The Red Wings and Kings faced off on Sunday afternoon’s NBC Game-of-the-Week. The game marked coach Mike Babcock’s 750th career game coached. He is tied for 8th among active NHL coaches in games coached, and he is just the 37th coach in NHL history to reach the milestone.
The game was extra special because the Red Wings were successful in dethroning the Kings.
The Red Wings were quick [no pun intended] to take the early lead on a goal from Pavel Datsyuk. Captain Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall had the assists. The goal came after a Justin Williams interference penalty and on a great feed from Zetterberg. Datsyuk skated right down the middle and split the Kings’ defense. The goal came at 5:44, and was the Wings’ third straight goal that came on the powerplay (continuing from yesterday).
Later in the first period, Zetterberg and his linemate Damien Brunner rushed down the ice. Brunner wristed the puck past the Conn Smythe winning goalie to give Detroit a 2-0 lead. It was his 6th goal of the season so far (team lead).
The scoring in the first period was not over however. Anze Kopitar notched his 4th goal of the year with 41 seconds remaining.
The second period was dominated by the defending champs. The Kings outshot the Wings 23-9 and controlled the flow of play. Jimmy Howard looked really sharp the entire period and really kept Detroit in the game.
The 2-1 score lasted until 19:07 of the final period, when the Kings pulled Quick for the extra attacker. Soon after, Alec Martinez found Howard vulnerable and slid the puck past the goal line as recent Griffins’ call-up Joakim Andersson attempted to block the shot. 53 seconds remained on the clock, and the game seemed destined for overtime with a deflated Joe Louis Arena crowd thoroughly disappointed.
But after a key offensive zone faceoff win in the Kings’ end, Jonathan Ericsson found the puck on his stick and wound up for one last shot in regulation. Quick was lined up for the slap shot, but the puck trickled through and slowly crossed the goal line, giving Detroit the win with 4.5 seconds remaining on the clock.
Jimmy Howard was spectacular in the game, saving 45 of 47 shots, many in dramatic fashion. The win was the Red Wings’ third in a row.
After the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators 3-0 Sunday night, the Red Wings moved to 5th place in the Western Conference (and 2nd in the Central – 15 points; 7-4-1), 1 point behind San Jose (4th place) and statistically 1 point behind Vancouver as well (because of that whole playoff seeding, let the division winners have an extra advantage concept).
Meanwhile, in Columbus, fans (however many there are) were surprised upon seeing their team tied with the Kings…for last place in the West (OK maybe only surprising for Kings fans).
Following the game I asked Zetterberg: “How big is this homestand in terms of momentum for the team.”
“Of course it’s nice, it started all the way back in St. Louis, and we played two good games at home”, said Hank. “Now we’re gonna have a few more [home games] before we go to Minnesota and Nashville, so we just got to keep going at it here and play good.”
Ericsson, when talking about the final minute of play, said “I saw the guys were battling hard in the corner to get it on net, and it just bounced off the boards to me. I had a lot of time to just get it on the net, and I guess then it just rolled in.” When asked if he saw the puck go in he replied, “Nope, I just saw the ref pointing at the goal, so that was good enough for me.”
I also spoke to Brunner about the team’s powerplay, his game, and the Kings.
Q: “You’re leading the team in goals, how’s the transition been after 12 games of the season, and how are you feeling with your game?”
A: “It’s been fun out there. I think progress is key. I’m still learning shift-by-shift. I feel confident out there. I want to put out my best game every night.”
Q: “I saw the team carried some of the powerplay momentum from yesterday into today’s game. It seems to keep getting better. Do you think it’s possible to carry this progress onto the road [after this home stretch]?”
A: “I think it’s definitely important to get the powerplay going. It’s definitely better than the last couple of weeks. Let’s just keep going and be confident about ourselves and what we’re doing, and trust [each other].”
Q: “How deflating was it when that goal went past [Jimmy Howard] with 54 seconds left?”
A: “I thought the bench was pretty good after that. I was on that next shift right away, and I was like, let’s win it. Then Mule (Johan Franzen) chipped the puck to [Jonathan Quick] to have a faceoff. Pav’s line came out and E (Jonathan Ericsson) buried it.”
Q: “Were the thoughts on the bench to just win it in the final minute or were most of the guys just ready for overtime?”
A: “My thoughts were ‘let’s win it right now.’ We’re happy we won it in regulation.”
Q: “What was the hardest thing about playing the Stanley Cup champions?”
A: They’re a tough team to play against. They’re all big and strong, and they compete hard. We had some problems in the second period, but Howie kept us alive. I see why they won last year. They’re really tough to play against. It’s a big win for us.”
Detroit’s next game is at home on Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues
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