Wings Shake Off Sluggish Start to Tie Blues

Detroit got off to a slow start, but just as St. Louis seemed to start thinking they could put the game away, the Red Wings came roaring back in the third period to salvage a 4-4 tie with the Blues.

The Blues opened the scoring early, wanting to take advantage of any rust Dominik Hasek may have been feeling after his month-long layoff to recover from a groin injury. The first goal came just 4:41 into the game. Defenseman Chris Pronger scooped up a rebounded shot from his own zone and joined in the offensive rush, causing a 4-on-2. Pronger sent the puck up to Keith Tkachuk, who carried across the blue line before sending it up to Pavol Demitra low on the right side. Demitra threaded a shot right across Hasek’s goal crease, and Pronger knocked it into the net from the other side.

St. Louis followed up with power play goal barely over a minute later when Brendan Shanahan was in the box for hooking. Pronger took a shot towards the net from the right point. Scott Mellanby collected the puck, spun around with it, and handed it off to Tkachuk, who blasted a shot through Hasek and into the net.

Steve Thomas made an attempt to get Detroit’s game going by getting into a fight with tough guy Mike Danton. Thomas held his own against Danton, but the attempt to swing momentum was not as successful. Detroit only had two shots on net in the first period.

The Red Wings came out more strongly in the second period, generating many more shots on net, but Chris Osgood held them off and gave Bryce Salvador his opportunity to increase the Blues’ lead. Ryan Johnson won a faceoff in Detroit’s zone. Salvador picked up the puck and shot it through a screen. The puck deflected just slightly off of Kris Draper‘s stick, thus changing direction and fooling Hasek.

Thomas finally put the Red Wings on the board early in the third period. Nicklas Lidstrom made the clearing pass to send Thomas into the zone with the puck, and his hard shot went just off Osgood’s shoulder and in.

Steve Yzerman made it a one-goal game shortly thereafter. Draper passed the puck to Yzerman from behind the net, then moved to the front of the crease to screen Osgood. Yzerman took a shot from the left side. The puck hit the stick of a Blues player trying to push Draper out of the way, and deflected down to slide underneath Osgood.

Pronger lived up to his reputation as a thorn in Detroit’s side when he increased the Blues’ lead once more less than two minutes after Yzerman’s goal. Doug Weight intercepted a pass in the Red Wings’ zone, then sent the puck back to Pronger crossing the blue line. Pronger’s shot beat Hasek five-hole.

The game seemed to be winding down as a St. Louis victory when Pavel Datsyuk and Brett Hull both scored less than a minute apart. Datsyuk’s goal could have been an accident””he was handling the puck at the front of the goal crease when he was jostled by a Blues player, causing him to knock the puck backwards and past Osgood””but there was nothing accidental about Hull’s 14th goal of the season. Datsyuk centered the puck from the right corner, and Hull one-timed it from the high slot. Osgood managed to slow it down on the way through, but the puck just barely crossed the goal line and sent the game to overtime.

“With the guys we have, you’re never out of the game,” explained Hull. “You’ve got to think luck a little bit, but you’ve also got some perseverance and a gritty effort.”

The Red Wings controlled most of the overtime play, but they weren’t able to get the puck past Osgood again. Hasek was grateful for his team’s offensive capabilities. “It’s wonderful that we tied the game, but I feel a little bit embarrassed,” he said. “I don’t know what to say about the goals I gave up.”

Detroit rallied from their measly two shots in the first period to end up outshooting St. Louis by a count of 27 to 18. The Red Wings will leave St. Louis and head for Toronto, where they will face their ancient enemies the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

Darryl Bootland was a healthy scratch for this game, giving Jamie Rivers a chance to get into the lineup. Rivers played on the fourth line with Jason Williams and Nathan Robinson, and logged 3:01 of ice time…. Hull’s goal was the 730th of his career, putting him within one of Marcel Dionne at third place on the all-time goals scored list…. the Wings keep hold of first place in the Central Division with 33 points, two ahead of the Blues.

