Cujo Keeps The Streak Alive

It could have been a close call, but thanks to magnificent goaltending by Curtis Joseph and a timely late goal by Brendan Shanahan, the Red Wings extended their winning streak with a 3-2 decision over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Red Wings dominated the game in the first period and got out to an early 2-0 lead. Their first goal came on the power play with Alexander Svitov in the box for hooking. Pavel Datsyuk passed the puck neatly into the high slot area. Nicklas Lidstrom had come in unnoticed from the blue line, and he one-timed a wrist shot that beat Tampa Bay goalie John Grahame high on the glove side.

Mathieu Dandenault extended the lead a few minutes later. Igor Larionov slid the puck across to Dandenault at the right point, and Dandenault let fly a slapshot which sailed into the net past Grahame.

The Lightning came into their own in the second period, aided by a number of power play chances. Dan Boyle scored with a slapshot from the blue line less than 30 seconds into the second period, just as an interference penalty to Maxim Kuznetsov was coming to its end. The goal energized the Tampa Bay team, and only a spectacular display of goaltending by Joseph kept them from tying up the game as they continued to pressure throughout the second and third periods.

Tampa Bay had an excellent chance to score again midway through the second when they gained over a minute of five-on-three power play time. Boyd Devereaux was sent to the box for holding the stick, and 54 seconds later, Kuznetsov was sent out for slashing. Steve Yzerman, Kirk Maltby, and Lidstrom were the three skaters to kill off the penalty, and they did an excellent job. Yzerman cleanly won a faceoff deep in the Detroit zone, and Maltby sent the puck down the ice. The Lightning brought it back, but Joseph stopped them in their tracks, ending the penalty without giving up a goal.

Coach Dave Lewis had much praise for his starting goaltender. “We had a tremendous first period, and then I thought Curtis Joseph took over. He was the difference in the game.”

Shanahan gave the Wings a two-goal cushion late in the third period. Pavel Datsyuk stole the puck from a Tampa Bay defender along the boards and made a soft centering pass to Shanahan, who put the puck high over Grahame.

The Lightning pulled Grahame from the net for the final minute and a half, and were aided by another power play. With six skaters out to Detroit’s four, Vincent Lecavalier threaded a pass through to Vaclav Prospal near the corner of the net, and Prospal put the puck in high as Joseph scrambled to get across. Grahame had to go back in net for the faceoff at center ice, and there simply wasn’t enough time left on the clock for the Lightning to mount another attack.

Joseph made 33 saves throughout the course of the game. Grahame made 19 saves. The Red Wings’ next opponent will be the St. Louis Blues, who visit the Joe on Friday night. Expect intensity: the Blues are just two points behind the Wings in the playoff race, and will be seeking to gain the top spot in the Central Division.

Sergei Fedorov (back) and Chris Chelios (knee) both sat out for the second straight game…. Dmitri Bykov had to leave the game early in the third after being sticked in the face. He had to have stitches on the bottom of his left eyelid and the top of his nose, but team doctors didn’t believe there was any damage to the eye itself…. Datsyuk has 4 goals and 15 assists for 19 points in his last 11 games.

Cujo Faces Old Team, Wins Decisively

Curtis Joseph may have been a little anxious about playing his first game against his old team. “There’s anticipation when you play your former team,” he said. “Some emotion. You just have to keep that in check.”

Joseph needn’t have worried. As he so often does, he played his best in such a big game, and his teammates’ offense continued as unstoppable as it has been of late, giving the Red Wings a highly satisfying 7-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leafs started the game with more energy than the Red Wings had, but the Red Wings found their game and opened the scoring late in the first period. Pavel Datsyuk passed the puck to Brett Hull in the right corner. Hull threaded a pass through three Toronto players to Henrik Zetterberg in front of the net. Zetterberg was left all alone in front of Ed Belfour, so he paused, waited for Belfour to drop to take away a low shot, then lifted the puck over the flopping goaltender at 4:43.

Just eight seconds later, Darren McCarty increased the lead to two. The Red Wings won the faceoff at center. McCarty followed Kris Draper up on a two-on-one break. Draper passed across to McCarty, who wristed the shot into the top corner of the net.

The Maple Leafs got on the board at 3:06. Robert Reichel’s shot hit the left post, then hit the inside of the right post, then bounced into the net past Joseph.

