Wings Score Four to Open ’04, Defeat ‘Canes by Three

Kris Draper scored twice and Pavel Datsyuk and Steve Yzerman scored a goal apiece as the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-1, in their first game of the 2004 calendar year.

Datsyuk opened the game’s scoring 9:06 into the game. He skated down the right-side boards and fired a bad-angle shot from the bottom of the faceoff circle through Hurricanes’ goaltender Kevin Weekes, who should have been able to stop the shot. The goal put the Wings up by one and lifted Datsyuk into a tie with Washington Capital Robert Lang for second place in NHL scoring.

Yzerman scored just 1:06 later. Twelve seconds into a power play, Nicklas Lidstrom fired a shot from the blue line that Yzerman deflected past Weekes to give the Red Wings a two-goal lead.

Jamie Storr took over in the Carolina net to start the second period but he couldn’t stop the Wings’ scoring.

Draper picked off a pass at the Detroit blue line with the Hurricanes on the power play. He broke in all alone on Storr and fired a shot over his outstretched blocker 8:08 into the second.

Carolina countered with a shorthanded goal of their own with 50 seconds remaining in the middle frame. Mathieu Schneider lost the puck at the Hurricanes’ blue line and Kevyn Adams streaked down the ice toward Detroit netminder Curtis Joseph. Joseph stayed in his net rather than moving out to challenge and Adams rifled a shot over his stick hand.

Draper sealed the Wings’ victory, scoring with just 3:10 remaining in the game. Above the top of the crease, Draper collided with Storr and Carolina defenseman Sean Hill. Draper fought through a hold by Hill to put in the rebound of a Nicklas Lidstrom shot. The goal set a new personal best for Draper, breaking his previous record of 15 goals in a season.

Strong goaltending by Joseph helped Detroit kill off a 6-on-3 manpower advantage in the final two minutes of the game, as Niklas Kronwall and Ray Whitney were in the penalty box for the Red Wings and Storr was on the Carolina bench in favor of the extra attacker.

Joseph ended the game with 29 saves on 30 shots. Weekes stopped five of the seven shots he faced in the first period while Storr made 13 saves on 15 shots in the second and third periods.

The Red Wings are next in action Saturday night when Sergei Fedorov makes his second appearance in Detroit since signing with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim over the summer. Game time is 7:30 PM.

Kids, Goat Reunite With Great Success

It had been six weeks and two days since Henrik Zetterberg was sidelined with a broken leg, but he slipped right back into the lineup as if he’d never been gone. Zetterberg had a goal and two assists, and Curtis Joseph had another strong showing to lift the Red Wings over the San Jose Sharks, 3-2 in overtime.

The Sharks are a strong defensive team, and the Red Wings had some trouble breaking through their trap to create quality scoring chances against goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Zetterberg opened the scoring, but he wasn’t able to do so until the first period was almost gone. Niklas Kronwall took a hard shot from the blue line. The puck deflected, but Brendan Shanahan, who was screening the goalie, was able to kick the puck onto his stick blade and backhand a pass to Zetterberg. Nabokov was focused on Shanahan, giving Zetterberg a wide open net to score into.

The Red Wings ran into penalty trouble in the second period. Jiri Fischer was sent out for holding the stick, followed by Mathieu Schneider for high sticking. Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, and Kirk Maltby killed off fifty seconds of five-on-three power play. Joseph was outstanding again, holding off a mad scramble of Sharks in front of his net until Fischer could leave the box to help relieve the pressure.

With four men on the ice, Detroit took advantage of a break to try to create a scoring chance the other way, but Fischer crashed right into Nabokov, and was sent right back to the box for goaltender interference, giving the Sharks another 35 seconds of two man advantage. This time, Marco Sturm was in close to the goal crease and managed to force the rebound of a Mike Ricci shot into the net.
San Jose moved into the lead early in the third. Wayne Primeau shook off two defenders to move behind the net and center a pass to Scott Thornton. Thornton’s first shot was kicked away by Joseph, but Joseph wasn’t able to get to the rebound shot in time.
The Sharks took their one-goal lead and shut the game down. They forechecked only halfheartedly, preferring to keep four of their skaters lined up to pick off the puck and ice it before Detroit could set up a potential scoring play. The Wings’ bench pulled Joseph out for a sixth skater with just over a minute to go. Thirty seconds later, Detroit got their best break of the game. Nils Ekman was sent to the penalty box for high-sticking.