Injured Blues Win High-Scoring Game

The law of averages finally caught up with the Red Wings. They dominated the St. Louis Blues last season, winning all five of their regular season matches, so it was obvious that the Blues would do whatever they could to break that streak, in spite of injuries to key defensemen Al MacInnis and Barret Jackman. The defense had some holes in it, but former Wing Chris Osgood played a very good game, stopping 45 of 50 shots, to give the Blues a 6-5 win over Detroit.

St. Louis came out ready to play a tough, physical game, forechecking hard and driving players into the end boards. The Wings showed they could match that physical intensity when Jiri Fischer knocked Scott Mellanby down in front of Dominik Hasek‘s net. It was a clean hit, but Mellanby, just returned from a rib injury, left the game and did not return. Shortly thereafter, Fischer stepped in on tough guy Mike Danton, who had been harassing Chris Chelios. Most of the Blues’ checking was clean after that.

Keith Tkachuk opened the scoring for St. Louis just six seconds into the Blues’ first power play of the game by jamming in a rebound from Chris Pronger‘s shot from the blue line. Pavel Datsyuk tied the game up for Detroit with eight minutes left in the first period, but Doug Weight regained the lead for the Blues just 22 seconds later. A rebound from Mark Rycroft’s shot bounced off the side of Weight’s skate and past Hasek.

Weight added his second goal of the night with 32 seconds left in the first. His shot from the right side of the ice looked fairly harmless, but the puck beat Hasek on the stick side.

Steve Yzerman scored a goal from a tidy backhand pass by Ray Whitney early in the second period, but Peter Sejna increased the Blues’ lead again with a shot that beat Hasek through the five-hole. Manny Legace came in to take Hasek’s place after that.

The goalie switch got Detroit’s offense going, as coach Dave Lewis no doubt intended. Boyd Devereaux scored his first goal of the year on a wraparound try, and Kirk Maltby took a shot which deflected off of Kris Draper for a shorthanded goal to tie the game at four goals apiece.
The Blues moved into the lead for good, however, before that power play was over. Legace made three saves in quick succession, leaving him prone on the ice, but the clearing pass bounced off of Nicklas Lidstrom instead of sailing safely into the corner. Sejna picked it up and flipped it over Legace’s skates before the goaltender could get back up.

Weight scored his hat trick goal early in the third period on a rebound from a shot by Dallas Drake. The Red Wings turned up the offensive pressure after that, taking 25 shots against Osgood in the third period alone, but they weren’t able to score again until the game was almost over. Danton was in the penalty box for holding, and Legace left the net so the Wings could have six skaters against four. Lidstrom made a nice pass along the blue line for Brett Hull, and Hull one-timed the shot into the net in classic style with 1:10 left to play.

The pressure was on in the last minute, but Osgood stood his ground, gaining his first win against his old team.

Shots totaled 50 to 34 in favor of Detroit. The Red Wings play next tomorrow night, facing the Nashville Predators in the first game of a four game road trip.

Weight’s hat trick was the second of his career…. Jiri Hudler got his first NHL point by assisting on Devereaux’s goal…. Hull’s goal was the 718th of his career, moving him past Phil Esposito into sole possession of fourth place on the NHL all-time goal scorers list.

Three Wings Claim NHL Awards

The Red Wings’ Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Nicklas Lidstrom were honored Thursday night at the 2003 NHL Awards in Toronto.

Yzerman was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, an annual award presented to “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” Yzerman beat out Steve Rucchin from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Bryan Berard of the Boston Bruins.

The King Clancy Memorial Trophy was awarded to Shanahan. The award is annually given “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.” Shanahan has made a name for himself with his support of the Detroit Fire Department and for helping sick children have a chance to meet the Red Wings and come to games at Joe Louis Arena. He dedicated the award to his late father, a firefighter, and Brendan Filzek, a young Red Wings fan who died from cancer last fall.

For the third year in a row, Lidstrom was named the NHL’s best defenseman, winning the James Norris Memorial Trophy. Lidstrom became the first player to win the award for three consecutive seasons since Bobby Orr claimed it for eight-striaght seasons from 1968 to 1975.

Lidstrom was also a runner-up for the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded for gentlemanly behavior. That award was given to Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alexander Mogilny.

