The Los Angeles Kings tried their best to make a comeback, but their best wasn’t good enough to beat Manny Legace. Legace made 14 saves in the third period and 27 saves over all to help the Red Wings hold onto a 3-2 win over the Kings.
The first period started off slowly for both teams. Detroit and Los Angeles both seemed willing to play a more defensive style, protect their goaltenders, and wait for the other team to give up a scoring chance.
Kris Draper put the Red Wings on the scoreboard with his 12th goal of the season late in the period. Darren McCarty tied up the puck in the corner and held off the two Los Angeles players trying to dig it loose until he could slide it out to Kirk Maltby. Maltby set up the pass for Draper, and Draper took a one-time shot which flew into the net over the shoulder of goaltender Jamie Storr.
The Red Wings got a power play chance early in the second period, and it only took 10 seconds for the NHL’s top-ranked power play unit to score a goal. Brendan Shanahan took the blue line pass from Igor Larionov at the left point. Shanahan shot the puck on net. Storr made the save, but Tomas Holmstrom was right in front scrambling for the rebound and distracting the goalie. Meanwhile, Nicklas Lidstrom had come in close to the net, since Shanahan had taken over his normal spot at the left point. The puck slid free to Lidstrom, and he was able to backhand the shot in past Storr.
Henrik Zetterberg increased Detroit’s lead midway through the period. Pavel Datsyuk got the puck out of the corner and banked a centering pass off of a Los Angeles player’s skate. Zetterberg took the pass in front of the crease and lifted a backhand shot which bounced off of Storr’s helmet and into the net.
The Kings’ bench decided to pull Storr out of the game at that point to send in rookie goaltender Cristobal Huet, hoping that it would enliven the team. The Kings did tighten up and play better defense to protect their young goaltender, but the offense didn’t really come alive until 2:50 into the third period. Mathieu Schneider managed to put a hard shot past Legace’s glove, and the Kings suddenly seemed to realize they weren’t out of the game after all.
Legace was forced to make many excellent saves through the third period to hold off the renewed onslaught by Los Angeles. Zigmund Palffy got a breakaway goal past Legace, but Legace denied Palffy the tying goal with an acrobatic leg pad save just a few moments later. The Kings pulled Huet out of the net for the extra attacker in the last minute of play. The Red Wings sent them back to the other end of the rink. The Kings brought the puck back into the Detroit zone in the dying seconds of the game, and Legace made one last save on a hard shot from the right faceoff circle just as the final buzzer sounded.
In the final count, Los Angeles outshot Detroit by a count of 29-18. A full 16 of the Kings’ shots came in the third period. The Red Wings will finish up their road trip with a game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday night.
Steve Yzerman was back in the lineup for this game. He led all forwards in ice time, playing 20:32, and spent time on both the penalty killing and power play units…. Dmitri Bykov also returned to the lineup after missing two games because of an eye injury sustained in the March 5 game against Tampa Bay.