The Red Wings kept Joseph on the bench, giving them six skaters against four. With just 19 seconds before the buzzer, the Two Kids and the Old Goat tied up the game. Zetterberg passed the puck from behind the net to Brett Hull near the left circle. Hull threaded a pass across to Pavel Datsyuk in the slot, and Datsyuk wristed the shot over Nabokov.

The Sharks weren’t able to play the trap successfully in overtime, with only four skaters allowed per side, so the Red Wings were able to dominate the play. Zetterberg set up the game winning goal by bringing the puck deep into the San Jose zone, dragging it around a few defenders, and making a perfect pass across to Shanahan at the left circle. Shanahan took a hard shot on net which deflected off Nabokov and into the net.

Shots on net were even at 28 apiece. The Red Wings will next see action on Friday night, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks.

Steve Yzerman said he might be ready to play later this week, either Friday against Chicago or Saturday at Nashville…. Datsyuk’s 19th goal ties him with Columbus’s Rick Nash for the NHL’s goal scoring lead and with Washington’s Robert Lang for the lead in points.

Frustration, Inconsistency Show Up Again in Loss to Caps

The Washington Capitals came into tonight’s game with the worst record in the NHL, but you never would have known it by the game’s end. The Red Wings fell behind early and wound up losing to the Capitals, 4-1.

“The first period was the whole hockey game,” sighed Steve Yzerman. “They just played the basic trap and we kept turning the puck over.”

The Capitals’ first goal came just 6:57 into the game. Robert Lang took a shot on net, which Curtis Joseph stopped easily enough. Sergei Gonchar got the rebound over to Jaromir Jagr. Jagr was completely uncovered deep in the Red Wings’ zone, and he was able to skate right into the crease and beat Joseph from point-blank range.

Washington followed up with a goal from Peter Bondra. Dainius Zubrus carried the puck across the blue line on the right side. He spun deftly away from Mathieu Schneider, then backhanded a shot on net. Joseph made the save, but Bondra had been allowed to rush the net up the left side, and he was right on hand to tap the puck in.

The Red Wings made a decent attempt on the power play when Gonchar was snet out for hooking shortly after Bondra’s goal. Brendan Shanahan had two good shots against rookie goalie Rastislav Stana, who was making his very first NHL start, but Stana could see the shots with no one blocking his view and was able to handle them without much trouble.

The power play ended in misfortune when Jagr poked the puck away from Brett Hull just as Gonchar was stepping out of the box. Gonchar got the puck, and he, Jagr, and Land headed up ice on a three on one rush. Gonchar passed across to Lang, and Lang’s high shot went past Joseph and into the net.

That was the end of the night for Joseph. Even though the three goals were caused by defensive meltdowns and there wasn’t much he could have done to stop any of them, Manny Legace came in to replace him. It often happens that a goalie switch will shake a team up a little and let them regain control. It didn’t happen in this case.

The Red Wings did begin to increase the number of shots they were taking against Stana, but they did nothing to increase the quality of those shots. They shot from far out, without anyone in front of the crease, and Stana could see the puck the whole way. To compound matters, Washington was consistently able to beat Detroit to any rebounds left by Stana and clear them away to safety.

The Capitals increased their lead even more with a power play goal early in the second. Lang passed from the left boards to Zubrus in the high slot, and Zubrus wristed a one-timer over Legace’s right shoulder.

Detroit continued to send shots against Stana, but didn’t break onto the scoreboard until the third period was nearly half-gone. Mark Mowers took a shot on net from near the right boards. Kris Draper tipped the puck on its way through, then took a second whack at it so that it slid between Stana’s leg pads. The Red Wings began to press harder after that, finally starting to put some screening in front of the young goaltender, but it was too late to save this game.

