Wings Keep it Simple, Get the Win

It sounded so easy, the way Sergei Fedorov describes it. “The way we’ve been playing lately gives us a lot of confidence against other teams. We can control the puck, move it quickly, and we’re not in a rush to give it back. That turned out to be a pretty good game plan.”

It certainly turned out that way for Fedorov, who led the team with two goals and an assist as the Red Wings added two more points in their bid to hold on to the top spot in the Western Conference and possibly even push for the President’s Trophy with a 5-1 win against the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Penguins came out to start the game with enough jump that it surprised the Red Wings a little, and Pittsburgh got the first goal of the game. Martin Straka slipped in to the zone ahead of the Detroit defense and put a pass from Tomas Surovy into the net past Manny Legace.

The lead was very short-lived, however. Just eleven seconds later, Darren McCarty tied the game up by tipping a shot by Nicklas Lidstrom past goaltender Johan Hedberg.

Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov gave the Red Wings the lead midway through the second period. They headed up the ice, two-on-one. Shanahan sent the puck to Fedorov, then got the return pass and shot the puck past Hedberg from close range for his 29th goal of the season.

Fedorov quickly overtook his linemate in goal scoring with his 29th and 30th goals of the season early in the third period. The first one was mostly an unlucky bounce for Pittsburgh. Steve Yzerman gave the puck to Fedorov in the corner of the Pittsburgh zone. Fedorov made a centering pass towards the front of the net, and the puck bounced off the skate of Dick Tarnstrom and between Hedberg’s leg pads.

Fedorov’s next goal came on the Red Wings’ only power play chance of the game. Tomas Holmstrom made a nice centering pass from the corner. Fedorov had come unseen into the high slot area, and he snapped a one-time shot past Hedberg.

Luc Robitaille added a goal to cap off the night midway through the third. He carried the puck across the line, then passed it across to Holmstrom. Igor Larionov followed Robitaille across the blue line, received the pass from Holmstrom, and then sent it back to Robitaille, who had moved to the front of the net. Robitaille then slapped the puck in past Hedberg.

“The lucky goal discouraged them a bit,” said head coach Dave Lewis. “It was a game at 2-1 and they had generated chances, especially in the first 30 minutes. I think we got emotionally into it. We weren’t as sharp as we should have been in the first period.”

Legace agreed. “We didn’t match their intensity early in the game. But we didn’t give them much in the second period, and we gave them absolutely nothing in the third.”

The final count of shots on net was 27 apiece. The Red Wings will play next on Saturday afternoon, when they travel to face the St. Louis Blues. Former Wing Chris Osgood will most likely be in net for the Blues.

Wings Flying High into Mellon Arena

A team that was only able to muster 5 wins over a 17 game span to begin the new-year now once again find themselves back on top of the Western Conference. Since their disastrous start to 2003, the Detroit Red Wings have gone 15-1-0-1 en route to becoming the National Hockey League’s elite franchise once again. Tuesday night Detroit will look to expand upon the gap between themselves and the rest of the West when they touchdown in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to take on Mario Lemieux and the Penguins.

In many ways this game will serve as a break for the Red Wings, who are coming off of big wins over Colorado and the eastern leading Ottawa Senators. Look for Steve Yzerman to be back in the line-up after sitting out Sunday’s game against the Sen’s. The Red Wings are 8-0 when their captain has laced up his skates. Much of the credit for the win over the Senator’s has been given to Curtis Joseph. Cujo turned away 41 shots to keep Detroit’s winning ways intact. The line of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Brett Hull have been one of the main sources of Detroit’s recent surge in offensive production by collectively notching 71 points over the past 17 games. They will certainly be looking to capitalize on the recent woes of the Pittsburgh Penguins

The stripped down Penguins have been playing uninspired hockey as of late. Losing power forwards Jan Hrdina and Alexie Kovalev have caused the Penguin’s general manager to admit that they just can’t compete right now in the NHL. Playing a financially stable red-hot team like the Detroit was probably not the first thing that they wanted to deal with. The sixty-point Penguins are currently buried under four other teams in the Atlantic Division. One of the only bright spots for the franchise remains player and owner Mario Lemieux. Number sixty-six leads the team with 28 goals and 59 assists. The Penguins fell to the Florida Panthers 4-2 in their last effort.

Earlier in the season, the Red Wings, led by a Sergei Federov hat trick and a two goal performance by Luc Robitaille, squashed the Pen’s 7-3.

-Player To Watch-
Pittsburgh-#66 Mario Lemieux (28 goals, 59 assists). Who else? Always a pleasure to watch skate.

Detroit- #17 Brett Hull (33 goals, 35 assists). A big reason why Detroit was able to hold off the Senators on Sunday. Hull will be looking to add to his season total against the struggling Pen’s.

-Out or in Doubt-
Pittsburgh- D Joel Bouchard (Broken Jaw/Out), D Josef Melichar (Shoulder/Out), D Michal Rozsival (Shoulder/Questionable), C Milan Kraft (Groin/Out)

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

-Between da Pipes-
Pittsburgh- #31 Sebastien Caron (5-12-1, 2.77 GAA, .912 SV%, 2 SO)
Detroit- #31 Curtis Joseph (30-17-6, 2.58 GAA, .910 SV%, 3 SO)

-Most Points This Season vs. Opposition-
Pittsburgh- #66 Mario Lemieux with 2 points (2 assists) vs. Detroit

Detroit- #23 Mathieu Schneider with 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) vs. Pittsburgh

The Game will be televised locally on Fox Detroit at 7:30 p.m. eastern time.