Wings to Start 2003 on Top

For many years the Red Wings have had the tradition of playing a home game on New Year’s Eve. This year, that tradition also fulfilled a goal head coach Dave Lewis had set for his team last month: to be alone atop the NHL standings by the end of 2002. The team set to work, outplaying the rest of the NHL to gain a 10-1-4 record through the month of December, capping off the month with a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues did manage to score first, 4:20 into the game. Sean Avery had been sent to the penalty box for slashing, leaving Detroit shorthanded. Pavol Demitra faked a shot from the right point and passed across to Doug Weight. Weight made a pass across the goal crease, and Keith Tkachuk tipped it past Curtis Joseph.

Avery made up for his penalty later on, with 6:48 remaining in the first period. Mathieu Dandenault, playing in his first game back after missing time with an orbital fracture, made a good play to hold the puck in at the St. Louis blue line, then shot the puck towards the net. Avery got his stick on the flying puck to angle it underneath goaltender Brent Johnson.

The Wings-Blues rivalry generally leads to some intense play and not a few penalties, so it should come as no surprise that the first period ended in fights. Tyson Nash was so irritated by Avery that he lost his temper and started the fight, while Reed Low threw a punch at Tomas Holmstrom, who isn’t really one to start a fight, but doesn’t seem to mind finishing one. The combatants were all given roughing minors, and Nash and Holmstrom each picked up an extra ten-minute misconduct.

The Red Wings increased their lead in the second period with two more goals from not-so-likely sources. The first came on the power play, with Low back in the box for high-sticking. Jason Woolley shot the puck on net from the left point, and Darren McCarty tipped it past Johnson to take the lead.

Goal number three came just after a penalty on Corey Stillman had ended, but before Stillman could really get back to the play. Dmitri Bykov shot the puck from the blue line, and Kirk Maltby redirected it past Johnson, who was already sliding the other way.

Brendan Shanahan put the game away with two goals in the third period. The first came 1:59 into the period. He took the pass from Sergei Fedorov and carried into the Blues’ zone, shooting on Johnson just as he crossed the blue line. Johnson had the puck in his glove, but dropped it. It bounced off of his foot and into the net, signalling the end of the game for the young goaltender. Backup Fred Brathwaite came in to take his place.

The change in goalies didn’t make any difference to Shanahan. His second goal came less than five minutes after his first, during a hooking penalty to Christian Laflamme. Fedorov passed along the blue line to Nicklas Lidstrom at the right point. Brathwaite was out of position, angled to stop any possible shots from Lidstrom. Meanwhile, Shanahan was open on the left side, and Lidstrom saw it. The pass came across, and Shanahan one-timed it into the wide-open net.

Joseph made 29 nice saves on 30 shots, for a 96.67% save percentage. Johnson stopped 12 of the 15 he faced, and Brathwaite stopped 5 of 6.

The Red Wings will play their first game of 2003 on Friday against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Pavel Datsyuk and Jesse Wallin are both expected to be cleared to return to the lineup sometime in the next week…. Maltby’s goal was his 10th of the season, passing his total for last season and keeping him right on pace for what could be a 20-goal season…. The Red Wings are scoring almost as many goals as they did last season, but the scoring is much more spread out across the team. Seventeen different players contributed at least one goal during the month of December.

Wings and Stars Tie Again

The Red Wings and the Dallas Stars are quite possibly the two most evenly matched teams in the NHL right now. Their previous three meetings all ended in ties, and this fourth and last meeting of the regular season ended the same way, a 2-2 overtime decision.

Tomas Holmstrom, who has played remarkably well paired with Sean Avery and Boyd Devereaux, opened the scoring just over a minute into the game. Chris Chelios shot on net from the blue line. Goalie Marty Turco was out of position from making the first save, and Holmstrom was able to flip the rebound high into the net.

The Stars had plenty of scoring chances of their own through the first period, most notably the 41 seconds of 5-on-3 play they gained with overlapping penalties to Sergei Fedorov and Maxim Kuznetsov. Kris Draper, Chris Chelios, and Nicklas Lidstrom did a good job of blocking shots before they could get through to Curtis Joseph.

Dallas did manage to score on a regular 5-on-4 penalty near the end of the period. Mike Modano‘s shot had Joseph sliding one way to make the block, and Jere Lehtinen was able to put the rebound into the net with a quick shot.

The Red Wings scored a power play goal of their own early in the second period to regain the lead. Again, the goal came through Holmstrom’s hard work. Jason Woolley took a shot from the left point. Holmstrom was able to deflect the puck in from in front of the net, even though Darryl Sydor was trying to shove him out of the way.