Detroit outshot the Capitals 39 to 19. Nineteen of the Wings’ shots came in the third period alone. The Red Wings play next on Wednesday night when they host the Edmonton Oilers.

Goalstorm in a Snowstorm

While the snow fell like mad in Detroit, and the rain fell in Washington, DC, the puck kept falling into the net. Five different Red Wings contributed a goal each to give the team a 5-1 win over the Washington Capitals.

The Capitals were decidedly overmatched against this Red Wings team which seems to be improving more and more each game. In spite of having six power play chances, Washington only managed to get eighteen shots on net””six in each period””past the suddenly stingy Detroit defense. “Our defensemen played really well down low, especially on the penalty-killing,” Luc Robitaille commented. “I think it surprised them.”

Mathieu Dandenault opened the scoring midway through the first period after sustained pressure in the Washington zone. Nicklas Lidstrom caught a rebound and sent it to Igor Larionov behind the net. Larionov passed it out front to Sergei Fedorov. Fedorov couldn’t shoot because what looked like all five of the Capitals’ skaters lined up to block him, but Dandenault was wide open near the left circle. The pass went across, and Dandenault’s one-timer blasted past goalie Olaf Kolzig.

The Red Wings increased their lead just 15 seconds later on a bad turnover by none other than superstar Jaromir Jagr. Apparently, Jagr did not study the scouting reports on Pavel Datsyuk. Jagr, the last man back trying to clear the puck, tried to outdeke the forechecking Datsyuk, but Datsyuk picked the puck off as easily as if Jagr hadn’t been there at all. He put the puck high under the crossbar for the goal.

The Capitals had a chance to gain back some momentum before the period was over. For the third game in a row, the Red Wings were forced to kill off a 5-on-3 penalty. Again, Lidstrom picked up the second penalty, and again, Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper, and Chris Chelios did an incredible job of protecting Curtis Joseph.

Rick Berry tried to take out some of his frustrations with a hard hit on Fedorov, but before too long, Brendan Shanahan was out to show Berry why that was a bad idea. The two had an honest, gloves-dropped, helmets-off, fists-flying fight before the linesmen finally broke them up.

Joseph played well on the shots he did face, playing like his old self, the confident goalie the Wings were glad to acquire from the Maple Leafs instead of the uncertain netminder he seemed to be through the month of January. “Once the puck did get through, Curtis was there””large and big,” Dave Lewis said in praise of his starting goaltender. “It was a frustrating game for them, I’m sure,” he added.

Tomas Holmstrom added a goal midway through the second. Draper’s hard work struggling with a Washington player along the boards forced the puck free to Maltby in the high slot. Maltby passed up to Holmstrom near the front of the net, and Holmstrom beat Kolzig high on the short side for his 16th goal of the season, tying his career-best record set in the 2000-01 season.

Sergei Gonchar spoiled Joseph’s shutout bid just past the halfway point of the third period. He came in through the high slot area and one-timed a pass by Robert Lang. Joseph was screened by Fedorov and didn’t really have a chance to see the puck coming at him.

Robitaille and Draper rounded out the scoring as the game drew to an end. First, Datsyuk made another interception just inside the Washington blue line, gracefully got around two big defensemen, and made a pass to Robitaille near the side of the net. Robitaille’s shot went right between Kolzig’s pads for his third goal in the past four games. Next, Dandenault intercepted an attempted Washington clearing pass, tipping it just enough to deflect it over to Lidstrom, who shot the puck on net. Kolzig made the save, but Draper got the rebound and put it in high.

Joseph made 17 saves on the 18 shots he faced, giving him a 94.4% save percentage. Kolzig’s 28 saves on 33 shots equaled a less-than-impressive 84.8% save percentage.

The Red Wings play next on Monday evening, when they face the Los Angeles Kings at Joe Louis Arena.

The two points the Wings earned in the standings tonight, coupled with an overtime loss by the St. Louis Blues this afternoon, move the Red Wings back into first place in the Central Division. Detroit and St. Louis each have 76 points, but Detroit has one game in hand and 32 wins to the Blues’ 31.