Tight Game, Tight Win: Wings Down Blues, 2-1

The St. Louis Blues had been unbeaten in the month of December, but they won’t be able to carry that streak into the new year. The Red Wings snapped the Blues’ streak and tightened their own grasp on the lead in the Central Division with a 2-1 win at Joe Louis Arena.

The Blues came out with plenty of pressure to start the game. The Red Wings, meanwhile, seemed inclined to wait for good scoring chances before joining the rush rather than open up the play and leave Curtis Joseph undefended. St. Louis outshot Detroit 10 to 4 in the first, but Joseph and Chris Osgood were both solid.

The Red Wings ran into a little penalty trouble in the second period, thanks to St. Louis disturber Mike Danton. Apparently he did something to get Mathieu Schneider‘s temper flared, because Schneider knocked him down and was sent to the penalty box for interference. Joseph made a save against Doug Weight, but Eric Nickulas got the rebound and banked the puck off the end boards. Joseph was still down low from the first save, and Dallas Drake was able to wrist the puck in high under the crossbar.

The Blues thought they’d be able to increase their lead when Jamie Rivers was sent out for cross-checking (Rivers also knocked down Danton), but Pavel Datsyuk had other ideas. Scott Mellanby was unable to keep the puck in the Red Wings’ zone, and it squirted free to Datsyuk flying up center ice on a shorthanded breakaway. Christian Backman kept up enough to hook Datsyuk up pretty well, but Datsyuk still got a backhand shot away right in front of the goal crease. The puck hit Osgood’s leg pads, then bounced up, over his head, came down off his back, and fell into the net.

The game was even tighter after that””the Wings and Blues didn’t fall back into playing a defensive game, but the offensive chances were so even and the goaltending was so solid that the tied score wasn’t broken until only 5:15 was left in the game. Datsyuk worked hard along the boards in the St. Louis zone to dig the puck free from two defensemen. Brett Hull got the pass in the left corner and circled behind the net before making a quick pass across the crease to Ray Whitney. Whitney had a mostly open net, and he flipped the puck in to take the lead.

St. Louis pulled Osgood for an extra skater in the last minute of play. Joseph and his defenders were kept busy holding off a desperate Blues attack, but hold it off they did, winding up with 23 shots to the Blues’ 25. The Red Wings come away with two valuable points against the team they will most likely need points against when playoff time comes around. The Central Division race looks like it will be a close one all the way into April, which makes any win against St. Louis that much more important.

The Red Wings will have a few days off for the NHL’s Christmas break before resuming the season on Friday against the Minnesota Wild.

The Blues were without regulars Keith Tkachuk and Petr Cajanek…. Hull has scored at least a point in every game he has ever played against Osgood…. With tonight’s win, the Wings lead the Blues 48 to 44 in the Conference standings. The Blues have played six games fewer than the Wings, but it does work out that all of those six are road games.

Sabres Fall to Griffins— er, Wings

It wasn’t quite the game anyone expected. Sure, under normal circumstances, it should be easy enough for the Red Wings to gain a win over the Buffalo Sabres. But it shouldn’t have been quite so easy when a full third of the lineup (six of eighteen skaters) is straight from the Grand Rapids Griffins. And it certainly shouldn’t have been a triumphant 7-2 blowout, but there it was.

The Sabres managed to open the scoring a few minutes into the third period. J.P. Dumont made a pass to Daniel Briere just behind the net. Briere noticed Curtis Joseph just slightly out of position, so he banked the puck in off the goalie’s back. Joseph, also just recalled from the Griffins, looked a little shaky early on, but redeemed himself with a huge save against Taylor Pyatt on a breakaway a few minutes after Briere’s goal.

Pavel Datsyuk split through two Buffalo defensemen to make a give-and-go passing play with Kris Draper near the end of the period. Datsyuk pushed to the net, and when he got the puck back from Draper, he was able to flip it in behind goalie Ryan Miller. Kirk Maltby moved Detroit into a 2-1 lead just over two minutes later when some hard work in the corner by Mathieu Dandenault and a nice pass by Datsyuk left Maltby all alone in front of the net long enough to get the shot away.

Detroit carried their one goal lead all the way through the third period, holding off three Buffalo power plays.

The third period was a different story. An ordinary team might have shut down and played defensive hockey for the final twenty minutes, but these are the Red Wings (even if a lot of them were Griffins just yesterday), and they best defend their leads by adding to them. Datsyuk started the onslaught with his second goal of the night at 8:01. Jason Woolley threaded a pass through several pairs of legs to leave Datsyuk all alone in the high slot. He deked, then put the puck high over Miller.

Draper added a wraparound goal off a patient pass by Brendan Shanahan at 9:44, and Jiri Hudler scored the first goal of his NHL career by one-timing the puck from the high slot, after one of Woolley’s excellent passes found the way straight to him. It was a power play goal, with Eric Boulton in the penalty box for cross checking.