Hull regained the two-goal lead with just 1.8 seconds left in the period. The Leafs iced the puck with 5 seconds left, leading to a faceoff deep in their zone. Datsyuk won the draw and kicked the puck back to Hull, whose shot curved up over Belfour and dropped into the net.

The Red Wings had penalty trouble early in the second period. Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Kirk Maltby had to kill off two back to back five-on-three penalties. First Mathieu Dandenault was called for tripping, then Hull had to go in to serve a delay of game penalty assessed to Joseph. Gary Roberts tipped in a shot by Robert Svehla just as the first penalty was about to expire. Then, thirty seconds after Joseph’s penalty ended, Steve Yzerman was called for holding. Forty-seven seconds later, Draper was sent out for hooking. This time, Chelios, Lidstrom, Maltby, and Joseph held strong and kept the Maple Leafs off the board.

Yzerman contributed his first point of the season by setting up Zetterberg’s second goal. Bryan McCabe was attempting to carry the puck out of his own zone, but Yzerman stripped him of it cleanly and passed it to Zetterberg, who was skating towards the net. Zetterberg slammed it past Belfour.

Hull added his second goal of the game just as the period was drawing to an end. The Wings were on the power play, since Roberts was sent out for roughing up Draper. Igor Larionov passed from the right point to Hull in the high slot, and Hull one-timed the shot right through Belfour.

Draper and Dmitri Bykov rounded out the scoring with a goal each in the third period. Maltby, McCarty, and Draper carried the puck up ice on a three-on-two rush. Maltby sent it from the middle to McCarty on the right side, and McCarty put the puck right across the goal crease to Draper, who tapped it in past Belfour.

Bykov’s goal came on another power play. Yzerman passed the puck from the left point to Tomas Holmstrom behind the net. Holmstrom put it back out front, and Bykov was in just the right spot down low to send it into the net.

Detroit outshot Toronto by a count of 31-29. They won 35 of the 63 faceoffs, and went 2-for-6 on the power play. The Red Wings’ next game will be Sunday evening at home against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Hull’s assist on Zetterberg’s first goal made him the 23rd player in NHL history to score 1300 career points…. McCarty was in his first game back after missing nine games with an arm infection…. Fedorov and Larionov extended their point streaks to nine and eight games respectively…. The Red Wings hold a 273-271-93 lifetime record against the Maple Leafs.

Refs Ruin Game

In yet another display of the way NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Director of Officiating Andy Van Hellemond seem determined to drive away all of hockey’s fans, the on-ice officials took it upon themselves to give the Vancouver Canucks a 4-3 overtime win over the Red Wings.

The Canucks are thought by many analysts to be the NHL front office’s Chosen Team to win the Stanley Cup this year so that Commissioner Bettman can prove that small-market Canadian teams don’t actually need any help. Vancouver, with its rough, thuggish style of play guided by the sick mind of coach Marc Crawford, has probably been the main beneficiary of the League’s directive to make phantom obstruction calls instead of focusing more on blatant and dangerous charging, boarding, cross-checking, and high-sticking calls.

The Red Wings got off to a good start against the Canucks, in spite of the fact that one of the referees seemed to be having a Cold War flashback and decided to fight for Truth, Justice, and The American Way by calling non-existent penalties against young Russians Pavel Datsyuk and Dmitri Bykov, who were all of 12 and 13 years old respectively when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Vancouver golden boy Todd Bertuzzi actually spent time in the penalty box for mugging Chris Chelios, but the Red Wings didn’t get on the board until early in the second period. They had another power play, this one because Vancouver had had too many men on the ice. Sergei Fedorov, quite happy with his new higher level of ice time, took a pass from Brett Hull and one-timed the puck from the right point. The puck sailed past Dan Cloutier, who perhaps still has nightmares of the shot by Lidstrom which beat him from center ice in last year’s playoffs.

Henrik Zetterberg increased Detroit’s lead shortly thereafter. Datsyuk made a good pass through a few pairs of legs to Zetterberg in front of the net, and Zetterberg easily flipped the puck over Cloutier.

When the Red Wings scored two goals, including a power play goal, within the space of 1:03, it soon became obvious that Detroit would not be getting another power play. But that didn’t seem to matter. The Wings played a very strong period, continually pressuring the Canucks in their own zone and easily killing off a phantom penalty on Datsyuk.