Red Wings rookie Henrik Zetterberg was beat out for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year by Barret Jackman of the St. Louis Blues. Zetterberg led all rookies in scoring in 2002-2003 but Jackman impressed many by stepping into the skates of injured defenseman Chris Pronger. No Red Wing has been named rookie of the year in over thirty-five years.

Wings Dominate in Important, Emotional Win

If there are many more games like this one in St. Louis, the Savvis Center’s management may want to consider building an expansion for their penalty boxes. The Red Wings came up with a 6-2 win over the Blues, and the Blues were really letting their frustration show by the game’s end. By the final buzzer, there were a total of seventeen players between both teams who hadn’t been tossed out of the game. And the playoffs haven’t even started yet. Bring it on!

Emotions were running high early. The Blues were fired up at the return of Chris Pronger, who has been out of the lineup all season. However, his first impact on his team was to take a high-sticking penalty. The Blues’ penalty killers did a good job of not letting Detroit get set up on that one. Tyson Nash managed to generate a shorthanded scoring chance, but Manny Legace was sharp on the shot and the rebound.

Brett Hull opened the scoring midway through the period. Henrik Zetterberg carried the puck up the right side and passed it back across the crease once he gained the goal line. Hull was following the play, driving to the net with his stick on the ice, and he was in perfect position to lift the puck over Chris Osgood.

Pavel Datsyuk increased the lead a few minutes later. Pronger fanned on a slapshot attempt in the Detroit zone, and Datsyuk stole the puck to carry it up ice. Pronger and Bryce Salvador backed up to defend, but Datsyuk cut right between the two of them and stuffed the puck into the net underneath Osgood.

The Blues got themselves on the board with 3:29 left in the first. Steve Martins won a draw deep in the Red Wings’ end. The puck came back to Pronger, who wound up and took the shot. The puck tipped off a Detroit skater on the way through, and flew just past the end of Legace’s catching glove.

The second period was a story of penalty killing. Chris Chelios had taken a four minute high-sticking double minor penalty just at the end of the first period. Thirty seconds had gone by in that when the referees saw fit to send Kris Draper out for boarding. Kirk Maltby, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Mathieu Schneider played an excellent penalty kill, and Legace came up with a huge save on Pronger to stop the clock and allow Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan to come over the boards to replace Schneider and Maltby. When play started again, Lidstrom cleared the puck, and that did it for the 5-on-3. The remainder of the Blues’ 5-on-4 was negated when Pronger took another penalty, this one for interference, but then the Red Wings’ resulting shortened power play was negated when the team was assessed a bench minor for having too many men on the ice.

The one call which probably should have been made in the second was not made at all. Tyson Nash was sticked in the mouth by Shanahan””Nash was falling at the time, so a stick at that height would ordinarily have hit a skater somewhere in the stomach, but the stick did draw blood, which would ordinarily be an automatic four minute penalty. None of the officials saw it, and the Blues apparently swore revenge.

Vengeance was not coming in the second period, however. Corey Stillman received an elbowing penalty shortly thereafter. Shanahan made the pass from behind the net to the high slot which allowed Lidstrom to pinch in from the blue line and wrist a shot through a screen of players over Osgood’s shoulder.

Nash, having had his lip stitched up neatly, was out on the ice to take a pass from Alexander Khavanov and fire it into the net from point blank range, bringing the Blues back within one goal with 7:38 left in the game. Just as the goal was called, Reed Low and Darren McCarty were handed coincidental minor penalties for diving and cross-checking respectively. Sergei Fedorov added a goal with a wrist shot just under the crossbar during the resulting four-on-four.

As soon as McCarty and Low were out of the box, they dropped the gloves and went at each other. Both were given five minute fighting majors, and McCarty was given a game misconduct for not having his jersey strap tied down””Low pulled it right off as soon as the fight started.

Scott Mellanby took an interference penalty with 5:11 left to play. Nash decided his goal wasn’t good enough revenge and attacked Shanahan directly. While those two fought, Fedorov tangled with Barret Jackman. Once the officials cleared the ice, Hull scored a power play goal. Datsyuk made a pass from behind the net to Schneider. Hull picked up the rebound from Schneider’s shot and put it into the empty corner of the net.

