As it turns out, it's significantly easier to win a hockey game when the opposition goaltender spots you the first two shots of the game. Whether it's luck or Brodeur having trouble or whatever, it's great to see the other guys have that old "starting on time" problem that seems to have plagued the Wings over the last few seasons. Also, I don't know if this is an old saying or not, but I'm not that smart so it probably is: the Wings proved tonight that if you work hard, good luck finds you.
The Wings were outshot in all three periods, even the first, where they put 2 of their 11 shots behind Brodeur while Osgood stopped all 13 of the Devils'. Despite largely carrying the play in the 2nd period, Detroit found a way to let New Jersey put up a 12-8 shot advantage; then, when desperately trying to play catch-up, the struggling Kovalchuks more than doubled up the Wings' 4 shots by putting 9 of their own on net. However, our three-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender definitely outdueled their three-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender. The only dark spot is that our penalty kill lost their consecutive kills streak by giving up one goal on five Devils' opportunities. Also, while the Wings' power play looked dangerous (yet scarce), they could not put one behind Brodeur.
Like I said one short paragraph ago, Chris Osgood was definitely the better goalie all night. His defense played well in front of him too, but he came up big when needed and had his head firmly in the game for the full 60 minutes, several times recognizing the need to freeze the puck to allow a tired team to get off the ice. Also, apparently playing against perhaps the best puck-handling goaltender of all-time must have motivated Ozzie extra because he made several good plays with the puck including starting a rush up ice with a great pass up the middle to spring Val Filppula in the first period. Fancy stuff aside, Osgood made four big saves and only gave up one goal on a screened power play shot that was not his fault. His rating on the night was +4.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jump.The Goals
1st Period 00:28 - Detroit Goal: Tomas Holmstrom (tip in) from Pavel Datsyuk and Brad Stuart
On the very first shift of the game, Detroit wins the faceoff and, after cycling through behind their own net, brings the puck into the New Jersey zone where they let Henrik Tallinder touch the puck for a split second just to let him know how it feels before taking it back from him on a good combination forecheck by Datsyuk and Holmstrom. Homer pokes it to Pavs, who carries high and plays a short give-and-go with Brad Stuart at the blue line to shake the Jersey defender. Datsyuk throws the puck at the net when he gets it back and Holmstrom, who is heading to his office at the time, tips the puck off the post, off Brodeur, and into the net. Holmstrom is going to get an assist here for his work on the forecheck while Datsyuk gets both an extra half-plus and half-assist. Doing excellent forecheck work and picking the puck off the boards effortlessly would become something of a theme for the magical Pavel Datsyuk on the night.
1st Period 1:42 - Detroit Goal: Danny Cleary (wrist shot) from Todd Bertuzzi and Justin Abdelkader
Barely more than a minute later, Detroit scores again as the Wings gain possession behind their own net with Kronwall passing to Abdelkader on the half-boards in his own zone. Abby finds Bertuzzi at center ice on the other side of the rink to relieve the forechecking pressure. Bert holds the puck for a moment allowing the play to develop and sees Cleary streaking up ice on the far side. A trademark Bertuzzi spinning pass finds its mark and buys Cleary an extra few feet of space as he flies into the zone. Buckets gets to the top of the dot and fires a bolt over Brodeur's glove, off the far post and into the net. Kronwall gets a half-assist on this play for feeding Abdelkader to get it up ice while Bertuzzi's patience and super-accurate pass will get him a half-plus. Also, immediately after Bertuzzi makes this pass, he changes for Draper, so officially, Kris gets Bert's plus. I'm going to adjust this back to Bert, so he'll end up with a total of a plus-and-a-half.
Penalty Adjustment (x2): After the game settles in a bit, Drew Miller takes the first penalty of the night when the ref whistles him for hooking on Zajac. The replay on this shows he makes two stick-checks and never actually hooks. It looks a bit worse because as Franzen comes in to help, Miller loses his stick. Drew gets no minus for this. After killing off a minute of the PP time, Helm scrambles (read: loses) a faceoff, but hustles after it and forces Arnott to pull him down. Speed kills and Helm earns this, so he gets a plus. Later, after those penalties expire, the Wings' fourth line is out again and Eaves loses position on Volchenkov, so he puts his stick between Volchenkov's legs and turns him slightly. This is a very good call by the refs and, as a result, Eaves will get a minus.
Penalty Adjustment: 6:05 into the 2nd period Ericsson fights David Clarkson. This started a couple whistles prior as Clarkson got a good scoring chance and then jawed at Big Rig after Osgood freezes the puck, continued after the next faceoff with a couple of checks either way, and then boiled over after the second faceoff when Ericsson stepped up on Mattias Tedenby in the neutral zone, planting him on the ice. Clarkson immediately ties up with Ericsson and draws him into dropping the gloves. I personally wouldn't have minded Clarkson getting an instigator here, but the way that rule has been called, am not surprised that it wasn't used. I'm going to give Ericsson a minus. Clarkson was trying to draw a Wings player into a fight and succeeded. I'd rather have seen Big Rig draw a roughing penalty than drop the gloves in a needless fight that also happened to kill an offensive rush the Wings had at the time.