But when Luc Robitaille scored early in the third and Cloutier ran away to hide behind the mattress-sized leg pads of his backup goalie Peter Skudra, the referees realized that the Canucks might actually LOSE, so they sprang into action. (Who knows what evil the League might wreak upon the officials of a loss by Vancouver?!?!?) First came a hooking call on Bykov. Again. The Wings were handling the penalty-killing role nicely, until Bertuzzi dragged his feet just enough to pitch him over Lidstrom’s skate and went flying like a clumsy ballerina. (Really, the man has a future as a melodramatic soap opera actor when his playing days are over…. or at least he would, if he weren’t one of the ugliest men in North America.)

Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and Chris Chelios did a heroic job of killing off the 1:02 of 5-on-3 play. Chelios did an excellent job of helping Curtis Joseph defend the net and harrassing the Canuck attackers down low, while Maltby and Draper used their speed and agility to force the other attackers to make quick passes and play keep-away instead of setting up a scoring chance. Bykov came out of the box to help, and the Wings sent the puck down the ice.

Trent Klatt carried the puck back into the Detroit zone and crashed the net. Literally. Like a steamroller. The puck preceded Klatt into the net by an inch or two before the net came up off its moorings, but it should seem fairly obvious to most observers that Joseph cannot stop the puck when he is being leveled by a 225-pound man with full forward momentum. Apparently referee Don Van Massenhoven is no ordinary observer. In the strange and unusual physics of his little world, Joseph would have been perfectly capable of being run over and of making the save at the same time, so Van Massenhoven waved off any unimportant objections such as “goaltender interference” and allowed the goal.

The Canucks pulled Skudra and his mattresses out of the net to send in an extra skater with just over a minute left to play, and Van Massenhoven had another chance to shine. The Canucks were pressuring in the Detroit zone, and Lidstrom sent the puck around behind the net so the Wings could pick it up and clear it on the other side. Van Massenhoven was in the way. The puck hit his skate, his foot moved, and somehow the puck went right to the stick blade of Markus Naslund. What a coincidence! (I’ve seen goals disallowed for less of a kicking motion than Van Massenhoven used in his assist. Sure, you can kick the puck if you’re only setting up a goal, but that’s only if you’re actually ON THE TEAM!) Naslund, who isn’t leading the League in goals for nothing, sent the puck right into the empty corner of the net, in spite of the way everything suddenly seemed to go into slow motion and Cujo flung himself across the crease to try to somehow block the shot.

Goalies sometimes see in slow motion. If a goalie can somehow project his slow motion view of the puck to the fans in the audience and the TV viewers at home, then you know you are watching a very powerful goalie indeed. But a goalie’s power matters little when the referee gets the first assist on the game-tying goal””even Terry Sawchuk himself, who had over 100 career shutouts with shorter seasons and much smaller equipment than the NHL has now, would have been hard-pressed to make that save. (By the way, does ESPN know ANYTHING about sports history? Where do they get off calling Patrick Wah the best goalie ever? Have they never heard of Sawchuk? Esposito? Vezina? Crozier? But don’t get me started on that.)

So, the game went to overtime, and the Canucks proceeded to blatantly obstruct the Red Wings’ attempts to get the puck and set up plays. Hmm, not so quick with the whistles now? Can’t imagine why…. Marek Malik scored the game winner with 1:58 remaining, and Skudra proceeded to jump up and down as if he’d actually done something. Meanwhile, the Red Wings proceeded to go to the dressing room to regroup and try to wash away the nastiness of a game decided by referees before facing the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night. Fortunately, the Oilers are NOT the Chosen Team this season, so there may even be a chance of a somewhat fair bit of officiating.

Wings Suffer OT Loss to Canucks

In spite of strong first and second periods, and an excellent job in net by Curtis Joseph, the Red Wings took a 4-3 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

The first period was scoreless, and both teams’ best opportunities for goals came short-handed. Dan Cloutier stopped Sergei Fedorov with a glove save 4:40 into the period. Curtis Joseph later denied Trevor Linden as he came in off the right wing side and cut to the front of the net.

The Red Wings took a 2-0 lead in the span of 1:03 early in the second period.

Fedorov broke the scoreless tie with a power-play goal. His slap shot from the point deflected off a Canuck player’s stick for his 23rd goal of the season. Just over a minute later, Henrik Zetterberg stuffed a shot through Cloutier’s pads.