The Stars scored a controversial goal a few minutes later to even the game. Video replay later showed that an icing call should have been made, as Lidstrom touched the puck before the Dallas player did, but the linesman didn’t see it and waved off the call. That led directly to Niko Kapanen’s shot which Brenden Morrow tipped in for the equalizer.

The third period was intense on both sides. Play went repeatedly end to end, with neither team able to get more than one shot away before the defensemen or the goalies pounced on the rebounds. The overtime went just the same way. The Red Wings had a good chance to make the win when Scott Young was sent out for high sticking with just 2:21 left in overtime. They did set up some good chances, but then Brendan Shanahan was penalized for holding the stick, which gave the teams 1:01 of 3-on-3 play, followed by 20 seconds of Dallas power play time to close the game and the regular season series.

The final count of shots on net was 29-28 in Detroit’s favor. The Red Wings next game will be at home on New Year’s Eve against the St. Louis Blues.

Holmstrom’s goals were his 8th and 9th of the season. Last season, he scored only 8 total…. Coach Dave Lewis was full of praise for his fourth line of Holmstrom, Avery, and Devereaux. “They played a very good game again,” he said after yesterday’s win over Nashville. “They’re maximizing their minutes and contributing goals.”…. The point gained from the tie with the Stars gives the Red Wings a total of 50 points and puts them in sole possession of first place in the NHL standings.

Legace, Cujo Lead Wings Over Predators

History seemed to repeat itself for Manny Legace. Last season, he was crashed into and injured in Nashville, in the middle of a well-played game, and the same thing happened to him tonight. Curtis Joseph came in for him and continued the excellent goaltending. At the other end of the ice, Tomas Vokoun and Jan Lasak split the netminding duties less skillfully, and the Red Wings took a 4-2 win over the Predators.

Kris Draper opened the scoring for Detroit 6:02 into the game. Brendan Shanahan took a shot from the left side which went wide and hit the back boards. The puck bounced right out to Draper on the right side of the net, and Draper took just a second to settle it before putting it high past Tomas Vokoun.

The Red Wings got a four minute power play to work with to try and open up their lead when Adam Hall was given a double minor for high-sticking, but Nashville’s penalty kill was efficient enough that the Wings never got a real chance to set up. In fact, Manny Legace had to be sharp to stop David Legwand on a breakaway shot.

The Predators had a great chance of their own when they wound up with just over a minute of five-on-three power play with both Tomas Holmstrom and Chris Chelios in the box. Draper, Kirk Maltby, and Nicklas Lidstrom were the three chosen to defend the net, and they did an excellent job, blocking most of the shots before they could get through. Legace was easily able to handle the ones that did get to him.

Boyd Devereaux increased Detroit’s lead early in the second. Maxim Kuznetsov forced a turnover at Detroit’s blue line and sent the puck ahead to Sean Avery, who carried in to Nashville’s zone. He dropped the puck off for Devereaux, who made a quick wrist shot which deflected off the rear of Kimmo Timonen and past Vokoun.

When Avery faked out both Bill Houlder and Vokoun to score Detroit’s third goal just a few minutes later, that signaled the end of the game for Vokoun. Nashville sent in backup goalie Jan Lasak instead, for his first game this season. Lasak was tested quickly by the Wings, but his teammates got the puck to the other end of the ice. Legwand was pushed off the puck in front of the net, but no one bothered to pick up the puck. Andreas Johansson managed to get in, fake a low, left shot, and then put the puck high to Legace’s right.

The Predators got another shorthanded scoring chance on another four minute penalty, but this one didn’t end so well as the last one. Scott Hartnell got out on a breakaway, but he forgot to stop at the other end and crashed into Legace, kneeing him in the helmet. Legace had to be helped off the ice for examination, and Curtis Joseph came in to take his place.

The Wings used the rest of that four minute power play to score. Lidstrom sent the puck towards the net from the blue line. Brett Hull took a shot at the puck and it deflected high above the net and players. As the puck came back down, Sergei Fedorov slapped it out of the air and into an empty corner of Lasak’s net.

Hartnell scored the Predators’ second goal midway through the third period, on a very similar play to the one he attempted against Legace. His teammates won a faceoff just outside the Detroit blue line, and got the puck back far enough to spring Hartnell. He crashed the net again, this time getting the puck in before he knocked the goalie down. Chelios took exception to Hartnell’s tendency to bulldoze goaltenders (once might be an accident, but twice in one game?), and both of them served time for roughing each other up twice before the end of the game. Both times, Chelios received double minors while Hartnell received only the single roughing calls.