2nd Period 11:37 - Detroit Goal: Henrik Zetterberg (wrist shot) from Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk
This scoring play starts on the previous shift, as Franzen-Filppula-Bertuzzi cycle low in the New Jersey end and create a few high-quality scoring opportunities in front of Brodeur. Finally, Anton Volchenkov is forced to just throw the puck off the boards to clear, but the puck is gathered back in by Lidstrom and immediately dumped back into the Devils' zone off Franzen's stick. The speed at which this happens allows only the New Jersey forwards to change, but traps Volchenkov and Corrente on the ice for a long shift, while the Wings change 2/3rds of their forward unit on the original clear and then the other three players on the subsequent dump-in. Homer moves in on Corrente to force a quick play up the boards, which Datsyuk intercepts and throws at the net. The puck is deflected in the air, but continues toward the goal. Brodeur tries to glove it, but Volchenkov bats it into the corner (a play forced by Holmstrom skating into the area to force the quick-decision). Datsyuk cuts off the angle of the clearing attempt and fights off two Devils defenders before putting a backhand pass directly on Zetterberg's stick as he joins the play off the bench. Z fires on net and it's stopped by Brodeur with the rebound staying out front. Holmstrom again runs interference while Zetterberg puts his own rebound past a down-and-out Brodeur. If you've made it this far, keep reading, because there's so much awesome on this play. First, Franzen will get an assist and a plus. His work (alongside Bertuzzi and Filppula, who also get half-pluses) creates a defensive mismatch for the first line. His tip of Lidstrom's dump in to the cross-ice side helps force the keep-in. Lidstrom will also get a half-assist and a plus on the play. When he picked up the Volchenkov turnover, he immediately recognized the opportunity and seized it with his dump-in. Holmstrom will pick up an extra assist for simply being in the way everywhere it mattered to keep the puck on Red Wings' sticks. Datsyuk gets an extra plus and half-assist for forechecking it away from two Devils players and feeding it to Zetterberg. Finally, I'm giving Zetterberg a half-plus for following up his own shot and fighting off a check to get the rebound into the net.
Penalty Adjustment: 18 seconds into the third period, Niklas Kronwall takes a penalty for boarding Jamie Langenbrunner. Kronwall immediately recognizes his mistake and I think the last-second turn partially mitigates it, but I'm not letting him off scott-free for the penalty. He'll get a half-minus. Very glad to see Langenbrunner not injured on this play.
3rd Period 00:39 - New Jersey Goal (PP): Patrik Elias (wrist shot) from Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk
On the ensuing power play, good defensive work by Osgood and Stuart knocks the puck off Kovalchuk's stick after he was left alone in front. Helm tries a backhand clear but flubs it. Zajac collects it at the blue line and feeds Elias on Osgood's left side. Elias steps towards the goal with Dainius Zubrus screening in front and releases a shot that Zubrus leaps over as Osgood can't adjust to the screen on time and it finds its way home. No scoring adjustment here.
Penalty Adjustment: On the all-important first shift after a goal, Babcock uses Franzen-Filppula-Bertuzzi and they respond with good pressure in the zone culminating in Anton Volchenkov taking a hooking penalty when Filppula steps around him. Flip gets a plus for drawing this one.
3rd Period 10:12 - Detroit Goal: Pavel Datsyuk (backhand) from Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson
Two games in a row where killing off an Ericsson penalty leads to a Datsyuk goal is a nice, if not somewhat frightening trend. Some good neutral zone pressure by the Wings' first line forces a difficult stretch pass that doesn't work. The puck ends up on Ericsson's stick just inside his own blue line and he immediately recognizes the opportunity to catch the Devils' defense changing. Big Rig flips a Murphy-Dump high out of his own zone into the Devils' as Zetterberg races to retrieve. In the line-changing confusion, both New Jersey defenders converge on Zetterberg, who gets to it first and wastes no time finding Datsyuk all alone in front of Brodeur. Pavel holds the puck just long enough for Brodeur to imagine all of the horribly embarrassing things that Datsyuk is capable of doing to him before he quickly moves to his backhand and slides it under the shell-shocked goalie. Ericsson's recognition and use of the Murphy-Dump (which I love typing) is good for an extra plus. Zetterberg's hustle to the puck and Datsyuk-radar earns him a plus. Datsyuk's goal earns him a million giggles from Red Wings fans everywhere.
+1 for Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, and Kris Draper: Late in the first period, when the game wasn't in hand and New Jersey was pushing to get a goal, the Wings' fourth line came out with two simply fantastic shifts and nearly created a third goal of the period for Detroit. That's not the only reason for the plus rating, but it's the most memorable.
+1 to Nick Lidstrom: Another solid night for Lidstrom and one where he outright saved a goal on the Wings' first penalty kill of the night. Even better, he played fewer than 20 minutes.
+1 to Pavel Datsyuk: His adjusted plus/minus for the game is already +4.5 and that still doesn't do him justice. The official scorekeeper in Jersey needs to be retired because he only counted one takeaway for the master magician. I counted four and I was being conservative. Give him the game puck, the game tape and the keys to the Prudential Center because Datsyuk absolutely took this game over.
+0.5 to Henrik Zetterberg: Z wasn't exactly riding Datsyuk's coattails to victory tonight either. He does all of the little things that may not be as flashy, but are just as effective. Don't let Zetterberg's shooting percentage fool you, either, his shots always have purpose and are always incredibly dangerous.
+1 to Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, and Todd Bertuzzi: Babcock didn't start them together, but also didn't take long to put them back together. This line created a ton of quality chances and did a fantastic job matched up against Ilya Kovalchuk's line all night.
Honorable Mentions: The Kronwall/Salei pairing was fairly solid on the night, with Kronwall leading all Wings' skaters in ice time and Salei again being quietly solid. Actually, hell.. all the Red Wings' defensemen had good nights. Games like this make it hard not to give the entire team bonus pluses. I know New Jersey's record is bad, but I don't think this was a poorly-played game by the Devils, it just goes to show what making mistakes will do against a team like Detroit. Also, that Tedenby kid got mentioned on the MSG+ broadcast a ton. I was impressed with him.
Rest up Wings, because the Kings are coming to town on Monday. Rest up Wings fans too, because that game's on Versus and you'll need all the strength you can muster to survive to visual onslaught that is Brian Engblom's mullet in high-definition.