Some Games Are Easier Than Others

In theory, it should have been an easy victory. The Red Wings, with the best road record in the League, should have romped right over the Florida Panthers, who have the League’s worst home record. And in almost every aspect of the game, the Red Wings outplayed the Panthers, all except for one- goals for. Goaltender Roberto Luongo played an amazing game, almost single-handedly carrying his team before finally giving up the game winning goal in overtime, letting the Red Wings breathe a sigh of relief at their 3-2 victory.

The Red Wings outplayed the Panthers by a considerable margin through the first period, outshooting them 11-5, but it was the Panthers who took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

Just as a Detroit power play was ending, Nicholas Hagman brought the puck out through center, accompanied by two of his Florida teammates. Brad Ference stepped out of the box and joined the rush, giving the Panthers a four-on-two. Hagman passed neatly to Christian Huselius, who got ahead of the Red Wings’ defensemen and put the puck past Dominik Hasek for the goal.

Florida scored again only eighteen seconds into the second period. The Panthers controlled the opening faceoff, and Valeri Bure brought the puck into Detroit’s zone. He delayed passing until the last second, drawing Hasek towards him. Bure then passed across to Sandis Ozolinsh, and Hasek was not able to get back across the front of the net in time to stop Ozolinsh from putting the puck into the net.

The Red Wings shelled Luongo with shots for the rest of the second period, but were unable to score until the period was nearly halfway over, while Byron Ritchie was in the penalty box for holding. Nick Lidstrom passed the puck to Brett Hull at the right point, who passed up to Luc Robitaille standing by the side of the net. Robitaille made a backhand shot and put the puck in high on the far side of Luongo.

Detroit continued its domination of the game, but Luongo played the game of his life, setting a new Panthers franchise record by stopping an amazing fifty-seven shots and keeping the Red Wings trailing by one.

The Red Wings kept coming, and finally Robitaille tied the game with just over two minutes left in regulation play. Detroit got a lucky break when Bill Lindsay took a penalty, and they managed to control the puck in the Panthers’ end. Hull faked a shot from the blue line, and passed instead to Robitaille at the right face-off circle. Robitaille’s one-timed wrist shot lifted over Luongo and into the net.

Both teams came on hard in the overtime period, but it was Pavel Datsyuk who made the winning goal happen. He pulled the puck out from a tangle of players along the boards and headed for the net, sneaking past Olli Jokinen and sending the pass back right to Hull. Hull fired hard, and finally put one past Luongo.

The Red Wings next game will be Saturday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Igor Larionov sat out this game with a sore leg, which gave Jason Williams a chance to play. Hull’s goal was his one-hundredth game winning goal.

Broken Thumb No Hindrance For Shanny

Brendan Shanahan, despite his injured thumb, scored two goals to lead the Red Wings past the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3 in overtime.

The Red Wings came on strong in the first period, picking up right where they left off before the Olympic break. After a few defensive lapses, they pulled together and shelled Tampa Bay goaltender Kevin Weekes, putting sixteen shots on net on the first as opposed to the Lightning’s six. Weekes, however, was strong and steady, and the Red Wings couldn’t put the puck past him until they had a power play chance.

Juha Ylonen was sent to the box for tripping with only 4:23 left in the period. The After Tampa Bay’s first clearing attempt, Nick Lidstrom shot the puck deep into the zone, and it bounced off the back boards to Weekes. Weekes let the puck slip away and fell down, and Sergei Fedorov flipped it high into the net.

Tampa Bay scored only thirty seconds into the second period when Vaclav Prospal stuffed a rebound from Ben Clymer’s shot past Dominik Hasek, and the momentum from that equalizing goal inspired them to increase their offensive play considerably. Hasek recovered after the first goal, and the Red Wings were beginning to take back control, when the penalties started.

For over nine minutes, the Red Wings and Lightning were on continuous, alternating, overlapping penalty kills, beginning when Mathieu Dandenault was called for slashing at 16:04. Even a penalty shot by Dan Boyle was not able to score against Hasek. The penalty parade finally ended when Dave Andreychuk was able to score on a rebound at 6:58, putting the Lightning up by one.

Brendan Shanahan brought the Red Wings back in with another power play goal with 3:42 left in the period. Luc Robitaille brought the puck deep into the Lightning’s zone and passed directly across the goal crease. Shanahan flipped it high into the net.

The Lightning started off strong in the third period as well. At one point, a rebounded puck got past Hasek, who had come out of the net to stop the first shot. The rebound was part of the way across the goal line, but Jiri Fischer kicked it out just before it would have been a goal for Tampa Bay.

Jimmie Olvestad scored for the Lightning midway through the period. Fedorov tried to pass the puck from behind the Red Wings’ net, but Olvestad intercepted the pass and sent the puck past Hasek.

The Wings came back less than two minutes later. Tomas Holmstrom‘s shot rebounded to Freddy Olausson, who passed across to Robitaille. “Lucky Luc” slid the puck past Weekes to score the equalizing goal.