The final count of shots on net was 35-23 in favor of Nashville. The Red Wings will play their next game tomorrow night in Dallas against the Stars for their fourth meeting of the season. The previous three have all ended in ties.

Nick Lidstrom‘s assist on Sergei Fedorov’s goal was the 500th of his NHL career… Team doctors reported that Manny Legace was more dazed and shaken up than anything else after being run over by Scott Hartnell. They plan to run more tests, but they feel he should be fine.

More of the Same Against Columbus

For once, a Red Wings game against the Columbus Blue Jackets was not decided by only one goal. The teams were feisty again, and the goaltending was excellent again, but this one ended as a 4-2 Wings victory.

Tomas Holmstrom opened the scoring in the early going, just 2:50 into the first period. Boyd Devereaux took a shot off of Patrick Boileau’s pass. It rebounded off the blocker of Marc Denis, and Holmstrom was able to tap it past Denis while falling.

Mike Sillinger scored a shorthanded goal to tie the game 8:49 into the period. He broke free on a two-on-one rush. Henrik Zetterberg was able to get in between and take away the possibility of a passing play, but Sillinger pulled Curtis Joseph to the left just enough to give himself space on the right side to put the puck in the net.

Holmstrom took advantage of a bad clearing attempt by the Blue Jackets to regain the lead for Detroit just a few minutes later. The Columbus defenseman poke checked the puck away from Nicklas Lidstrom, but it didn’t pass the blue line. Holmstrom was the last Detroit player back, and he was able to get the puck, fake out Denis, and bang the puck into the net.

Jason Woolley scored the eventual game winning goal late in the first. Brett Hull set up a centering pass from the left boards, and Woolley sneaked in to slap the puck past Denis from the high slot.

There was no scoring in the second period, but there was a fair bit of hitting. Sean Avery seemed to be the preferred target of the Blue Jackets, and he of course returned the hits in kind.

Columbus scored again early in the third. Max Kuznetsov had trouble handling a pass at his own blue line, and Geoff Sanderson and Sillinger got in with the puck onside. Sillinger passed to Sanderson, then got the puck back, and put it in past Joseph.

The Blue Jackets tried to use their momentum from that goal to come back and tie the game, but the Red Wings really shut down defensively after that, allowing only four shots on net through the whole period. Columbus made their final bid for a tied game in the last minute when they pulled Denis to send in the extra skater, but they weren’t able to get enough control of the puck to get a scoring chance. Brett Hull got the puck just to the Columbus side of center, and even though he was being hooked by Derrick Walser, he made a good backhand shot which sailed down the ice and into the empty net to put the game away.

The final count of shots on net was 34-26 in Detroit’s favor. The Red Wings play their next game on Saturday night, when they travel to Nashville to face the Predators.

Patrick Boileau’s assist on Tomas Holmstrom’s first goal was the first of his NHL career…. Brett Hull’s goal moved him within eight of becoming only the sixth player in league history to score 700 career goals.

The Real Cujo Returns in Shutout of Columbus

Curtis Joseph made his return to the net against the Columbus Blue Jackets after sitting out two games, and he was more than ready to go. “It’s been a week; it feels like it’s been three weeks,” he told reporters. Whether it was the rest or the determination not to be pulled again, or a combination thereof, Joseph looked like his old, all-star self in net, stopping 33 good shots and letting the Red Wings take a 1-0 win.

It was a very different game from the 6-4 end the Red Wings and Blue Jackets played to just ten nights ago. This time, both teams worked hard to create scoring chances and outwork each others’ defense. Columbus looked like a team that should be higher in the standings than it is (they have 29 points for fourth place in the Central Division), and the Red Wings responded to their opponents’ enthusiasm with hard play of their own. Joseph and Columbus goalie Marc Denis were both phenomenal, turning aside scoring chances with seeming ease.

Sean Avery, Boyd Devereaux, and Tomas Holmstrom had an excellent game together. Their line did not score, but they did a great job of getting scoring chances and wreaking havoc among the Columbus defenders every time they were out on the ice. Maxim Kuznetsov, paired with Chris Chelios, made himself noticed with solid defensive play for most of the game.

Luc Robitaille “almost” scored a power play goal early in the second period. The puck was under the goaltender’s leg pads, but the referee did not call it a goal, no official deemed it worthy of review, and play continued. Later enhanced video replay showed that the puck had actually crossed the goal line, but by then it was too late to go back and allow the goal.

