Detroit recorded its 10th win of the season on Friday against the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Kings.
Jhonas Enroth got the start for the Kings while Petr Mrazek started his second straight game for the Wings. Enroth came into the night having won all three of his starts, allowing only two goals on 96 shots.
This game marked the return of both forward Brad Richards and defenseman Brendan Smith. To make room, Andreas Athanasiou was returned to Grand Rapids while Jakub Kindl was made a healthy scratch.
The Wings did not have a lot of scoring chances in the first period, but the ones they did manage to find were quality ones. In the first minutes, Tomas Tatar fed Gustav Nyquist a slick pass of which Enroth found with a quick glove hand.
The Kings very early established why their penalty kill is third in the NHL at 86.1%. Their diamond formation prevents teams from gaining any chances in the slot. Rather, it forces teams to take shots from the outside at low-percentage angles.
With 29 seconds remaining on a Derek Forbort penalty, Detroit struck first, as Tatar managed to break free from coverage. Justin Abdelkader gave a perfect no-look pass to which Tatar easily potted for his sixth of the season.
Not long after, Detroit received another power play, but after a miscue in the offensive zone, it led to a shorthanded breakaway for Jeff Carter, who beat Mrazek with a quick forehand-backhand maneuver of which he had little chance to stop.
Detroit had an impressive ten shots in the opening stanza, but it was unmatched to LA’s 14. The Kings also dominated the faceoff circle, winning 63% of the 27 first period draws.
Jeff Blashill’s squad took control of the game early in the middle frame. 3:45 in, defenseman Mike Green scored his first as a Red Wing. The play began with a drive by rookie Dylan Larkin. Somehow the puck found the stick of Green, and he wasted no time finding the five-hole on the Kings netminder.
“I’ve been trying to concentrate on shooting the puck a little bit more to try to get at least something created, so it felt good to get one tonight,” said Green.
2:23 later, Larkin found the back of the net. Captain Henrik Zetterberg began the play with a pass to Abdelkader, who proceeded to shoot to the far side, where Larkin was awaiting the easy tap-in. At the moment, the goal bumped his plus-minus to a plus-fourteen rating, which was the league lead. It is an outstanding stat, considering that the next highest rating is plus-three. And linemate Zetterberg is a negative at minus-one.
Midway through the period, Marian Gaborik received a double-minor for high-sticking Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, the first of a series of unfortunate circumstances for Detroit. Ericsson would leave the game briefly to get stitched up.
Jeff Carter would cut the Wings lead in half with his second of the game at the 10:43 mark as he managed to get a strong wrist shot off while being guarded by Niklas Kronwall. The puck deflected in off the glove of Mrazek, who managed to get a piece of the shot.
1:20 into the third, Larkin’s skate seemed to have hit a rut in the ice at the offensive blueline, causing his right leg to buckle. He winced in pain, would leave the game, but later return.
Early in the third, defenseman Danny DeKeyser was the victim of a puck to the face after a Dustin Brown shot deflected upward, catching his left cheek. He would return as well after receiving repairs.
Later, Kings tough guy Jordan Nolan caught Darren Helm with a hard hit. Many will remember the incident last November in which Helm was boarded by Nolan, with Nolan receiving a two-game suspension. Fortunately, this hit was of the clean variety and no apparent harm was done.
After a frantic last few minutes, Detroit managed to hold onto the 3-2 lead for their tenth victory.
“I think it’s good for us to continue to measure ourselves against the other great teams in the league and see where we stand,” said Blashill. “So to come up with two points. I thought we played not bad in the first, but they outplayed us in the second, and then I thought in the third we pushed back. I thought we did a good job in the third. We didn’t give up as much.”
Six of the Wings’ next seven games will take place at Joe Louis Arena, and their home record of 5-5-1 will have to greatly improve before January’s road-heavy schedule begins.
The Red Wings travel to St. Louis tonight before returning for a six-game home stand.