Another Close Win For Wings

The Western Conference rivalry between the Red Wings and the Vancouver Canucks continued in fine form Thursday evening with a fast-paced, intense game culminating in a 3-2 Detroit victory.

The Canucks opened the scoring very early in the game, before most fans at the Joe had even quite settled into their seats. Brendan Morrison won a faceoff in Detroit’s defensive zone. The puck got back to Todd Bertuzzi, who flipped it over to Ed Jovanovski. Jovanovski sent it to Markus Naslund at the right point. Naslund took a few steps towards the net and fired. Bertuzzi had moved over to screen Dominik Hasek, and the puck flew in over Hasek’s glove hand at 1:11.

The Red Wings evened up the game with their first power play chance. Jarkko Ruutu was sent out for hooking, and it only took the power play unit nine seconds to get the goal. Mathieu Schneider passed the puck along the blue line to Nicklas Lidstrom at the left point. Lidstrom skated the puck forward, then saw a tiny passing lane through the mass of bodies in the goal crease. He sent the puck through, and Brendan Shanahan was waiting on the other side with his stick blade on the ice ready to flip the puck into the net behind Dan Cloutier.

Marek Malik regained the lead for the Canucks just three minutes later. He took a pass from Jovanovski, then shot the puck on net from the left point. Hasek was off balance because Jiri Fischer had been shoved up against him, and the puck was able to find its way into the net.

Malik took an interference penalty with only 1:25 left in the period, and this time it took only five seconds for the Red Wings’ power play to score. Steve Yzerman won the draw back to Shanahan, who passed neatly to Lidstrom at the blue line. Lidstrom waited just long enough for Tomas Holmstrom to move in front of Cloutier as a screen, then let fly a hard shot which sailed in over Cloutier’s right shoulder.

The second period was time for Hasek to shine. The Vancouver offense did whatever they could to test him, but he held strong against the 15 shots he faced in the period.

Hasek was aided by his defense, especially during Kris Draper‘s five minute major penalty for boarding. The penalty killers did an excellent job of clearing the puck and making the Canucks chase it all the way to their end of the ice. Hasek made a brilliant double save against two rapid-fire, close range shots by Bertuzzi, in his traditional “slinky-for-a-spine” style. The Red Wings apparently got tired of playing defense on the penalty kill; in fact, almost the whole last minute of the major penalty consisted of shorthanded pressure against Cloutier.

Some fans in the front row received an unexpected surprise early in the third period. Fischer checked Daniel Sedin into the boards behind Hasek””into the boards and right through the glass. A large Sedin-shaped piece of plexiglass fell to the floor at the fans’ feet.

The pause needed for the glass repair took some of the momentum out of the game, and both teams played a little more carefully through the third period. Neither team wanted to be the one to make the mistake that would cost the game. Once again, the Red Wings went right down to the wire before pulling out the game winning goal.

Ray Whitney shot the puck on net from the right half boards. Cloutier made the save, but as he attempted to shove the puck into the corner and out of harm’s way, it was intercepted by Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk centered the puck for Whitney, who had moved into the high slot, and Whitney backhanded a shot past Cloutier with 1:06 left to play. The Canucks pulled their goalie for the final minute, seeking overtime, but they simply could not put the puck past Hasek again.

Vancouver outshot Detroit by a count of 38 to 31, giving Hasek a save percentage of .947 and Cloutier a save percentage of .903.

The Red Wings’ next game will be Saturday night when they travel to Pittsburgh to face Mario Lemieux and the Penguins at Mellon Arena.

Brett Hull sat out this game with a sore back, ending a streak of 211 consecutive games played. Jiri Hudler made his first appearance in the regular season lineup to take Hull’s place…. Bertuzzi’s assist on Vancouver’s first goal was his 400th career point…. Derian Hatcher left the game early in the first period and did not return. Team personnel reported that Hatcher sprained his knee and had gone for further tests.

Detroit Power Play On A Roll

It’s been a hockey fact for the past several years: if you give the Red Wings a power play chance, you are very likely going to go down by a goal. The Ottawa Senators tested this theory on Saturday night, and it proved true once again. Detroit had a 37.5% power play success rate, leading to a 3-2 overtime win over the Senators.

