Milestone Not Quite Enough To Win

Sergei Fedorov apparently doesn’t believe in taking a long time to score a milestone goal after scoring the one right before it. He scored the 400th goal of his career today, just two games after scoring his 398th and 399th, but that wasn’t enough to lift the Red Wings over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks took advantage of their opportunities to come out with a 4-3 overtime win, meaning that the Red Wings will finish second in the Western Conference and face the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the first round of the playoffs.

The Red Wings started the game with a lot of energy, and they opened the scoring. Jason Woolley made a pass across the slot to Kirk Maltby. Maltby faked a hard one-time shot from the left circle, but then carried the puck a few steps closer to the middle of the rink before shooting. Rookie goaltender Michael Leighton made the first save, but the rebound came right back to Maltby and he was able to put it into the net.

Luc Robitaille increased the Red Wings’ lead to 2-0 just 23 seconds later. Igor Larionov made a good pass from the right point up to Mathieu Dandenault near the goal line. Dandenault sent the puck across the goal crease, and Robitaille was able to slide it into the net beneath Leighton.

A strange bounce got the Blackhawks back into the game. Eric Daze made a pass from behind the net which bounced off Alexei Zhamnov before landing on the stick blade of Nathan Dempsey. Dempsey shot the puck on net. Daze had come back out front, and the puck hit the heel of his skate as it passed through. The puck deflected up and over the shoulder of Curtis Joseph.

The Blackhawks came on a lot more strongly in the second period, applying much offensive pressure in the Red Wings’ zone. Joseph made some excellent saves to hold the lead for his team.

The Blackhawks got even with a power play goal early in the third period. Steve Sullivan made a wraparound scoring attempt to Joseph’s right. Joseph stopped that one easily enough, but the rebound came out to Igor Radulov right in front of the goal crease. Radulov was able to flip the puck in to the empty side of the net.

Fedorov’s goal came with 8:15 left to play. The Red Wings were shorthanded due to a tripping penalty agaisnt Patrick Boileau, but Mathieu Schneider made a clearing pass that sent Fedorov flying up the ice on a full breakaway. Fedorov took a hard wrist shot which sailed into the net past Leighton’s goal stick.

The lead was shortlived, however. Daze scored another strange goal 1:14 later to tie the game back up. He took a shot which bounced off the goalpost, off the back of Joseph’s arm, and back into the net.

Kris Draper thought that he had regained the lead a few minutes later, but the video review showed that the puck had been kicked into the net, and the goal was disallowed.

The game went to overtime, and Tyler Arnason was able to score the game winning goal with 2:50 left, thus ending the regular season and sending the Red Wings home to get ready for the playoffs.

The final count of shots on net was 35 to 30 in favor of Detroit. The first round playoff schedule will be released by the NHL on Monday. The Red Wings’ first game could be either Wednesday or Thursday against the Mighty Ducks.

The First Round Matchups

Eastern Conference:
#1 Ottawa vs. #8 NY Islanders
#2 New Jersey vs. #7 Boston
#3 Tampa Bay vs. #6 Washington
#4 Philadelphia vs. #5 Toronto

Western Conference:
#1 Dallas vs. #8 Edmonton
#2 Detroit vs. #7 Anaheim
#3 Colorado vs. #6 Minnesota
#4 Vancouver vs. #5 St. Louis

Wings & Jackets Battle To 5-5 Tie

The President’s Trophy may be out of reach now, but the top spot in the Western Conference is still within grasp. The one point the Red Wings gained in tonight’s 5-5 tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets ties Detroit with Dallas for first seed.

On paper and by the numbers, it looked as if the Red Wings should be able to romp right over the Blue Jackets. Yet Columbus consistently plays their very best games against Detroit, and tonight was certainly no exception.

David Vyborny opened the scoring for Columbus just 2:39 into the game. He was up ice on a three on two rush with Andrew Cassels and Geoff Sanderson. Sanderson sent the pass across, and Vyborny was able to lift it high into the net before Manny Legace could slide across to block the shot.

Cassels scored next for Columbus, midway through the period. He picked the puck away from Mathieu Dandenault at the Columbus blue line, then carried up through center. Cassels shot from the Red Wings’ blue line and the puck flew into the net.

Tyler Wright increased the Blue Jacket’s lead to three goals early in the second period. Rick Nash had three Red Wings covering him, but he managed to get the puck away to Vyborny, who gave it to Wright. Wright was all alone in front of the net and he was able to lift the puck high over Legace.

Kris Draper took away some of the Blue Jackets’ momentum. Darren McCarty made the pass crossing the blue line. Draper carried the puck up the right side and snapped a shot on net. The puck went off the far goalpost and in past Marc Denis.

