19,344 people, the largest crowd ever to watch a hockey game in the state of Minnesota, gathered at the Xcel Energy Center to watch the Minnesota Wild attempt to defend their season-long unbeaten streak against the Detroit Red Wings. The Wild fans went home disappointed, because the Red Wings had other ideas, eventually gaining a 5-3 victory.
Minnesota opened the scoring early in the first period. Wes Walz took advantage of a defensive mistake by rookie Dmitri Bykov and got the puck away on a two-on-two rush. Sergei Fedorov dropped to the ice to take away the passing lane, but Walz instead deked around Fedorov and put the puck into the net through Curtis Joseph‘s five-hole.
The Wild increased their lead about six minutes later. Antti Laaksonen and Bill Muckalt got away another two-on-two rush against Bykov and Nick Lidstrom, Laaksonen passed across to Muckalt, and Muckalt’s hard shot found its way past Joseph.
Things seemed to go from bad to worse for the Red Wings when Kirk Maltby took a penalty for roughing. The penalty killing unit did its work well, and sent the puck down to the Wild’s end of the ice. Nick Schultz went to retrieve it, but he was forced to make a pass without looking with Henrik Zetterberg there to pressure him. To Schultz’s dismay, the errant pass landed right on the stick of Brett Hull, and Hull’s powerful one-time shot went right through goalie Dwayne Roloson.
The Wings surged back then, taking control of the game and cutting down the Wild’s chances to score. Bykov gained his first NHL assist by giving the puck to Kris Draper so that Draper could set up a one-time goal by Darren McCarty, and Lidstrom scored a power play goal to put Detroit into the lead. Fedorov passed along the blue line to Lidstrom at the left point, and Lidstrom’s shot deflected off the stick of Laaksonen and into the net.
Laaksonen tied the game back up early in the second period, on another two-on-two rush. Jiri Fischer tried to take the puck away from Laaksonen, but Laaksonen got the shot away first, and it went into the net high past Joseph’s catching glove.
McCarty put the Wings back in the lead to stay before too long. McCarty pushed to the front of the net. Draper threw the puck at the net from the right half-boards, and McCarty knocked it out of the air to bounce it off Roloson’s helmet and into the net.
Detroit settled the game down in the third period, holding the Wild to only four shots against Joseph. Boyd Devereaux had a good breakaway scoring chance, and the Grind Line continued its steady pressure in the Wild’s zone, but the Wings were careful not to take any unnecessary chances with only a one-goal lead. The Wild did not pull their goaltender for an extra attacker in the final minute, even though they had two faceoffs in Detroit’s zone, but Zetterberg scored into a nearly empty net anyway. Fedorov got the puck away from Minnesota’s attack and took off with it, Zetterberg keeping up on his left. Fedorov made the pass, and Zetterberg tried to pass it back, since Roloson came across to challenge Zetterberg’s shot, but the pass never got through to Fedorov. Instead, the puck hit the skate blade of Filip Kuba and slid into the net to guarantee the Red Wings’ victory with 25 seconds left in the game.
Shots on net were thirty-seven to twenty-two in favor of Detroit. The Red Wings scored on one of their three power plays, bringing their power play to 30% for the season. Detroit’s next game will be at home against the Calgary Flames on Monday night.
Detroit’s three shorthanded goals leads the NHL….Jesse Wallin made his season debut, while Max Kuznetsov sat this game out. Wallin played a responsible game, paired with Mathieu Dandenault for most of his time on the ice, and ended with a rating of +1.