Curtis Joseph may have been a little anxious about playing his first game against his old team. “There’s anticipation when you play your former team,” he said. “Some emotion. You just have to keep that in check.”
Joseph needn’t have worried. As he so often does, he played his best in such a big game, and his teammates’ offense continued as unstoppable as it has been of late, giving the Red Wings a highly satisfying 7-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs started the game with more energy than the Red Wings had, but the Red Wings found their game and opened the scoring late in the first period. Pavel Datsyuk passed the puck to Brett Hull in the right corner. Hull threaded a pass through three Toronto players to Henrik Zetterberg in front of the net. Zetterberg was left all alone in front of Ed Belfour, so he paused, waited for Belfour to drop to take away a low shot, then lifted the puck over the flopping goaltender at 4:43.
Just eight seconds later, Darren McCarty increased the lead to two. The Red Wings won the faceoff at center. McCarty followed Kris Draper up on a two-on-one break. Draper passed across to McCarty, who wristed the shot into the top corner of the net.
The Maple Leafs got on the board at 3:06. Robert Reichel’s shot hit the left post, then hit the inside of the right post, then bounced into the net past Joseph.
Hull regained the two-goal lead with just 1.8 seconds left in the period. The Leafs iced the puck with 5 seconds left, leading to a faceoff deep in their zone. Datsyuk won the draw and kicked the puck back to Hull, whose shot curved up over Belfour and dropped into the net.
The Red Wings had penalty trouble early in the second period. Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Kirk Maltby had to kill off two back to back five-on-three penalties. First Mathieu Dandenault was called for tripping, then Hull had to go in to serve a delay of game penalty assessed to Joseph. Gary Roberts tipped in a shot by Robert Svehla just as the first penalty was about to expire. Then, thirty seconds after Joseph’s penalty ended, Steve Yzerman was called for holding. Forty-seven seconds later, Draper was sent out for hooking. This time, Chelios, Lidstrom, Maltby, and Joseph held strong and kept the Maple Leafs off the board.
Yzerman contributed his first point of the season by setting up Zetterberg’s second goal. Bryan McCabe was attempting to carry the puck out of his own zone, but Yzerman stripped him of it cleanly and passed it to Zetterberg, who was skating towards the net. Zetterberg slammed it past Belfour.
Hull added his second goal of the game just as the period was drawing to an end. The Wings were on the power play, since Roberts was sent out for roughing up Draper. Igor Larionov passed from the right point to Hull in the high slot, and Hull one-timed the shot right through Belfour.
Draper and Dmitri Bykov rounded out the scoring with a goal each in the third period. Maltby, McCarty, and Draper carried the puck up ice on a three-on-two rush. Maltby sent it from the middle to McCarty on the right side, and McCarty put the puck right across the goal crease to Draper, who tapped it in past Belfour.
Bykov’s goal came on another power play. Yzerman passed the puck from the left point to Tomas Holmstrom behind the net. Holmstrom put it back out front, and Bykov was in just the right spot down low to send it into the net.
Detroit outshot Toronto by a count of 31-29. They won 35 of the 63 faceoffs, and went 2-for-6 on the power play. The Red Wings’ next game will be Sunday evening at home against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Hull’s assist on Zetterberg’s first goal made him the 23rd player in NHL history to score 1300 career points…. McCarty was in his first game back after missing nine games with an arm infection…. Fedorov and Larionov extended their point streaks to nine and eight games respectively…. The Red Wings hold a 273-271-93 lifetime record against the Maple Leafs.