Tampa Bay continued their pressure through the rest of the period and into the overtime, but the Red Wings took back control when it was important. Chris Chelios shot the puck from the blue line, and it bounced off the back boards to Shanahan in the right corner. Shanahan fired the puck from the goal line, and it banked off Weekes and into the net with 2:05 left in the overtime.

Steve Yzerman‘s knee became sore during the Olympics, and he is expected to be out of the lineup for two to three weeks. Sean Avery will be playing center until Yzerman returns. Pavel Datsyuk sat out tonight’s game with the flu. The coaching staff plans to recall Jason Williams from Cincinnati to play until Datsyuk is feeling better.

Canadians Win Olympic Gold

For the first time in fifty years, the Canadian men’s ice hockey team has brought the gold medal back to the country that invented the sport.

The Canadiens defeated Team USA, 5-2, on Sunday, capping their gold-medal run in the most-watched hockey game in history. The loss snapped the USA’s seventy-year winning streak on home ice.

Paul Kariya and Jarome Iginla scored less than four minutes apart late in the first period to pull Canada into the lead. Tony Amonte had scored midway through the period to put the United States on the board.

American Brian Rafalski scored with less than five minutes remaining in the second period to tie the game at two goals each. Joe Sakic converted on a power play just under three minutes later to pull the Canadians into the lead for good.

Team USA didn’t give up and only Canadian goaltender Martin Brodeur preserved the lead with key saves in the third period.

Iginla scored his second goal to put the game away by redirecting a shot from the point by Steve Yzerman past American goalie Mike Richter late in the third.

Sakic added his second goal of the game with just over one minute remaining when he carried the puck through the American defense and ripped a shot past Richter.

The gold medal is Canada’s first Olympic medal since the team won the silver in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway. The silver medal is the United States’ first medal since the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” at Lake Placid. It is their first silver since 1972 in Sapporo.

Seven Red Wings will come back to Detroit with Olympic medals. Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan won gold with Canada; Chris Chelios and Brett Hull claimed silver with the United States; and Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov and Pavel Datsyuk got the bronze with Russia.

Americans, Canadians Battle for Gold

The puck drops this afternoon on what is likely the biggest hockey game in decades as Team USA faces off against Team Canada for the Olympic gold medal.

“This is the greatest thing that has happened for a long, long time,” Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky said Saturday. “This will be the most-watched hockey game in the world — ever.”

For Team Canada, it is a chance to bring a gold medal back to the country that invented the sport for the first time since 1952.

For Team USA, it is the opportunity to relive the country’s most cherished sports moment, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.”

The United States has a 24-5 scoring advantage through five games (4-0-1).

But if the game is low scoring and one goal means the difference between gold and silver, Canada has some of the finest scorers ever in Lemieux and Yzerman.

“They know us, we know them,” Brooks said. “There are no secrets in this one.”

Gretzky can only guess at the letdown Canada will feel if it comes this close to winning, only to lose to (oh, no) the United States — or, conversely, the elation if it wins.

“Nobody remembers who wins the silver,” he said.

Swedes Stunned

The Swedish men’s Olympic hockey team suffered a stunning upset today with a 4-3 loss to Belarus after going unbeaten in the previous round of Olympic play.

The Belarussians never trailed in the game, the first of the medal round. Tied at three with 2:24 remaining in regulation, defenseman Vladimir Kopat let loose an eighty-foot slap shot that deflected off Swedish netminder Tommy Salo’s facemask and glove and dropped in behind him for the goal. Kopat, who hadn’t scored in the tournament, slid across the ice on his stomach in celebration.

The Swedes pulled Salo in the waning moments of the game but were unable to even the score. Belorussian goalie Andrei Mezin made forty-four saves to earn the victory, while Salo stopped only fifteen of the nineteen shots he faced.

The medal round continues today with Russia playing the Czech Republic, the United States facing Germany, and Canada going up against Finland.

With the elimination of the Swedes, only eight Red Wings remain in Olympic competition. Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan are with Canada; Igor Larionov, Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Datsyuk are with Russia; Chris Chelios and Brett Hull are with the United States; and Dominik Hasek is in goal for the Czech Republic.

Congratulations, Scotty Bowman!

The Red Wings gave Scotty Bowman a gift before leaving for the Olympic break: their 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild was Bowman’s 400th win as Detroit’s head coach.

The first period went quickly- there were few stoppages in play and only one penalty stop for a pair of offsetting roughing calls on Tomas Holmstrom and Jason Marshall. Both teams had quality scoring chances, but goaltenders Dominik Hasek and Dwayne Roloson kept the game scoreless.

Both the Red Wings and the Wild allowed shorthanded scoring chances during the few penalties in the second. The first goal of the game, though, came at even strength, with just over three minutes left in the second period. Luc Robitaille carried the puck low into the Minnesota zone and passed it behind the net to Steve Yzerman. Yzerman angled a pass in front of the net to Kirk Maltby, who slapped the puck past Roloson.