Avery ended the second period with a fight with Duvie Westcott. Westcott was given a game misconduct and thrown out of the game because he didn’t have his jersey strapped down properly, which gave him an unfair fighting advantage.

Kris Draper finally got the Red Wings on the board with only 4:27 left to play in the second period. Brendan Shanahan got the puck free along the left boards, then turned fired it at Denis while skating back towards the blue line. Denis bobbled the save, and Draper was in just the right place to slap the rebound into the net for his fourth goal of the season.

The Blue Jackets came on even stronger then. Joseph continued to come up huge, stopping two hard shots by Geoff Sanderson and keeping the lead for Detroit. Columbus got a break with 33 seconds left. Draper was sent to the box for obstruction holding, and the Blue Jackets pulled Denis for another skater and a 6-on-4 advantage. The Red Wings, however, kept control of the puck and didn’t even let the Blue Jackets get another shot on net with their manpower advantage.

Final shots on net were 33-28 in favor of Columbus. These two teams will meet again on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena to finish out their home-and-home series.

Brendan Shanahan’s assist extended his point streak to six games…. Columbus’s Andrew Cassels left the game after the second period because of a hyperextended elbow…. Pavel Datsyuk skated before the team practice yesterday with a brace on his knee. The team expects him to return sometime in mid-January…. Steve Yzerman also skated, and took part in three-on-three practice scrimmages. Coach Dave Lewis said that Yzerman looked the best he had since his knee surgery.

Rangers Hit Hard, Lose Anyway

It isn’t for nothing that the New York Rangers have a reputation as a team of high-paid thugs. They gave the Red Wings seven power plays during the game (the first time in awhile that the Wings have had more power plays than their opponent), and there was still more hitting going on that was not called by the game officials. They also happen to be a team of thugs with some highly skilled individuals, but the Red Wings held on to gain a 3-2 win.

Detroit had a 2-0 lead before the first period was even half gone. Igor Larionov broke the team’s three game power play scoring drought while Tom Poti was in the box for high-sticking. Brett Hull got the puck after it slipped away from the faceoff, and sent it back to Nick Lidstrom at the blue line. Lidstrom then passed it through a screen of players up to Larionov near the corner of the net, and Larionov scooped it in over Mike Dunham.

Lidstrom gave the team a two goal lead just over two minutes later. Sergei Fedorov was carrying the puck and looked as if he would turn and shoot on net, but instead he left it for Lidstrom, who let loose a hard slapshot. Dunham was partly screened by his own defenseman Poti, and couldn’t see the puck until it rattled past him.

The Rangers came back within one early in the second period. Eric Lindros shoved Kirk Maltby into Manny Legace in the goal crease, and before Legace could get back in place, Vladimir Malakhov had banked the puck into the net.

The Red Wings seemed to be a little thrown off by giving up their goal, and their defense slipped somewhat through the second period. The Rangers generated more scoring chances, but Legace was ready for each one, and New York seemed unable to get to the rebounds to get the second shots away.

The Red Wings came back in the third period. Brendan Shanahan increased the team’s lead back to two with another power play goal. He sent the puck behind the net to Larionov. Larionov centered it back out front, and Shanahan got it back and put the shot high over Dunham’s shoulder.

One of the multiple scrums of the night seemed about to lead to an all-out fight between Sean Avery and Billy Tibbets, but Tibbets pulled a dirty trick and tried to choke Avery with the strap of his own helmet. The two were separated, and both were given two minute roughing minors.

The Rangers came back within one with 6:31 left to play. Jason Woolley had been sent to the penalty box for a roughing call. The Red Wings cleared the puck out of the zone, but Malakhov carried it back in and let fly a well-placed shot from the left point. The puck just barely brushed the shoulder of Legace’s jersey as it sailed into the net.

When Darren McCarty and Matthew Barnaby were given coincidental roughing penalties with less than two minutes to play, the Rangers pulled Dunham so they could have a five-on-four advantage. The Red Wings managed to control the play and cycle the puck so that the Rangers never got a clear shot on Legace, and the game ended 3-2.

Legace made 29 saves on 31 shots in his second straight start to improve his season record to 5-1-2-1. Dunham made 29 saves on 32 shots.

The Red Wings next game will be Monday night in Columbus, the first game of a home-and-home series against the Blue Jackets.

This was the Red Wings’ seventh straight win against the Rangers…. Patrick Boileau played in his second game of the season in place of Jesse Wallin, who is still out with an injured elbow. Boileau played a quiet, solid game and came out even in the plus-minus category.

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