Hull’s third goal of the night barely two minutes later””set up by amazing passing from Zetterberg and Datsyuk, of course””opened the floodgates to chaos. Mellanby, Jackman, Dallas Drake, Ryan Johnson, Maltby, Draper, and Dmitri Bykov were all thrown out of the game. The very next shift, it started up again. Matt Walker tried to pick a fight with Tomas Holmstrom, who was skating away from it, but Luc Robitaille came in to defend his linemate. From the resulting battle, Walker, Salvador, Shjon Podein, Doug Weight, Holmstrom, Robitaille, Schneider, and Mathieu Dandenault were sent out. The Detroit bench took a penalty when assistant coach Joey Kocur threw a chair onto the ice in frustration at the way the Blues had simply decided to run at his players, and he and St. Louis coach Joel Quenneville screamed obscenities at each other until calmer heads prevailed, the linesman dropped the puck, and the few remaining players let the clock run down.

The count of shots on net was 24 to 21 in favor of the Blues. The total number of penalty minutes, for those who count such things, was 114 for Detroit and 129 for St. Louis. The Red Wings’ next game will be Monday night at the Joe against the Nashville Predators.

5th Time a Charm? Not in Detroit’s Eyes…

“We’ve got to find a way to beat this team,”- Blues center Doug Weight.

The St. Louis Blues will be able to close the gap between themselves and Detroit to 3 points if they can knock off the Central Division leaders on Saturday. Key players are returning at the right moments for the Blues, who will welcome back former captain Chris Pronger, and also hope to see Valeri Bure one the ice for the first time in a Blues uniform. Bure was acquired from the Florida Panthers right before the trading deadline.

The Red Wings are continuing a short road swing that has thus far resulted in a disappointing loss to the lowly San Jose Sharks. They were blanked in the loss to the Sharks by rookie goaltender Vesa Toskala. The spanking knocked the Red Wings back down to second place in the West, and also made for the second time Detroit has been shutout in three games. Thursday’s loss to the Sharks marked the first time Detroit has lost with Captain Steve Yzerman in the lineup. The good news for the Wings is that they have a relatively easy schedule to end the year with. They will take on Nashville, the New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Chicago Blackhawks over a span of seven days.

The Blues will be looking for their first win of the year against Detroit, and it’s not like they haven’t had their chances. In their last effort, the Blues were able to even it up with the Red Wings in the third period, but unable to get the go-ahead goal. They ended up falling 4-2, which made for their fourth loss of the season against Detroit. The Blues are currently on pace to face the Colorado Avalanche in the playoffs. Both Colorado and St. Louis are tied with 97 points.

-Key Match-up-
D Barret Jackman (St. Louis) vs. LW Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit)- The two frontrunners for the rookie of the year award will both be skating in the same rink on Saturday. Henrik Zetterberg has played spectacularly for the Red Wings this season, while Barret Jackman has logged plenty of important minutes in the absence of veteran defensemen Chris Pronger.

-Out or in Doubt-
St. Louis- Jamal Mayers RW (Knee/Out), Keith Tkachuk LW (Wrist/Out), Martin Rucinski LW (Shoulder/Questionable), Rich Pilon D (Wrist/Out)

Detroit- Jiri Fischer D (Knee/Out)

-Between da Pipes-
St. Louis- #30 Chris Osgood (21-15-4, 2.77 GAA, .899 SV%, 4 SO), #35 Brent Johnson (16-12-5, 2.41 GAA, .903 SV%, 2 SO)

Detroit- #31 Curtis Joseph (32-18-6, 2.52 GAA, .911 SV%, 4 SO), #34 Manny Legace (13-5-3, 2.06 GAA, .929 SV%, 0 SO)

-Most Points This Season vs. Opposition-
St. Louis-Two players tied with 4 points. D Barret Jackman (1 goal, 3 assists), LW Cory Stillman (4 assists) vs. Detroit

Detroit- C Sergei Federov with 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) vs. St. Louis

The game will be televised nationally at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time on ABC.