Both teams had a strong first period. Ottawa had the edge in shots on goal, with nine to Detroit’s five, but few of those nine were high quality scoring chances, and Dominik Hasek was able to control most of them without any problems. Hasek had a lot of help from Derian Hatcher and Jiri Fischer. The two big defensemen did a very good job of pushing away any Ottawa players who got too close to the goal crease.

The Senators took a bench minor penalty for having too many men on the ice late in the first period, and the Red Wings were able to set up the first goal of the game. Nicklas Lidstrom passed the puck from the left side to Mathieu Schneider at the point. Schneider’s shot bounced off goaltender Patrick Lalime. Tomas Holmstrom, tenaciously standing his ground in front of the net, was able to get the rebound and stuff it past Lalime.

The Red Wings played more offensively in the second period, slipping through the Senator’s trapping style of play and generating more shots on net. The power play got another chance to shine when Marian Hossa was sent to the penalty box for holding the stick 4:51 into the period. Brendan Shanahan took a hard shot from the right faceoff circle. Holmstrom was screening Lalime once again, and the puck bounced off Holmstrom and fell into the goal crease. Steve Yzerman sped towards the net and slammed the puck in for the goal.

The Senators answered just over a minute later. Schneider attempted to clear the puck away from behind Hasek’s net. Instead of sending it up one of the sides of the ice, he sent it up the middle. Jason Spezza was right there in the slot to intercept the pass, and he lifted it over Hasek and into the net.

Ottawa was able to tie the game midway through the third period when they got a five-on-three power play chance. Fischer had been sent to the box for tripping. That penalty was down to 23 seconds remaining when Ray Whitney was sent out for tripping Daniel Alfredsson. The Wings attempted to argue that Alfredsson had simply fallen over Hasek’s skate in the crease, but the referee was unmoved and the Senators took advantage of their golden opportunity. Radek Bonk took a pass from Hossa and placed it past Hasek.

Both teams tried to win the game before the end of the third period, but defense prevailed and the game went into overtime. Zdeno Chara took a foolish penalty 55 seconds into the extra period. He knocked down Kris Draper far behind the play, and the referee was right behind them. The Senators did a good job clearing the puck out of their zone for most of the two-minute minor, until only three seconds remained. The Red Wings had finally managed to get set up in Ottawa’s zone. Henrik Zetterberg sent the puck across to Brett Hull, who dropped it back to Lidstrom. Lidstrom moved to his right down the blue line and let fire a laser of a shot which went right past Lalime and into the net.

The shot totals favored Ottawa, 23-18. The Red Wings’ next opponent will be the hard-hitting Vancouver Canucks, Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.

Yzerman has already tied his goal total of last season. He had two goals in the 16 regular-season games he played after his recovery from knee surgery. Okay, it doesn’t mean much to say so after only two games, but the Captain is the team’s current goal-scoring leader. It’s all about leading by example.

Off to a Good Start

“We’re counting on our young guys this year to contribute more,” said coach Dave Lewis. “We think they’re ready for it.”

The younger Red Wings certainly seemed to be ready in this year’s home opener against the Los Angeles Kings. Jiri Fischer and Pavel Datsyuk both contributed goals. But, since this is Detroit, a veteran team, it took a veteran to put the game away. Captain Steve Yzerman‘s goal gave the Wings a 3-2 victory over Los Angeles.

Former Wing Sean Avery started his usual abrasive style of play early, trying to stir up some trouble with Derian Hatcher. Hatcher was too sensible to take the bait. The Red Wings came to play hockey, and play they did.

Detroit’s strong pressure in the Los Angeles zone caused Luc Robitaille to take a holding penalty against his former teammates 4:27 into the game. Detroit’s power play unit controlled the play very well. Offseason acquisition Ray Whitney did an excellent job of holding the puck in the zone against the Kings’ clearing attempts, but the Wings didn’t score until their next power play opportunity.

