The Detroit Red Wings defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Halloween night thanks to an offensive explosion in the first period. They have now won eight of their last ten meetings against the Kings.
Detroit has been a team that has struggled to find scoring all month long. Their 22 goals was the lowest total of any playoff-caliber team. However, on Friday night, the team was scary good right from the opening faceoff.
The fourth line, led by Luke Glendening, was sent out to begin the contest, and that set the tone for the rest of the night. The pace was aggressive. The Red Wings were all over the ice, finding scoring chances aplenty and drawing penalties.
The power play has been Detroit’s weak spot all season long thus far, and they were determined to make a statement this game. The top power play unit comprised of Gustav Nyquist, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader, and Niklas Kronwall was not messing around. In perfect umbrella formation, Kronwall directed traffic from the point. The passing was superb. Tape to tape to tape. Kronwall to Zetterberg to Nyquist and in. 1-0.
Four minutes later, Datsyuk would intercept the puck from Dwight King with a sly stick lift in the slot. Immediately changing directions, he attempted to throw the puck to a teammate near the crease. What resulted was even better than his intention. The puck deflected off of Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin, changing angles, and finding its way past goalie Jonathan Quick. 2-0.
Shortly after, Detroit would draw a second penalty. Same result. Datsyuk to Kronwall to Nyquist and in. 3-0. The goal came on only their third power play shot. Not even four minutes later, Nyquist stole the puck behind Quick, and fed it quickly to linemate Tomas Tatar, who found a small hole in the side of the net. It was clear that Quick was having an off night.
“We did a good job at the beginning,” said Jimmy Howard. “We knew they played last night, you know, they played a very good Pittsburgh team. So we figured if we could jump on them early and have success that would be the best recipe for us here tonight.”
After 18:02 of the first period had expired, the game was halted to replace a pane of glass. Instead of waiting it out, the officials decided to begin the intermission, and resume the remaining 1:52 before the second period. For L.A., the intermission could not come fast enough.
To the surprise of some, Quick returned for the second stanza, and proceeded to return to form immediately. Detroit would not score on the Olympian any more in the game. The second period brought about a momentum shift for the Kings. Defenseman Alec Martinez would score his team’s first goal while falling to the ice after a shove from Nyquist.
After toning down the intensity in the second period, the Red Wings appeared to let off the gas completely in the third. After Jarret Stoll was called for closing his hand on the puck during a faceoff, the Red Wings attempted to regain their stranglehold on the game. But the Kings had other ideas.
Tyler Toffoli would cut the lead to two with a shorthanded goal with some help from Robyn Regehr and Dwight King. 41 seconds later Dustin Brown nearly scored a second shorthanded goal on the same power play. His breakaway was thwarted by a diving Danny DeKeyser, but he was awarded a penalty shot after being tripped on the play.
Luckily for the Red Wings, Brown would not get a good shot off, and Howard would shut the door as he tried to shoot it five-hole.
“[It was] huge,” said coach Mike Babcock. “We had just given up a shorty, and then we were gonna give up the second one. I mean it was a huge save.”
Later in the period Kings forward Jordan Nolan boarded Darren Helm hard into the boards, and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson was quick to defend his teammate, taking Nolan to the ice with a forceful shove.
Datsyuk would add an empty netter later in the period to solidify a 5-2 victory. The Red Wings improved to 6-2-2 (14 points) and sit third in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand on both Montreal and Tampa Bay.
Detroit’s next game is on the road Sunday at 5:00 ET vs. the Buffalo Sabres.