The Detroit Red Wings made a pit stop in Hockeytown before departing once again on another western road trip. After travelling to Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver, the Wings took on the Minnesota Wild Wednesday night, in a must-win game.
The Western Conference playoff race has never been tighter. A mere five wins separate last place Colorado from fourth place Los Angeles. It is absolutely necessary to win all your home games at this point in time. This is especially true for Detroit, who only has one remaining home game in the month of March (Sunday, March 31). April only contains six home tilts.
Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom faced 38 shots, stopping 36 of them (.947 SP). Jimmy Howard faced 19 shots, stopping just 15 of them (.789 SP).
There was a controversial no-call late in the first period as Jordin Tootoo shot the puck from the right side of Backstrom. The puck was in the air, and Red Wing forward Drew Miller had his stick in the air. The puck originally appeared to have deflected off of Miller’s stick and into the net, but the video replay showed otherwise. The replays showed Wild forward Dany Heatley deflecting the puck off of his glove and into his own net.
Miller said later “The replays showed it went off Heatley’s hand.”
However Detroit coach Mike Babcock was told by the referee that “even if Miller high sticks it, and it hits Heatley’s glove, it still won’t count.”
A goal by Tootoo here would’ve tied the game at one and given the Wings some life in the game. Devin Setoguchi scored the lone goal in the first period.
In the second period, defenseman Niklas Kronwall lined up Charlie Coyle for a “Kronwallian hit along the boards.” As Kronwall was about to hit him, Coyle tried to move out of the way at the last second. The late movement caused Coyle to be high-sticked on the play. The high stick drew blood, so the resulting penalty was a 4-minute double minor, of which Minnesota capitalized on. Kyle Brodziak scored a powerplay goal with 39 seconds remaining in the penalty.
Kronwall did not receive a call from the NHL for the play. They ruled that Kronwall hit Coyle with “full body contact.”
Gustav Nyquist, who was called up for the 4th time just this season, had just played the previous night in Peoria for the Grand Rapids Griffins. He was called up for the 4th time this season. Mid-way through the second period, Nyquist showed his explosive breakout speed, and found himself on a breakaway. He slid the puck five-hole on Backstrom, pulling Detroit to within one goal.
Mikko Koivu and Devin Setoguchi (again) scored later in the same period, putting the Wings in a 4-1 hole.
With 14 seconds left in regulation, the Tootoo line scored a powerplay goal. This one actually counted. Miller scored, while Tootoo and Cory Emmerton assisted.
The loss was Detroit’s 11th of the season in regulation. They are now 9-5-3 at home.
“Tonight we made mistakes without the puck. We knew they were going to play tight. We weren’t good enough” said Babcock. “It’s a disappointing night for us as we’re about to go on the road.”
The Red Wings head west to face the Anaheim Ducks tonight at 10:00 ET who most recently defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 Wednesday night (Chicago’s third regulation loss of the season). Anaheim sits just three points behind the Hawks in the standings. With a game-in-hand on Chicago, the Ducks are almost the best team (points wise) in the NHL.