The Wild made very little attempt to outplay the Wings in the third, even though they were down by only one goal. Aside from some Minnesota breakaways notable only because of the great saves Hasek made to keep the puck out of the net, Detroit controlled the play.

The Red Wings put the game away with 2:38 left to play. Yzerman carried the puck from the left corner back towards the blue line, then sent a superb pass across the rink right to the stick of Mathieu Dandenault. Dandenault lifted the puck high and sent it into the net past Roloson.

Rather than risk the Wild pulling their goaltender and possibly sending the game to overtime with the aid of a sixth skater, the Red Wings kept tight control of the puck in center ice and in the Minnesota zone, and got the win to carry them into the Olympic break.

Shots on net were twenty-four to twenty-one in Detroit’s favor. The Red Wings’ will resume the season on February 26, when they go to play the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A total of eleven players from Detroit’s active roster, along with one prospect, will be representing their teams in the Olympics: Chris Chelios and Brett Hull for the USA, Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan for Canada, Igor Larionov, Sergei Fedorov, and Pavel Datsyuk for Russia, Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, and Freddy Olausson, as well as prospect Henrik Zetterberg (currently playing in the Swedish Elite League) for Sweden, and Dominik Hasek for the Czech Republic. This is more Olympians than any other team in the NHL.

Hasek’s fourth shutout of the season is the sixtieth of his career, making him the shutout leader among active goaltenders. Center Brent Gilchrist, placed on waivers to make room in the lineup for rookie Sean Avery, was taken today by the Dallas Stars. Manny Legace did not back up for this game due to a strained hip flexor; the backup goalie position was filled by Jason Elliott.

Stars Claim Gilchrist

When Brent Gilchrist was placed on waivers on Monday to make room for Steve Yzerman‘s return to the lineup, he knew it likely signaled the end of his career as a Red Wing. Today, that was made certain as he was claimed by the Dallas Stars.

Gilchrist had been with the Red Wings since the summer of 1997 and won the Stanley Cup with them in 1998. Prior to that he played with the Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers and Dallas.

Prior to being claimed by the stars, Gilchrist had stated, “It could work out for me really well. I could get a lot of ice time.”

Dallas made room for Gilchrist by waiving defenseman Dave Manson, who was aquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this season.

Playing Out the Dramatic Ending

Original Six matchups generally bring out a strong sense of rivalry in both teams, and this matchup was no exception. It took the full sixty minutes of play, but the Red Wings defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2.

The first period was marked by excellent goaltending at both ends of the ice. Dominik Hasek and Jose Theodore were both called upon to make amazing saves for their teams, keeping the score at zero for the first twenty minutes. The game had a swift flow to it, and play went end to end with quality scoring chances for both teams.

The Red Wings started to open up the offense in the second period, and it paid off for Sergei Fedorov. The Canadiens had the puck in Detroit’s zone, and Jiri Fischer moved to block a shot. The puck hit his leg and slid the other way, up the right wing side, and Fedorov went speeding after it. He gathered it up just inside Montreal’s blue line, and fired a sharp wrist shot which went beneath the legs of Theodore.

Detroit had a power play chance a few moments later, when Stefane Robidas was sent off for high-sticking. The power play unit kept good control of the puck, passing cleanly and keeping the puck away from the Montreal defenders. Nick Lidstrom passed along the blue line to Brendan Shanahan, who faked a shot to draw the defensemen towards him, then snapped a pass across to Fedorov at the right side. Fedorov put a hard shot past Theodore, who was being screened by Luc Robitaille.

Hasek continued to make save after save, but the Canadiens finally put one past him with 8:56 left in the third period. Montreal dumped the puck into Detroit’s zone and Doug Gilmour regained control of it behind the net. He angled a pass in front of the goal crease, and Oleg Petrov was on hand to stuff it into the net.

The Canadiens scored once more to tie the game with just over three minutes remaining. In a very similar play to the one that gave them their first zone, Sergei Berezin put a pass in front of the net, and Yannic Perreault was able to tip it past Hasek.

The Red Wings came on hard and strong after that, keeping the play in Montreal’s end of the rink. Shanahan sent an angle pass from the side of the net to Chris Chelios waiting out front. The shot by Chelios was kicked wide, but the puck came right back to Shanahan, who fired on net from the right corner. The puck banked off Theodore and into the net, giving Shanahan the game-winning goal with under fourteen seconds left on the clock.

Shots on net were thirty-four to twenty-three in favor of Detroit. The Red Wings’ next game, their last before the Olympic break, will be Wednesday night against the Minnesota Wild.

Steve Yzerman played in his first game back after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. If all continues to go as planned, he will be fully able to play for Team Canada in the Olympics. Pavel Datsyuk was added to the lineup of Team Russia today, giving the Red Wings eleven players on the active roster who will be heading to Salt Lake City on Wednesday night.

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