Wings cling to Western Conference lead heading into St. Louis

The St. Louis Blues will be welcoming the Detroit Red Wings to the Savvis Center with open arms on Saturday, as it will be one of their last chances to gain some ground on the current central division powerhouse. The Blues trail Detroit by 5 points in the standings, and currently sit fourth among all teams in the Western Conference. For St. Louis, there is no more time to waste if they wish to make a bid for the top spot in the conference.

Led by the former Red Wing netminder Chris Osgood, the Blues come into the battle winners of their last 3 games. After having goalie issues throughout much of the year, the Blues are hoping to find the answer in Ozzie. Osgood has won every game he has played in a Blues uniform, most recently stopping 24 of 26 shots against Anaheim to lead St. Louis to a 3-2 overtime victory. Pavol Demitra lit the lamp twice to earn his 31st and 32nd goals of the season in the win over the Ducks.

It looked as if the Red Wings may have been in for an upset in the early moments of their game against the Penguins. But unfortunately for Pittsburgh, they soon woke up to score 5 unanswered goals as they improved their season mark to 43-18-9-3. Detroit’s leading point-getter Sergie Federov registered two of those five goals. The Red Wings will be venturing to cling to the top rung of the Western Conference ladder for the remainder of the season, as they are in pursuit of having home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. It will be no easy task with teams such as Vancouver, Dallas, and St. Louis continually posing a threat the Detroit’s supremacy.

The Blues haven’t been able to find a way to win against Detroit so far this season. They hope to be handed a better fate this time around, as they fell to the Red Wings by an embarrassing 7-2 score in their last meeting.

-Player To Watch-
St. Louis- #30 G Chris Osgood- Osgood is sure to be fired up for the opportunity to defeat his former mates. Earlier this season, Osgood held Detroit to only two goals to give the Islanders a tie against the Red Wings.

Detroit- #91 Sergei Federov- Has notched a respective 7 points against the Blues this year, and is coming into the contest on a roll.

-Out or in Doubt-
St. Louis- Chris Pronger D (Knee/Out), Jamal Mayers RW (Knee/Out), Keith Tkachuk LW (Wrist /Out), Rich Pilon D (Wrist/Out), Valeri Bure LW (Knee/Out)

Detroit- Jiri Fischer D (Knee/Out), Jesse Wallin D (Knee/Questionable)

-Between da Pipes-
St. Louis- #30 Chris Osgood (20-14-4, 2.84 GAA, .897 SV%, 3 SO), #35 Brent Johnson (15-11-5, 2.44 GAA, .900 SV%, 2 SO)

Detroit- #31 Curtis Joseph (30-17-6, 2.58 GAA, .910 SV%, 3 SO), #34 Manny Legace (13-4-3, 2.01 GAA, .932 SV%, 0 SO)

-Most Points This Season vs. Opposition-
St. Louis #5 Barret Jackman with 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) vs. Detroit

Detroit- #91 Sergei Federov with 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) vs. St. Louis

The game will be televised nationally at 3:00 p.m. eastern time on ABC.

Injured Wings Triumph Over Injured Blues in OT

The St. Louis Blues came to Detroit missing quite a few of their key players for this Central Division matchup. Chris Pronger and Jamal Mayers are both out for the season. Keith Tkachuk was gone for family reasons. Pavol Demitra was gone for, of all things, chickenpox. The Red Wings weren’t in much better shape. Aside from the already-known knee problems of Steve Yzerman, Jiri Fischer, Pavel Datsyuk, and Manny Legace, Igor Larionov and Tomas Holmstrom were both out with what was reported as stomach flu by some sources and food poisoning by others. In either case, both teams had a depleted lineup, but the remaining players put on a tough, entertaining game which ended in a 4-3 overtime win for Detroit.

Rookie Barret Jackman opened the scoring for St. Louis early in the third period with a strange goal. Curtis Joseph had slid across the net to block a shot by Cory Stillman. The shot was headed harmlessly wide anyway, but Joseph stumbled a little and kept right on sliding. When the puck bounced off the boards and back out front, Jackman was able to slap it into a wide open net.