Jochen Hecht got the puck past Joseph to get the Sabres up to two, but Mathieu Schneider answered by putting a hard shot from the blue line right between Miller’s leg pads. Boyd Devereaux completed the Red Wings’ scoring by snapping a well placed wrist shot over Miller’s shoulder with 1:37 left to play.

The Sabres outshot Detroit by a margin of 25 to 23. Detroit was one for four on the power play. The Red Wings’ next opponent will be the Blackhawks, Thursday night in Chicago.

The Griffins playing as Wings tonight were Darryl Bootland, Jiri Hudler, Niklas Kronwall, Kevin Miller, Mark Mowers, Jamie Rivers, and goalie Joey MacDonald, who played backup to Joseph with Hasek and Legace both out for a few days…. It was Kronwall’s NHL debut. He logged 13:26 of ice time, took two shots on goal, served two penalty minutes, and finished with a plus-one rating…. Kevin Miller is the cousin of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.

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.

Wings End Short Trip With Win Over Minnesota

Curtis Joseph made 27 saves in his first game since November 8, and Brett Hull added a goal and two assists to help lift the Red Wings over the Minnesota Wild, 5-2.

Detroit opened the scoring just two minutes into the game. Steve Thomas handed the puck off to Mark Mowers just inside the Minnesota zone. Mowers made a good pass through the slot to Hull on the left side of the net, and Hull flipped the puck in over goalie Dwayne Roloson.

The Wild answered with a power play goal late in the period. Jiri Fischer was in the box for cross checking when Richard Park brought the puck into the zone and took a wrist shot from just inside the blue line. Joseph seemed to be expecting Park to pass, so he was sliding the wrong way and couldn’t get back across in time to block the shot.

Minnesota took the lead early in the second period. Brent Burns and Alexandre Daigle were up on a two-on-one. Fischer dropped to take the pass away, but he was too far back and Burns got the pass across. Daigle was able to put the puck into the net over Joseph.

The Red Wings answered just 23 seconds later. Steve Yzerman got the puck out from the left corner to Boyd Devereaux coming up through the offensive zone. Devereaux one-timed a shot from the left circle, and the puck deflected off Brad Brown before beating Roloson through the five-hole.

Detroit dominated the second period after squelching Minnesota’s goal-inspired momentum. Pavel Datsyuk turned a clearing pass by Hull into a scoring play, carrying the puck into the Wild’s zone and around the net before making a sharp pass to Nicklas Lidstrom in the low slot. Lidstrom had time to settle the puck before putting it in just under the crossbar.

Kris Draper added a goal late in the second, taking a quick step in front of the net to throw Roloson off before converting Kirk Maltby‘s centering pass into a high shot and a goal.

The third period was a time of concern, since the Red Wings have had trouble protecting their leads through the ends of games this season. There were some defensive lapses on Detroit’s part, but Joseph was able to stop every scoring chance the Wild could come up with. His best save was probably against Daigle from right in front of the crease midway through the period, but Andrew Brunette and Marian Gaborik also had good chances which Joseph stopped. Datsyuk put the cap on the game with only two seconds remaining. Hull made a pass which sprang Datsyuk on a breakaway, and Datsyuk backhanded a shot which bounced off Roloson’s blocker and into the net.

Shots on net totaled 33 to 28 in Detroit’s favor. The Red Wings’ next game will be at home against the struggling Washington Capitals on Monday night.

Dominik Hasek and Ray Whitney both sat out again with groin injuries…. Jamie Rivers came into the lineup for Jason Williams, who sat out with (what else?) a groin injury. Rivers played on the fourth line with his companions from the Grand Rapids Griffins, Mark Mowers and Darryl Bootland. The Griffins Line played about nine minutes together, and did a very respectable job as defensive forwards, coming out with a +1 rating thanks to Mowers’ assist on Hull’s goal.

Saturday Stunner: Preds Rally to Win

The world of hockey is full of cliche trite phrases such as, “If we want to win, we have to play hard,” and, “The players all have to be accountable.” The phrases may be overused, but they are usually true, especially the one about, “If we want to win, we have to play a full sixty minutes.” The Red Wings relearned that one tonight, allowing a four goal rally late in the third period to lose 4-3 to the Nashville Predators.

Detroit got off to a good start, opening the scoring just 13 seconds into the game. Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun held the puck on a long shot in, leading to a faceoff deep in his zone. Pavel Datsyuk won the draw back to Nicklas Lidstrom, who sent the puck across to Ray Whitney at the left point. Whitney shot on net, and Tomas Holmstrom deflected it on its way through for his first even-strength goal of the season.

Martin Erat almost evened the score when he got a breakaway shortly thereafter, but Curtis Joseph made the big save without any trouble.