Igor Larionov set up Luc Robitaille early in the third. Robitaille spun around to take the pass in the high slot and one-timed the puck through to the net. Robitaille’s second goal in two games was enoigh to drive Cloutier to the bench in favor of Peter Skudra.

The goalie switch shook up the Canucks enough that Trevor Linden got Vancouver on the board at 4:59 of the third period with a wrist shot from the slot. Henrik Sedin made the centering pass from the corner to set up the goal.

The Red Wings valiantly killed off a 1:02 5-on-3 power play midway through the third. With both Dmitri Bykov and Nicklas Lidstrom in the box, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and Chris Chelios did a phenomenal job protecting Joseph and the lead until Bykov could come out of the box to help the defense.

The Canucks did manage to score in the remaining time 5-on-4. Trent Klatt crashed the net- literally. He plowed into Joseph, pushing the puck in ahead of him and knocking the net off its moorings. The Wings tried to make the argument that Joseph had been interfered with, but referee Don Van Massenhoven made the call that the goal counted.

Vancouver pulled Skudra from the net for the extra skater in the last minute of play, and a horrible bounce let the Canucks tie the game. With only 25 seconds remaining, the puck, which should have gone harmlessly into the corner, bounced off the skate of Van Massenhoven and centered to the perfect position for Markus Naslund to put into the net as Joseph flung his body across in an attempt to keep it out.

Marek Malik scored the game winning goal with 1:58 left in overtime.

The final count of shots on net was 37-30 for the Canucks. The Red Wings’ next game will be Thursday evening against the Edmonton Oilers.

Steve Yzerman should be returning to the lineup very soon, according to reports in the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. He hopes to finalize his plans with coach Dave Lewis in the next few days. “I don’t care for it to be too big a deal,” Yzerman said Monday about his return. “I’ll just get in as quietly as I can, with as little fanfare as possible. I’m pretty optimistic it’s going to go well, but I’d like to find out soon. I’m a little bit anxious, I guess.”

Deja vu and a Win

Didn’t we see this game already?

We had the Red Wings down two games to the Vancouver Canucks, and heading out for a third game in Vancouver. We had both teams putting up quite a fight. And then we had Nicklas Lidstrom scoring a most timely goal, Dan Cloutier coming undone, and the Red Wings coming up with an important win.

Obviously no one counts a regular season series as more important than a playoff series. But the Red Wings’ 5-2 win over the Canucks was vital in its own way. The defense came back. The offense came back. The Wings gained two points and inched back in front of the Canucks in the standings. And maybe most importantly, they reminded the Canucks (thought by many analysts to be the most likely team to challenge the Wings for the Western Conference Title this year) of that plain old Detroit stubbornness that came through and won the Conference Quarterfinals last season.

The Red Wings controlled the game from the beginning, even with two penalties to kill off one after the other midway through the first period. The Canucks did outshoot Detroit, but the Wings’ defense was so careful that most of the shots were weak shots or hurried, badly aimed shots. Manny Legace was in the net to skillfully knock the puck aside anytime it got through.

Tomas Holmstrom‘s hard work led to the opening goal late in the period. He battled for the puck in the corner and along the boards. Brendan Shanahan came in to help and got the puck out towards center, then made a pass to Sergei Fedorov, who was all alone in front to the net. Fedorov flipped the puck in high over Cloutier.

Legace was called upon just as the period was ending. The Canucks were on a power play, and Legace made two difficult saves on Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi right in a row to keep the lead for Detroit.

Patrick Boileau scored his first NHL goal 1:59 into the second period to increase the Red Wings’ lead. He was just off the bench and into the Vancouver zone. Fedorov saw him open and made the pass across, and Boileau’s shot went right through Cloutier.

The Red Wings continued their dominant play throughout the second period, but a bad bounce with only 17 seconds remaining let the Canucks get on the board. The Canucks were pressuring in the Detroit zone. A clearing pass was attempted, but instead of sending it straight out along the boards, it was sent out center to Dmitri Bykov. The pass missed Bykov’s stick completely and bounced off his skates right to Naslund, whose quick shot went past Legace and in under the crossbar.