The Red Wings had two power plays towards the end of the first period, but they weren’t able to get their scoring going until Dalls Drake took a cross-checking call early in the second. Brett Hull took a hard shot from the high slot which rang off the goalpost. The rebound came back to the left point, and Nick Lidstrom shot it back towards the net. Hull had kept moving in the meantime, and when goalie Fred Brathwaite left the puck loose on the side of the net, Hull was right there to chip it up high under the crossbar.

Jason Williams gave the Red Wings their first lead of the game with just under three minutes remaining in the second. Boyd Devereaux dumped the puck deep into the Blues’ zone just as he was being hit. Mathieu Dandenault got to it first and made a centering pass, again, just as he was being hit. Williams had just come off the bench and up to the play, and he one-timed Dandenault’s pass right into the net.

Scott Mellanby tied the game back up early in the third period. Dandenault was in the box for tripping, and the Blues showed a very efficient power play. Stillman brought the puck into the zone and left a drop pass for Mellanby, who let go a remarkably quick shot which sailed underneath Joseph’s glove.

Chris Chelios thought his goal would keep the game from overtime. It came with 2:52 left in regulation. Kris Draper won the faceoff cleanly back to Kirk Maltby, who passed the puck to Chelios. Chelios sent off a slapshot which hit the stick of one of the Blues on the way through, changing direction just enough to fool Brathwaite.

Unfortunately, a Jackman shot tipped into the net by Petr Cajanek just seconds later meant the game was heading to overtime after all. The Red Wings did get to start the extra period with a 4-on-3 advantage; Stillman was sent to the box for elbowing with 4 seconds left in the third period.

The penalty to Stillman had just expired when Henrik Zetterberg decided it was time for the game to be over. Jason Woolley sent a pass up to Zetterberg at the side of the net. It was a bad angle, but Zetterberg made the shot anyway and banked it into the net off of Brathwaite’s skate for his first career overtime goal and his seventh goal of the season.

The Red Wings outshot the Blues 30-26 overall, but the vast majority of those shots came in the second period. The Blues outshot the Wings in both the first and third periods.

The Red Wings’ next game will be Thursday night at home against the Minnesota Wild. The Wild are currently just one point behind Vancouver (yes, Vancouver; that’s not a typo) for control of the Northwest Division.

The Red Wings should have the results of the MRI on Manny Legace’s knee by tomorrow. Meanwhile, Marc Lamothe of the Griffins has been playing backup to Curtis Joseph…. Scott Mellanby’s goal was his 700th career point…. The illnesses of Igor Larionov and Tomas Holmstrom prompted Dave Lewis to temporarily move Mathieu Dandenault from defense back to right wing.

Bringing Home A Commanding Lead

For the first time in this series, the team to get the first goal did not win the game. St. Louis scored early, the Wings answered quickly and frequently, and the Blues did not score again until it was too late. The Red Wings took a 4-3 win over the Blues and come home leading the series 3-1.

St. Louis managed to open the scoring by gaining a minute and forty second’s worth of five-on-three play from penalties to Pavel Datsyuk and Chris Chelios. Steve Yzerman, Kirk Maltby, and Nick Lidstrom did a good job keeping the puck away from Dominik Hasek‘s net, clearing the puck and making the Blues chase it down to the other end of the rink twice and killing off all but thirteen seconds of the five-on-three. As the chance wound down, Chris Pronger passed the puck across to Scott Young, who sent a one-time shot into the net.

The Red Wings settled the play down and took control with the help of some power plays of their own. They were not able to score against goaltender Brent Johnson, but they were aided some by an injury to Pronger. The big defenseman tried to take a run at Yzerman, but Yzerman saw it coming, turned around, and bent down so that Pronger bounced off him and dropped to the ice. The Wings had the Blues penned in their own zone, so Pronger couldn’t get back to the bench until he got called on a penalty of his own, for taking a retaliatory slash at Yzerman. Pronger did not return for the rest of the game.

Detroit got on the board at even strength. Darren McCarty carried the puck into the left wing corner. He was being harrassed by Bryce Salvador, but still managed to make a centering pass which Brendan Shanahan picked up and wristed high into the net.

Jiri Fischer gave the Wings a lead just a few minutes later. Datsyuk and Brett Hull tangled with some Blues defenders behind the net, and the puck came loose all the way to Fischer near the blue line. The shot sailed through a screen and seemingly dropped on its way to the net, fooling Johnson for the goal.