When Avery went into the box for tripping, the Red Wings were prepared for the man-advantage. The Kings’ penalty-killers were focused on trying to interrupt Brett Hull‘s and Pavel Datsyuk’s passing, so no one noticed Jiri Fischer sneaking towards the net. Datsyuk threaded a pass through a few pairs of legs, and Fischer one-timed the puck past Roman Cechmanek to put Detroit on the board at 10:10.

The Red Wings seemed to back off a little bit in the second period, and the Kings were more than willing to take advantage of that situation. Their shot total, a measly six shots in the first, skyrocketed to fourteen in the second period alone. Dominik Hasek looked comfortable handling most of the shots (he likes a lot of work, remember). The only one which didn’t look right was the one that got by him.

Eric Belanger shot the puck on net from the left circle. The puck bounced off Hasek’s helmet and fell towards the right side of the net. All the skaters were scrambling to grab for the puck and take each other out of the play. In the confusion, Belanger was able to circle behind the net and stuff the puck in from the right side to tie the game with 7:49 left in the second.

Detroit came out to start the third period with quite a bit more energy than they had in the second. Avery tried to start trouble then with Kirk Maltby, but then Darren McCarty drew Avery into taking his third penalty of the game. The Grind Line’s energy spread to the rest of the team, and shots on net were plentiful, but Cechmanek stood his ground.

Zigmund Palffy gave the Kings a one-goal lead midway through the third. Jozef Stumpel was held up by Hatcher, but he managed to center a pass from the left corner. Palffy was on hand to lift the puck high over the sprawling Hasek.

Nicklas Lidstrom took a hooking call with 7:38 left to play, leaving an even tighter margin of time for the Red Wings to try to get back in the game. Their hopes were fulfilled when Lubomir Visnovsky was sent to the box for tripping, and the power play unit could get to work.

The passing work was incredible: crisp, accurate, and completely out of reach of the Kings’ penalty killers. Hull passed from the top of the left circle to Whitney at the blue line. Whitney sent the puck across to Lidstrom at the right side, and Lidstrom one-timed the puck towards the net. Datsyuk tipped the puck on its way through, deflecting it past Cechmanek.

Just as everyone was about to settle in for overtime, Yzerman decided he wanted to open his 21st season in style. He scooped the puck away from the Detroit net and sent it ahead to Whitney, who was moving up through center ice. Whitney carried into the Kings’ zone, wheeled away from three defending players, and dropped the puck back to Yzerman. The Captain sent a wrist shot high over Cechmanek with less than two seconds remaining””and the crowd went wild.

The Red Wings outshot the Kings by 38 to 23 over the course of the game. Detroit’s next game will be on the road Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators.

Los Angeles defenseman Mattias Norstrom left the game with an arm injury in the first period.

Wings Fall to Leafs to Close Exhibition Season

The Detroit Red Wings allowed three third-period goals, turning a 2-1 lead into a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Sunday night. Detroit finished up their preseason schedule with a record of 2-6-1.

“I’m glad it’s over,” Red Wings’ head coach Dave Lewis said. “I’ll put it that way, because Monday morning it doesn’t matter.”

After allowing the game’s first goal, the Wings scored twice on the power play in the second period to grab the lead. Toronto then scored three times in the third period to close out the scoring.

“These are the kind of games that I want to win,” Lewis said. “I think that’s the way we’ll play this year: capitalize on our power plays and defend the lead.”

“Right now,” he said, “we just have three days to work on things and get ready for L.A.”

The Red Wings open the regular season on Thursday night when the Los Angeles Kings visit Joe Louis Arena.

The Leafs scored the lone goal of the first period when Joe Nieuwendyk threw the puck into the slot from behind the net. Gary Roberts slapped a hard shot past Wings’ goalie Manny Legace to put Toronto out in front.

In the second, Pavel Dastyuk scored on a rebound just as a two-man advantage for Detroit expired. Tomas Holmstrom deflected a shot by Jiri Fischer past Leafs’ netminder Mikael Tellqvist five minutes later to put Dertroit up by a goal.

Toronto got goals by Matthew Stajan, Roberts and Darcy Tucker in the third.