Kris Draper increased the lead at 7:24. Brendan Shanahan blocked a Nashville clearing attempt at the left point. He passed the puck up to Steve Yzerman, who sent it across to Draper. Draper fanned on his first shot attempt, but he had time for a second one. Vokoun had flopped down to block an expected low shot, so Draper had plenty of room to score.

Shanahan added a power play goal late in the second period. Jason Woolley passed the puck along the blue line, and Shanahan shot it hard. Vokoun was already sliding the wrong way and couldn’t get back in time to block the shot.

Through the first and second periods, the Red Wings had done a very good job of stifling the Predators. They controlled the puck well, beat Nashville to loose pucks, and refrained from turning the puck over in bad situations. They continued the technique into the beginning of the third period. Nashville had come out with more intensity, but Joseph had covered up for his team’s small lapses.

That all changed once Vladimir Orszagh got the Predators on the scoreboard at 6:47. The goal was not a pretty one””Orzsagh beat Jiri Fischer to a loose puck in front of the net to bank it in””but it brought the Predators back to life.

Erat narrowed the gap five minutes later. The Predators had been pressuring in Detroit’s zone. Erat carried the puck towards the blue line, then wheeled and fired. Joseph was screened and had no chance to make the save.

Scott Hartnell tied the game with 3:34 left by crashing the net and whacking at the puck until it went in, then Scott Walker did the unthinkable.

Draper had been sent to the penalty box at 2:33 for goaltender interference, leaving Detroit shorthanded. Dan Hamhuis took a shot towards the net, where Joseph was screened yet again. Walker tipped the shot on its way through to move the Predators into the lead with just 57 seconds left to play.
The Red Wings pulled Joseph from the net for a sixth skater in the dying seconds of the game. Yzerman and Brett Hull both had scoring chances, but Vokoun held them off to keep the win.

The shots on net were tied at 31 apiece. Twenty of Nashville’s shots came in the third period. The Red Wings’ next game will be at home Monday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

With Mathieu Dandenault and Jason Williams both tending to minor groin injuries, defenseman Jamie Rivers and forward Darryl Bootland made their way into the lineup…. Darren McCarty left the game with back spasms after sliding feet-first into the boards early in the first period. He is scheduled to have x-rays taken on Sunday.

Rangers Fight History, Beat Detroit First Time in 8 Tries

After coming off such a decisive win (4-0) against Dallas on Friday night, the Red Wings can’t be too pleased with their play in Saturday night’s 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers. Passes were bumbled. The Rangers were more often than not the first to scoop up loose pucks. The Red Wings didn’t have much trouble getting the puck through New York’s trap, but they did have trouble keeping the puck in the Rangers’ zone long enough to set up a scoring chance. Most of the play was at center ice or in Detroit’s zone, and that, in the end, is what cost the game.

The Rangers started out seeming a little shaky and unsure of themselves, but they gained in confidence when Petr Nedved opened the scoring late in the third period. Dominik Hasek attempted to shove the puck towards Nicklas Lidstrom, but Lidstrom couldn’t quite get to it. Nedved got to it first and shot it into the net over Hasek’s outstretched leg.

Mark Messier had a chance to increase New York’s lead early in the second when he got out on a breakaway. Hasek came all the way out to the left circle to challenge him, then the two got tangled up in each other’s skates. Messier attempted a shot from his prone position on the ice, but the puck went wide of the net.

It was left to Bobby Holik to score the eventual game winner for New York. He and Chris Simon carried the puck into Detroit’s zone on a give-and-go play. Holik took a shot from the right circle which slid between Hasek’s leg pads.

Mathieu Schneider‘s power play goal brought Detroit back into the game with 7:27 left in the second period. Tomas Holmstrom carried the puck back into the zone after it had been cleared and left it for Schneider. Schneider took a booming shot from the top of the left circle, which went right through Mike Dunham‘s five-hole.

The Red Wings gained some momentum from the power play goal, but by the third period, the Rangers were slowly regaining control. Hasek had another chance to shine when Messier and Simon led a rush against him. Messier made a back pass to Simon, who broke through and made the shot, but Hasek made the save with his left shoulder then flopped onto his back to cover the puck in his traditional “snow angel” style.

The Red Wings pulled Hasek from the net for an extra attacker in the final minute of play, but Messier sealed the game by firing the puck into the empty Detroit net. Shots on net totaled 32 to 24 in favor of New York. The Red Wings will return home for a few days off before facing the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.

Jamie Rivers made his first appearance in the lineup, in place of Steve Yzerman, who will most likely not be played in back-to-back games this season. Rivers, who normally plays defense, played right wing on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Ray Whitney…. The Rangers are 0 for 26 on the power play this season. They are the only team which has yet to capitalize with the man-advantage…. This was the first time the Rangers have beaten the Red Wings at Madison Square Garden since March 1997.