The Red Wings scored once again early in the second period. Mathieu Dandenault carried the puck up the right wing side, faked a shot, and passed across the goal crease to Tomas Holmstrom, who tapped the puck into the gaping net.

Detroit dominated most of the second period, keeping control and playing an intelligent defense. The Blues did come on a little more strongly towards the end of the second, but were unable to put the puck past Hasek.

A bad clear by Johnson resulted in a power play goal for Detroit early in the third. He had to take time to settle it before shooting it away, and Yzerman had time to position himself so that the puck would bounce off his chest. It then bounced down to his stick, and he put it in the net to take a four-goal lead.

The Blues got a break towards the end of the game. Shanahan was in the penalty box for a holding the stick call, and St. Louis pulled their goalie to go six-on-four. Scott Mellanby took a shot which barely bounced into the net before bouncing right back out. Neither the goal judge nor the referees called the goal, so play continued until Mellanby put the puck into the net again. The first goal went to video review and was judged to be good, which reset the clock to that time and negated the second goal.

Once the Blues gained control off the faceoff, they pulled Johnson again. This time Keith Tkachuk managed to score off a strange between-the-legs pass by Al MacInnis. The Blues continued to press hard for the remaining seconds, but they were not able to tie the game.

Shots on net were thirty-six to twenty-three in favor of St. Louis. The Red Wings hope to close out this series with a win in Game 5 Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.

Igor Larionov sat out due to a leg injury sustained in Game 3. His spot was filled by Jason Williams?. Steve Yzerman’s game-winning goal and the Wings’ resulting commanding series lead were probably exactly the birthday gift he wanted?The Captain turned 37 today. Yes, 37. You’d never know it by watching how he’s playing, would you?

No Sweep For Us

The Blues did not necessarily play their best. The Red Wings certainly did not play their worst. The score definitely does not reflect the full play of the game. But in terms of the series, that doesn’t really matter. What does matter now is that the Blues won the game 6-1, cutting their series deficit to 2-1.

St. Louis did as they intended to do and got their first lead of the series only 2:49 into the game, but it didn’t last them very long. Pavol Demitra took a shot on net from the right wing side. It deflected off the stick of Keith Tkachuk on its way and under Dominik Hasek into the net.

Only forty-nine seconds later, the Red Wings answered with a goal of their own. Chris Chelios passed the puck from the right point across to Brett Hull near the left side of the net. Brent Johnson came across to cover the expected shot, but instead of shooting Hull passed across to Pavel Datsyuk, who put the puck into the empty net.

Unfortunately, that was the last bright spot of the game for the Wings. Late in the period, the Red Wings had to kill off over a minute of a five-on-three penalty from overlapping calls on Kris Draper and Brett Hull, and the Blues were able to take advantage of this and regain their one-goal lead. Al MacInnis was able to get the puck from the blue line up to Scott Mellanby near the goal line, and Mellanby’s tight-angle shot went off Hasek’s hip and into the net.

The play went back and forth in the second period. The Red Wings had several chances to score, but Johnson was ready for anything they could throw at him. Steve Yzerman took a hooking call near the end of the period, and Tkachuk’s deflection of a Chris Pronger shot gave the Blues a two goal lead.

Tkachuk scored again to complete the hat trick less than two minutes into the third period. Pavol Demitra put a centering pass between the legs of Datsyuk and Mellanby in front of the net, and Tkachuk slapped it past Hasek.

The Red Wings had three power play chances of their own after this; fifteen seconds overlapped, giving them a very short five-on-three. Nothing worked. Johnson stood his ground, and the puck stayed out of his net. Demitra stepped out of the box at the end of his penalty, ending the five-on-three, and the puck came right to him. Demitra was off on a breakaway, and beat Hasek for the goal with 10:34 remaining.

The Red Wings bench pulled Hasek after that, sending in Manny Legace for his playoff debut. The puck was no kinder to Legace: Jamal Mayers gave the Blues one more goal, getting away on a two-on-one rush and firing a quick wrist shot to propel the puck beneath Legace and into the net.