Thrashers’ Snyder Dies in Hospital

Atlanta Thrashers’ forward Dan Snyder died late Sunday night in an Atlanta hospital, never having awoken from the coma he was left in after a being involved in a horrifying car crash almost a week earlier.

Snyder, 25, suffered masive brain injuries when he was thrown from teammate Dany Heatley‘s Ferrari. The Ferrari hit a brick wall and snapped in half after cutting across the road and jumping the curb.

Both players were ejected from the vehicle. Heatley was less-seriously injured, suffering only a broken jaw and two torn ligaments in his knee.

Snyder underwent surgery for a skull fracture and hopes for his recovery were high.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Dan Snyder,” the Thrashers said in a statement. “Dan was a teammate and friend to all of us. We feel a tremendous amount of pain as an organization and extend deepest sympathies to his family.”

Snyder was expected to start the season on the injured list after he had surgery on his ankle before the start of training camp.

“The news of his passing fills all of us with an overwhelming sense of sorrow, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “The NHL extends its deepest sympathies to his parents who have lost a cherished son, to siblings who have lost a loving brother and to players who have lost a devoted teammate. Our prayers go out to his entire family.”

Heatley is currently listed by the Thrashers as out indefinitely. Aside form his injuries, he is also facing criminal charges stemming from the accident. The 22-year-old was already facing a felony charge of serious injury by vehicle and three misdemeanour charges. Those charges will likely be upgraded.

“It would likely be vehicular homicide first degree,” Sgt. John Quigley, an Atlanta Police Department spokesman said Sunday night.

Belfour Holds Wings to Tie with Leafs

The Detroit Red Wings played one of their best games of the exhibition season, but incredible goaltending by Toronto Maple Leaf Ed Belfour held the Wings to only one goal and a tie Saturday night.

“Belfour looked like he was in playoff form,” Detroit head coach Dave Lewis said.

The Red Wings looked closer to regular season form than they have in any of their exhibitions thus far.

“I saw us thinking as units, defending, we were all on the same page attacking,” Lewis said. “We got better as the game went on. There were a lot of good things.”

Pavel Datsyuk scored Detroit’s lone goal, tying the game at 4:26 of the second period. Brett Hull made a backhand pass to Datsyuk skating through the slot. Datsyuk then faked out Belfour and slipped the puck into the open net.

“Brett has such great vision,” Lewis said. “His passing is as good as his shot.”

Toronto’s Mikael Renberg opened the scoring in the first period with a shorthanded goal.

The Red Wings play their final exhibition tonight in Toronto.

Joseph Goes Unpicked in Waiver Draft

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Curtis Joseph was not claimed by any of the NHL’s other twenty-nine teams in the league’s annual waiver draft Friday afternoon. As a result, the Red Wings will start the 2003-04 season with three goaltenders on their roster.

Detroit has been trying to trade Joseph, who was signed in July of 2002 to replace retiring netminder Dominik Hasek, since Hasek announced his return to the NHL this summer.

Efforts to deal Joseph to Boston were thwarted when he underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his ankle. The Bruins later signed Felix Potvin to fill their net.

Joseph wasn’t expected to be claimed in the Waiver Draft as his $8 million per season contract is too expensive for most teams to handle right now. Only the Colorado Avalanche have a glaring need for a starting goaltender at this time and they’re determined to give David Aebischer a shot as the starter, replacing the retired Patrick Roy.

Joseph and Hasek will share the net with Manny Legace, regarded by many as the league’s best backup goalie.

In all, twenty players changed teams as a result of the Waiver Draft. The New York Rangers were the most active team, losing Ronald Petrovicky (Atlanta), Jeff Heerema (St. Louis) and Shawn Heins (Atlanta) but picking up Joel Bouchard (Buffalo), Sheldon Keefe (Tampa Bay) and Mike Siklenka (Philadelphia).

Toronto forward Travis Green was selected by Columbus, only to be traded to Boston later in the day. The same happened to Florida goalie Jani Hurme, who was claimed by Carolina and then traded to Atlanta.

Carolina made one other goaltending move Friday, signing former Los Angeles King Jamie Storr as a free agent.