The Red Wings got a power play shortly after that, on a holding call to Duvie Westcott. Sergei Fedorov shot the puck on net. Tomas Holmstrom scooped it away from Denis and tossed it over to the side of the crease, where Brendan Shanahan had plenty of empty space to slap the puck into the net.

Legace made a huge save on Vyborny on the very next shift to keep the Wings within one, and Denis answered with an equally huge save on Fedorov. Ray Whitney was the one to increase the Blue Jackets’ lead to 4-2. He carried the puck into the zone past Dmitri Bykov and took a hard shot which brushed the top of Legace’s blocker on its way through to the net.

Brett Hull brought the Red Wings back within one early in the third. Pavel Datsyuk made the pass from the slot area to the left boards, and Hull wristed the shot off both goalposts and into the net. The momentum swing was short-lived, unfortunately. Just a minute later, Lasse Pirjeta was able to get the rebound from a mad scramble in front of the Detroit net and slide it into the net beneath Legace’s ankle.

Kirk Maltby added a goal with 4:01 left to play, just aafter a Detroit power play had ended. He came over the boards, took the puck at center, and skated right through the standing Columbus skaters to backhand the puck past Denis.

The shots came in a flurry after that. With 1:22 remaining, Detroit called a timeout and pulled Legace out of the net to send in six skaters. The Blue Jackets thought that Vyborny scored into the empty net with 0:41 remaining, but the goal was waved off because the referee had been blowing his whistle to stop the play beforehand due to player injury. Shanahan had been hit in the mouth by the puck and had dropped to the ice.

The tying goal finally came with just 0:12 left to play. Fedorov passed the puck from the right corner to Hull along the opposite boards. Hull threw it out into the slot for Datsyuk, and Datysuk slapped it into the net past Denis.

Given the intense pace of the last few minutes of regulation, the overtime started quietly. Each team took only two shots on net in the extra five minutes. Maltby and Wright got into a scuffle in front of the Columbus net with just under a minute to play, but nothing came of it, and the game ended in a 5-5 tie.

Each team had 35 shots on net. Detroit was 1 for 5 on the power play; Columbus was 0 for 3. The Red Wings will close out the regular season on Sunday afternoon with a matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Denis set a new record for minutes played in a season. He had 4451 at the end of this game, passing Martin Brodeur‘s record of 4439 set in the 1995-96 season…. Shanahan’s goal was his 30th of the season and the 533rd of his career, tying him with Frank Mahovlich for 22nd on the all-time goal scorers list…. Hull is now just one goal away from tying Phil Esposito for 4th place on the goal scorers list…. The Red Wings are now tied with the Stars with 109 points each. If the two teams are still tied for points after their final games on Sunday, the Red Wings will take first spot because they have the higher number of wins. The Ottawa Senators have 111 points, but they also have 51 wins to the Red Wings’ 48 and the Stars’ 45, so the Senators will be awarded the President’s Trophy.

Wings Spoil Islanders’ Plans

The New York Islanders will have to wait for another day to clinch the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Red Wings, fueled by two goals from Sergei Fedorov and timely saves from Curtis Joseph, moved two points closer to top spot in the West with a 5-2 win over the Islanders in the last regular season game at Joe Louis Arena.

Fedorov opened the scoring less than three minutes into the game. Brendan Shanahan made a good pass to Fedorov flying up the middle of the ice. Fedorov split between two Islanders defenseman and backhanded a shot right through young goalie Rick DiPietro. “It was great for us to get the first goal, because those guys are fighting for a playoff spot,” Fedorov said.

Joseph maintained his team’s fragile lead after a miscue by the Wings’ defense allowed the Islanders to charge in on net. With a flying poke check, Joseph knocked the puck away, then scrambled out of the crease after it, grabbing it and covering it up near the top of the left faceoff circle to force the stop in play.

Kris Draper increased Detroit’s lead to two goals with 12:44 left in the first. Kirk Maltby centered a pass to Draper from the right boards, and Draper tipped it in from right in front of the goal crease. It didn’t look like much of a scoring chance, but DiPietro had come out of the net to play the puck away from Darren McCarty just a second before it got to Maltby, and he hadn’t quite gotten back into position to stop Draper’s tip.

The Red Wings got their first power play opportunity of the game shortly thereafter, when Oleg Kvasha was sent to the box for tripping, and Fedorov added his second goal of the night. He held the puck in at the right point on an attempted clear by the Islanders, then shot the puck on net. DiPietro was being screened by Tomas Holmstrom, and the puck deflected up and into the net.

The Islanders finally got on the board late in the period. Kvasha carried the puck into Detroit’s zone and threw it towards the net. It took a strange bounce out of Joseph’s field of vision, and Alexei Yashin was able to backhand it into the net.