Shots were 28-18 in Detroit’s favor. The series will continue Thursday night in St. Louis.

Personal from the writer: The fans at the Savvis Center did not throw their hats onto the ice for Keith Tkachuk directly after his third goal. They waited until the hat trick was announced, even though play had already resumed by that point. Granted, many of them did not realize that it WAS a hat trick at first, because the second goal was originally credited to Chris Pronger, but littering the ice with hats, giant foam playoff novelty items, and other debris WHILE THE PUCK IS IN PLAY is extremely dangerous to players of both teams, and no good way for a fan to act. Show your support after the whistle?no matter what happens, you know there will always be another whistle soon?.

To any Detroit fans who will be doomsaying tomorrow, let me cut you off before you start. Did you seriously expect them to win sixteen straight games????? What’s WRONG with you????? Even though the fans may forget it occasionally, the Heroes of Hockeytown are as human as we are. It’s still a seven game series, and the Red Wings still lead. Go with that.

Turning It Up

The St. Louis Blues were prepared to give the Red Wings more of a challenge in Game Two, and challenge they did?more hitting, more shots on net, more defensemen rushing up to join the play and create scoring chances. Still, the Red Wings were able to rise to the challenge and outscore the Blues 3-2, giving them a 2-0 lead in this Western Conference Semi-final series.

The Red Wings controlled the game early and opened the scoring 2:46 into the opening period. Steve Duchesne dumped the puck into the Blues’ zone, and goaltender Brent Johnson attempted to clear it away. He mishandled the puck, however, and Sergei Fedorov was able to intercept it and get it to Steve Yzerman driving to the front of the net. Yzerman tapped it in past the scrambling Johnson.

Both teams took a few penalties in the first period. Detroit did a good job killing theirs off. They spent most of the time controlling the puck in the St. Louis zone and at center ice, making it nearly impossible for the Blues to set up a scoring play. The Blues, on the other hand, ran into trouble with their penalties.

Dallas Drake was sent to the penalty box for roughing with 1:56 left in the period. Nick Lidstrom sent a long pass from the right point across to Brett Hull waiting in front of the left side of the net, and Hull one-timed a wrist shot which hit the inside of Johnson’s left thigh and rattled into the net.

The Blues showed a lack of intensity in the second period, and ran into penalty trouble again midway through. This time, Jamal Mayers was in the box for interference. Chris Chelios passed along the blue line to Freddy Olausson. Olausson fired a hard shot on net, and the puck brushed the jersey of Luc Robitaille on its way past Johnson.

St. Louis came back hard after that, generating a lot of chances, especially when they got a power play chance of their own on a penalty to Kris Draper, but Dominik Hasek held them off in his acrobatic style, and the Red Wings’ defense was able to get the rebounds and clear the puck away from their goaltender.

Unfortunately for the Wings, the Blues carried that late period intensity into the third and were able to score less than a minute in. Chris Pronger carried the puck behind the net, and Hasek expected him to make a try for a wraparound goal, but Pronger instead left the puck for Scott Mellanby coming around the net in the opposite direction. Hasek couldn’t quite get over in time, and Mellanby stuffed it into the net.

The Red Wings picked up their play after that, controlling the puck for the greater part of the period and making the Blues have to go chase it in their own zone. The St. Louis bench pulled Johnson for the extra attacker with over two minutes to play. The six Blues pressed hard in Detroit’s zone, but Hasek managed to keep the puck out, and the Wings finally got it down the ice. They got caught mishandling the puck as the Blues brought it back up on the attack, and Keith Tkachuk and Mellanby brought it back in on a two on one. Lidstrom got his stick down to try to block Tkachuk’s pass, but the puck bounced over the stick to Mellanby. Mellanby’s quick shot jumped into the net over Hasek’s shoulder.

The Blues tried to press their advantage and score again to force an overtime with the forty seconds that remained to them, but they were unable to put the puck in the net again.

Hasek stopped thirty-five of the thirty-seven shots he faced, while Johnson turned aside twenty-eight of thirty-one.

The semi-final series will continue Tuesday evening at the Savvis Center in St. Louis.