The late goal gave the Canucks a lot of energy to start the third period, and they were able to score again before two minutes had gone by. Brendan Morrison stole the puck from Kirk Maltby just at the blue line, and passed it to Bertuzzi. Bertuzzi carried to the net and whacked at the puck, which deflected up and over Legace to tie the game.

The Red Wings were not thrown off by the two quick goals. They were patient. They calmed the game down and took back the momentum, and their patience was rewarded with 6:45 left to play. Henrik Zetterberg had the puck along the left side boards, and Nicklas Lidstrom got over in front of the net without being noticed. The pass came across, and Lidstrom put it high over Cloutier.

Detroit knew better than to sit back on a one goal lead. They continued to pressure in the offensive zone. When the Canucks tried to carry the puck out to center, Darren McCarty slowed Naslund down just enough that Maltby could get the puck away from him, and Maltby and McCarty went in alone against Sami Salo. Maltby held onto the puck long enough to fool Salo before passing across to McCarty, who put the shot past Cloutier.

Bertuzzi was sent off to the box for holding with 4:03 left to play, and the Red Wings capitalized on their power play chance. Fedorov stole the puck from the Vancouver player attempting to clear it at the blue line and carried it deep. He made a saucer pass to Holmstrom right in front of the net, and Holmstrom’s shot hit the underside of the crossbar and fell into the net to put the game away.

The Canucks led in shots on net by a count of 29-24. The Red Wings will finish out the Western portion of their road trip Saturday night against the Calgary Flames. Detroit has a 3-0 record against the Flames this year. Two of the previous matchups were shutouts for Curtis Joseph.

Chris Chelios sat out this game with a flare-up of his previous leg injury.

An “A” for Effort, But Still Only One Point

The Red Wings’ fans have been waiting all month to see their team play against a “normal” team (as in, not the Avs) with as much jump and energy as they had in the second and third period against the Edmonton Oilers. They won two-thirds of the faceoffs. They outshot and outscored the Oilers by a large margin, and their passing was excellent. It was a wonderful, dominating performance, the sort of game we would expect from the defending Stanley Cup Champions. There was just one problem.

The Oilers won anyway, 4-3 in overtime.

Edmonton came out with a lot of enthusiasm to start the game and really controlled the first period. They started off the scoring with a goal by Anson Carter. Mike York made the first shot, and Curtis Joseph made the first save. Carter came out from behind the net to get the puck and put it in through Joseph’s five-hole.

Another defensive breakdown by Detroit led to the Oilers’ second goal. Dan Cleary won a battle for the puck in the corner and centered the puck. Jani Rita got to it before anyone could stop him. He took the extra second to wait for Joseph to drop to block the expected low shot, then put the puck high.

The Red Wings managed to slow the game down enough to keep the Oilers from scoring again, but they didn’t really take charge of the game until the second period. As soon as the second period started, they looked like a completely different team than they had in the first. Detroit applied its considerable offensive pressure in the Edmonton zone, and goalie Jussi Markkanen had to come up with some large saves to hold onto the lead.

Detroit got on the board with two skillful power plays. Igor Larionov scored the first goal 7:34 into the period. Jason Woolley made the pass from the blue line to Henrik Zetterberg behind the net. Zetterberg passed out front to Brett Hull, who took the shot. Larionov then banged at the rebound until it went in- an unusual role for him, but it got the goal.

The Red Wings then got the golden opportunity of a five-on-three power play with Todd Marchant and Ethan Moreau both in the penalty box. Sergei Fedorov won the draw and got the puck back to Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom passed across to Hull, who one-timed the shot into the small space between Markkanen and his short side goalpost for his 20th goal of the season and the 699th goal of his career.

The Red Wings continued their dominant play into the third period, even during a slashing penalty to Dmitri Bykov. Marchant mishandled the puck at the blue line, and Kirk Maltby poked it through to Kris Draper, flying up the ice. Draper got the shot off and into the net just before he was taken down by Eric Brewer.

Unfortunately, the Red Wings relaxed for just 30 seconds after the shorthanded goal, and that was all the Oilers needed to tie the game back up. Carter got through and made a shot on net which deflected up and over Joseph’s leg pads.

Markkanen had to continue his excellent game, as the Wings continued pressing, all the way to overtime and part of the way into it. The puck took a bad bounce for Detroit, though, sending Brewer and Jason Chimera up on a two-on-one rush. Mathieu Dandenault took the passing lane away, and Zetterberg tried to get back to help, but Joseph had come out of the net too far, and Brewer got the puck around him and into the net.

