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.

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.