No Signs of Stopping: Wings Down Panthers 4-1

Curtis Joseph‘s phenomenal night in net and Pavel Datsyuk‘s goal and assist combined to help lead the Red Wings over the Florida Panthers, 4-1.

Datsyuk opened the scoring at 6:34 of the first period. Brett Hull made a centering pass, which Datsyuk picked up, then spun around to shake off the Florida defender who was shadowing him. He took a backhand shot at the net without seeming to look where he was shooting, but the puck angled up perfectly into the top corner of the net, over the outstretched glove of goaltender Roberto Luongo. “I’ve never seen a goal like that,” marveled head coach Dave Lewis.

The Panthers were unhappy about giving up the first goal, and they battled back hard. Joseph was solid, coming up with huge saves against Valeri Bure and Viktor Kozlov to keep the lead for Detroit. Florida’s only goal of the game came on a power play, but it was almost a fluke. Lukas Krajicek took a shot from the blue line which redirected off the skate of Jiri Fischer and slid past Joseph, who was partially screened by Juraj Kolnik.

Florida had a prime opportunity to move into the lead early in the second period. The Red Wings were nearing the end of a power play when Brendan Shanahan pushed a broken stick off to the side of the ice. The center ice referee ruled this an interference penalty before realizing that the stick was broken. He did realize his error after the fact, but the NHL does not permit referees to take back calls once they have been made.

Shanahan’s penalty was halfway over when the Red Wings were called for having too many men on the ice, giving the Panthers a full minute of five-on-three power play time. Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper, and Nicklas Lidstrom did a very good job of getting in the way of Florida’s passes, and Joseph held firm against every shot the Panthers could muster.

Shanahan’s penalty expired without incident, sending the Red Wings back to four against five, and Maltby took revenge for the interference call which should never have been made. He was forechecking deep in the Panthers’ zone after a clearing pass, and poked the puck off the stick of Krajicek just as the young defenseman rounded the corner of his own net. Luongo was not expecting any such move, and the puck rolled into the net. “Those things happen,” Luongo said in his teammate’s defense after the game. “He’s a young guy. Hopefully, he learned his lesson. He’s got to keep his head up and learn from it. That’s all he can do.”

Mark Mowers increased Detroit’s lead early in the third by tipping in a shot by Shanahan, and Mathieu Schneider denied Florida any chance of a comeback win by handling a pass from Datsyuk and sending the puck into the empty net with just under a minute left in the game.

Luongo stopped 36 of the 40 shots he faced. Joseph stopped 21 of 22 shots from the Panthers, but 14 of those shots were quality scoring chances, which makes Joseph’s game quite remarkable. “You need that kind of goaltending,” said Schneider. “He made the big saves for us.”

Detroit’s next opponent will be the San Jose Sharks, Wednesday evening at the Joe.

Datsyuk, who was named the NHL’s Offensive Player of the Week, now holds the NHL’s scoring lead…. Hull is on an eleven-game point streak…. Ryan Barnes was called up from Grand Rapids and slipped into tonight’s lineup in place of Mathieu Dandenault, who is out with the flu…. Manny Legace played backup to Joseph.