The final count of shots on net was 39-22 in Detroit’s favor. The Red Wings will continue their road trip with a Friday night stop in Vancouver to play the Canucks.

Brett Hull’s 20th goal of the season moves him into the lead in team goal scoring…. Kris Draper’s goal was the Red Wings’ 10th shorthanded goal of the year, which moved the team back into the lead for shorthanded goals. The Columbus Blue Jackets are in second with nine.

Wings’ Third Period Rally Falls Short

The Red Wings were hoping to end their road trip at Philadelphia as they began it – with a fast-paced, entertaining game, and a win, just as they had done against the Chicago Blackhawks to start their road swing. They gave the fans the high-energy, watchable game, but this time they were unable to come back from a deficit in the third period, and the Flyers took a 3-2 win.

The game started with a quick pace, each team threatening to score in the other’s end. It was Henrik Zetterberg who opened the scoring, snapping his 15 game goal drought. Mathieu Dandenault made a good interception and pass at center, and Zetterberg carried the puck into the Flyers’ zone. He deked around two defenders, lured goaltender Roman Cechmanek out of the net , then cut around and put the puck in from a tight angle 7:31 into the game.

The glow of getting the first goal of the game was shortlived, however, as the Flyers came up with an answering goal only 15 seconds later. Donald Brashear took a hard shot from the blue line. The high rebound bounced off the chest of Radovan Somik and back into the net past Curtis Joseph.

Dmitri Bykov seemed to have a target on his back all through the first period- the Flyers kept taking runs at him. Darren McCarty finally lost patience and dropped the gloves against Donald Brashear. Even though Brashear has a reputation as one of the toughest players in the league, McCarty came out on top of that fight.

The Flyers came out on top of the period, even after the momentum swing of McCarty’s fight. Boyd Devereaux lost the edge of his skate and fell as he was carrying the puck out of his own zone. Jeremy Roenick picked up the loose puck and went in. He angled around Chris Chelios, then put the puck high over Joseph.

Philadelphia increased their lead before even a minute had gone by in the second period. Eric Weinrich took a shot from the blue line which was tipped by the stick of Michal Handzus as it headed into the net.

The goal by Handzus set the tone for the second period. The Flyers did a good job of clogging up center ice, intercepting passes, and generally keeping the Red Wings from setting up very many scoring chances.

The tide turned early in the third period. Pavel Datsyuk had the puck in the Flyers’ zone and was knocked down in fronto the net. He still managed to get the pass back to Brett Hull, and Hull’s shot went in high on the far side of Cechmanek.

The Red Wings brought on the pressure after that, aided by their only two power plays of the game. The Flyers stuck to their game plan, though, and Cechmanek came through with some big saves to keep the Wings from getting on the board again.

The count of shots on net at the final buzzer was 29-23 in favor of Philadelphia. The Red Wings play next on Monday evening, when they return to Joe Louis Arena for the first of a home-and-home series with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chris Chelios played in his first game back after missing four with a leg injury…. Brett Hull’s goal was the 697th of his career…. The starters for the All Star Game were announced during today’s game. Nicklas Lidstrom will be representing the Red Wings as part of the first defensive pairing on the Western team. Lidstrom had more fan votes than any other player in the NHL. Other Wings may also be going to the game: the non-starting lines are selected by the NHL’s Hockey Operations Department, and those players will be announced on Thursday.

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.

Flames Fizzle Again

It wasn’t a shutout this time, and Calgary put in a much better effort than they have in the two previous matches this season, but the Red Wings still came up with a 4-2 victory over the Flames.

This game had a much better flow to it than did the Red Wings’ Friday night game against Carolina. Even with the relative lack of penalties this time, the Red Wings opened the scoring on a power play resulting from an interference call against Stephane Yelle. Dmitri Bykov took a shot on net which was deflected by goalie Roman Turek. Sean Avery took the rebound behind the net and sent it to Darren McCarty, who passed it across to Brendan Shanahan waiting on the left side. The Flames had all turned towards the right in reaction to Bykov’s shot, and before they could get refocused, Shanahan let go a hard shot. Turek was partially screened by one of his own defensemen, and the puck rattled into the net.

The Flames had a chance to even the game while they were shorthanded. Jarome Iginla managed to get the puck and fly in all alone against Curtis Joseph, but Joseph flung himself out to take away the bottom half of the net, and Iginla couldn’t lift the shot high enough.

Calgary did tie the game with 7:35 left to play in the second period. Robyn Regehr made a shot from the left point which was deflected on its way through by Scott Nichol. The redirection caused the puck to be hard for Joseph to handle, and the rebound came free to Craig Conroy, who put it into the empty portion of the net.

Henrik Zetterberg stole the Flames’ momentum and quite probably cast a hush over all the sports bars in and around the city of Calgary just 32 seconds later. Jason Woolley banked a shot off the end boards which came right out to Zetterberg in front of the net, and Zetterberg put the puck in on the far side of Turek.

Sean Avery increased Detroit’s lead midway through the third period. The Flames made an ill-advised pass up the middle, and Avery, just off the bench, picked it off and went in alone against Turek. The puck sailed into the net high past Turek’s catching glove.

The Flames had a golden opportunity when Jesse Wallin was given a tripping penalty with less than two minutes to play, and they did what they could with it. They pulled Turek from the net so that they could go with six skaters against four. Conroy won the faceoff deep in the Red Wings’ zone and got the puck back to Toni Lydman at the right point. Lydman sent it across to Iginla in the high slot, and Iginla ripped a hard shot past Joseph.

Calgary pulled Turek out of the net again after the next faceoff, but this time it worked to the Red Wings’ advantage. Brett Hull cleared the puck from the zone up to Sergei Fedorov at center, and Fedorov’s shot edged into the empty net with 16.3 seconds remaining.

Turek stopped 14 of the 17 shots he faced over the night, giving him an 82% save percentage. Joseph stopped 31 of the 33 he faced, for a much more impressive 94% save percentage.

The Red Wings next opponent will be the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The two teams will meet on Tuesday night at the Joe.

Pavel Datsyuk was out with a sprained knee. The team reports that he will be out for at least two weeks…. Chris Chelios was also out tonight, with a broken finger…. Brett Hull’s assist on Sergei Fedorov’s last second empty net goal saved Hull’s point streak and extended it to nine games.

Third Time a Charm for Wings in OT

The Detroit Red Wings tied the Edmonton Oilers, 1-1, ater overtime last Friday in Edmonton. The Wings then fell to the Oilers, 5-4, in sudden-death at Joe Louis Arena on Monday. Wednesday night the third time was the charm for the Wings as Kris Draper scored just 1:55 into the extra period to give Detroit a 3-2 win over New Jersey.

Draper had stolen the puck as the Devils attempted to clear the zone. Kirk Maltby carried in and took a shot at New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur and Draper streaked in to pick up the rebound and flip it over the sprawling Brodeur and into the open net.

The goal came shortly after New Jersey through they had won the game. As New Jersey carried the puck into the Red Wings’ zone, a shot was deflected to Devils forward John Madden, who knocked the puck in with his skate. Upon review, the replay official determined that the puck was kicked in and the goal was disallowed.

The Red Wings had opened the scoring in the first period with Dmitri Bykov‘s first career NHL goal. Sean Avery won a faceoff in the New Jersey zone back to Bykov, who ripped a shot past Brodeur to put the Wings up, 1-0, at 8:59 of the first period.

The Devils tied things up less than a minute later. Turner Stevenson punched a shot past Detroit goaltender Curtis Joseph at 9:52, evening the scoring at one goal apiece.

New Jersey took the lead early in the second period, when Jeff Friesen clanged a shot from the slot off the left post and into the back of the net at the 1:58 mark. Igor Larionov was in the penalty box serving an obstruction penalty at the time.

Detroit rallied with a blast from Brett Hull while skating four-on-three. With the Wings’ Maxim Kuznetsov and the Devils’ Mike Danton in the box for roughing, along with New Jersey’s Colin White who was serving a slashing penalty, Hull fired a shot past Brodeur with 6:17 remaining in regulation time.

Joseph made twenty-five saves on twenty-seven shots in net for Detroit. Brodeur stopped twenty-two of the twenty-five shots he faced between the pipes for New Jersey.

The Red Wings are back in action on Friday night as they travel to Carolina for a Stanley Cup Finals rematch with the Hurricanes.