Rapids Griffins for a time. “That’s what players want to do, they want to play,” said coach Dave Lewis. “They don’t want to sit. We feel it’s best for Sean to play regularly.”…. Mario Lemieux was impressed by Sergei Fedorov. “He was awesome,” Lemieux said. “The way he skates is dominating, especially in the neutral zone. You can’t defend that. He took over the game.”