The Red Wings took on the 2nd place St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit hoped to carry over some momentum from their 4-1 win earlier in the week against the Dallas Stars. The Blues however play a very similar style as Detroit, emphasizing puck control.
St. Louis was running a 4-game winning streak coming into the Motor City. Rookie Vladimir Tarasenko led the team in scoring with 5 goals and 4 assists. Wade Redden already had 2 goals in his first 6 games back in the National Hockey League. Almost every player in their lineup had a positive plus/minus rating.
The Blues’ goaltending duo of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott is easily the best in the league. It is reminiscent of Detroit’s tandem of Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek in the 2007-08 season. Just as Osgood and Hasek won the William Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed in the regular season (184 goals against), Halak and Elliott won it last season, giving up just 165 goals. The record for least goals allowed for a goaltender is Martin Brodeur, when he let in 164 goals in the 2003-04 season (not including Ed Belfour’s 115 goals against in the NHL’s first lockout in 1995-95). Clearly the Red Wings had their work cut out for them.
1st Period: The game started with, you guessed it, another Tarasenko breakaway. But this time, Jimmy Howard was ready and waiting. Howard stopped the speedy rookie early as he tried to score another goal against Detroit.
Jonathan Ericsson started the physical pace of the game just 2:48 into the game, when he began to throw punches at T.J. Oshie after a scrum. This was enough to give him a penalty for roughing, so the Red Wings had to kill off an early St. Louis powerplay. Right after the 2 minutes ended, Kevin Shattenkirk went off for slashing, and David Backes was sent to the box for roughing (43 seconds later), giving the Wings a 5-on-3. After Detroit set up in the Blues’ zone, Niklas Kronwall passed the puck to Damien Brunner, and Brunner set Zetterberg up for a powerplay goal.
1:55 after Hank’s goal, Jonathan Ericsson dished him a long pass right to the tape, and Zetterberg had himself a breakaway. After deking Halak out of position, he backhanded the puck through the five-hole, giving Detroit a 2-0 lead.
However, this lead didn’t last long. Cory Emmerton got called for tripping at 9:04, and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk of the Blues rang one off the post and in (assisted by Alex Steen and Patrik Berglund), cutting the lead to one. Later in the period, Tarasenko set Matt D’Agostini up with a breakaway. D’Agostini made it count by going stick-side on Howard and tying the game.
Halak left the game before the 1st period was over, after being struck in the mask by a puck. He’s currently listed as day-to-day after being cut above his lip, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Brian Elliott, whose goaltending stats were even better than Halak’s last season (but not this season) was brought in.
2nd Period: The second period was very closely fought. Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey was caught tripping, giving the dangerous St. Louis powerplay another opportunity.
43 seconds into the PP chance, Berglund was right on the door-stop and quickly shot the puck past Jimmy Howard with assists from David Backes and David Perron. The 3-2 Blues lead would last until early in the 3rd period.
3rd Period: At the 4:31 mark of the final stanza, Damien Brunner stopped a Blues rush crossing the St. Louis blueline, and Johan Franzen took the puck into the zone. Franzen passed it to Zetterberg on a delayed St. Louis penalty, and Zetterberg demonstrated great puck retention by shaking off 2 Blues players and backhanding a pass from one end of the offensive zone to the other, where Jonathan Ericsson was waiting to slap it in. It was Ericsson’s first goal of the year, and it tied the game at three.
Halfway through the 3rd, David Backes delivered a late side-swipe hit defenseman Kent Huskins that dazed him immediately. The hit came after Huskins passed the puck down the ice. The referee behind the play immediately raised his arm and called Backes for a 5 minute match penalty for illegal hit to the head, with the accompanying game misconduct. Backes is a very physical player, but he is not a dirty player. The hit was thrown at Huskins’ chest, but the impact of the hit caused Huskins to leave the game with an upper body injury (he will likely play tonight). According to TSN.ca, the NHL has rescinded the match penalty from Backes’ record, but last night, the Red Wings still had the 5-minute powerplay (no goal limit) resulting from the call.
With more than half of the powerplay remaining, Zetterberg passed the puck to Pavel Datsyuk, and Datsyuk did what he does best. With Johan Franzen screening Elliott, Datsyuk positioned himself, faked a shot, and wristed it past the St. Louis goalie to give the Red Wings a 4-2 lead. When Dan Cleary was called for interference at 17:49, the Blues pulled their goalie during the powerplay. On the ensuing 6-on-4, Zetterberg and Oshie raced after the puck with the clock winding down. Zetterberg was interfered with, but lunged forward with his arm outstretched and pulled the puck into the empty net, completing the hat trick, and the 5-3 win for Detroit
Post-Game: Zetterberg took two days of practice due to a fever, but the rest turned out to be very beneficial. “I felt good. Sometimes it’s nice to have 2 days off, and especially in a schedule like this I got a little extra rest,” said Hank after the game.
Last night was also the first time that fans could buy “Royal Swedish Snowballs,” a delicious dessert consisting of coconut and vanilla crème. When asked if he thought fans might throw Snowballs on the ice instead of hats, he replied “Hopefully they were sold out [laughs].”
Prior to the game, the Red Wings were the only team in the league to not have any first period goals scored. When asked how it felt to finally get some early goals, he said “It was good, unfortunately they scored 2 right away back. But it was definitely nice to get a lead and especially in games like this, it’s tough to be behind.”
The second star of the game, Jonathan Ericsson (Zetterberg was first) had his best game of the year, recording a goal and an assist in the contest. On Zetterberg’s illness yesterday: I don’t know, if I’d been out a day like that, I’d be struggling to skate, and it looked like he was flying out there. I don’t know how he does it.” He also talked about how much effort Hank showed on the empty net goal. “I watched a replay, it looked really funny, he really wanted that and he showed some strength there.”
I asked Mike Babcock what the team did differently during the second contest against St. Louis this season (first was a 6-0 Blues shutout). “We competed [this time]. We weren’t organized [the first time] and we thought we were more prepared than we were. They just beat us like a rented mule, so it was a good opportunity for us to respond.”
Next Game: Tonight @ Columbus 7:00 ET
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