The Red Wings’ second power play goal of the night came midway through the second period. Steve Yzerman sent a pass across to Mathieu Schneider at the left point, and Schneider one-timed a hard shot which beat DiPietro through the five-hole.

New York again scored late in the second period to cut their deficit to two goals. Chris Chelios was in the penalty box for holding. Yashin carried the puck over the blue line and let fly a hard shot. The puck changed direction slightly when it deflected off the stick of Kirk Maltby, and it flew up and into the net.

The Islanders weren’t able to take any momentum from the late goal into the third period, however. The Red Wings shut them down completely. “I thought we played great in the third period,” said Joseph, who only had to stop two shots during the final twenty minutes.

Luc Robitaille put the game away for good with 3:58 left to play. Igor Larionov made the onside pass which sent Robitaille up the ice on a clear-cut breakaway, and Robitaille put the puck high over DiPietro’s shoulder.

Shots on net totaled 23 for New York and 27 for Detroit. The Red Wings will close out the regular season on the road, beginning tomorrow night with a visit to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Jiri Fischer was examined by team doctors today and found to be nearly ready to go. Dave Lewis isn’t taking any chances with his young defenseman’s knee, however. Fischer will not play in either of the games this weekend, but will likely return early in the first playoff round…. Fedorov’s two goals were the 398th and 399th of his career…. The team announced today that negotiations to sign Fedorov to a new contract would be put on hold until after the playoffs. Fedorov shrugged it off. “All my focus is on hockey and finishing the season on a good note and see where we end up,” he said. “I don’t want to be the center of attention before playoffs start, I just want to do my job.” Of course, if he wants to make himself the center of attention DURING the playoffs, with plenty of scoring and excellent defensive play, who are we to argue?

Never Satisfied: Wings on Quest to Earn President’s Trophy

After coming out of New York with a huge point against the Rangers, the New York Islanders hope to take steps in securing their playoff spot Thursday night in Detroit. The Islanders need to amass only three points in their final three games to knock the Rangers out for good. They take on a Red Wings team that is also hungry for points as the season winds down. Already conquering the Central Division, Detroit needs only to win their remaining three games to win the West. Doing so would also put them into contention for their second straight President’s Trophy.

On Monday night, Curtis Joseph posted his 5th shutout of the season as the Red Wings beat up on a shaky Predators team, winning 3-0. The victory was Detroit’s 20th in the past 24 games. The Red Wings have locked up first place in the Central Division, but surprisingly are still unsatisfied with their positioning heading into the playoffs.

”We’ve been climbing the ladder the last month or so. We wanted to finish first overall. That’s still our goal.”- Detroit Goaltender Curtis Joseph.

The Red Wings learned of some great news recently, as coach Dave Lewis announced that we should see Defenseman Jiri Fischer slip back into the line-up very soon. Lewis sighted Saturday’s game against Columbus or Sunday’s game against Chicago as the probable return dates. Lewis also went on to say that Fischer would not be playing in Thursday’s contest against the Islanders. Fischer went down with a knee injury early in the season in a game against the Bruins

The Islanders blew a two-goal lead in the third period against the Rangers, yet were still able to salvage an important tie. With three games left on their schedule, the Isles won’t be looking to pass up any more opportunities to solidify their spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Thursday’s game against the Red Wings will provide the opportunity for the Islanders to get two more points out of the way. If they are able to accomplish just that, they will only need a tie or an overtime loss against either the Thrashers or the Hurricanes to remain in the 8th and final slot.

-Players to Watch-
New York (I): #44 Janne Niinimaa (5 goals, 27 assists)- Solid defenseman who will be looked upon to contain some of the top offensive talent in the league in Detroit.

Detroit: #20 Luc Robitaille (9 goals, 20 assists)- Scored a big goal against the Islanders this season. Maybe “Lucky” Luc will have something up his sleeve during Thursday night’s game as well.

-Out or in Doubt-
New York (I): Kevin Haller D (Groin/Out)

Detroit: Jiri Fischer D (Knee/Out)

-Season Series-
Game 1:December 17, 2002- Tie 2-2

-Between da Pipes-
New York (I): #30 Garth Snow (15-16-5, 2.33 GAA, .917 GAA, 1 SO), #39 Rick DiPietro (2-4-2, 2.74 GAA, .902 SV%, 0 SO)

Detroit: #31 Curtis Joseph (33-18-6, 2.47 GAA, .913 SV%, 5 SO), #34 Manny Legace (14-5-3, 2.06 GAA, .929 SV%, 0 SO)

-Most Points This Season vs. Opposition-
New York (I): Six players tied with 1 point vs. Detroit

Detroit: Six players tied with 1 point vs. New York (I)

The game will be televised nationally at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPN.