The Wings took their impressive two-game road winning streak into Dallas to see if they could break their six-game losing streak at the American Airlines Center against the Stars. Fortunately, the Stars played a tough game the previous night and were not up to the hustle that Detroit put on them in their own building, creating a two-goal lead in the second, but wilting late under the pressure created by Detroit's fresher legs.
Somehow, those fresher legs didn't manifest as more power play opportunities, as Detroit gave the Stars four chances to shine to their two. Good thing the Wings' have their special teams moving in the right direction. For the first time in what felt like forever, Detroit's PK put up a perfect kill percentage. Speaking of perfect, the 2-for-2 performance on the power play was pretty fantastic to boot. They did it like snipers even: 2 shots, 2 goals.
Jimmy Howard faced 31 shots and made 28 saves for a .903 saves percentage. To be honest, I don't remember most of these shots. He wasn't horribly tested most of the game, as the Stars shot from the outside a lot, but he did have to come up with a couple of big saves and I don't think any of the three that got by him were soft. Aside from that, I was happy with his rebound control and his sense of when to swallow up the puck to get a stoppage. I'm going to give him a +2 for the game.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jumpThe Goals
1st Period 1:36 - Detroit Goal (PP): Jiri Hudler (snap shot) from Todd Bertuzzi and Nicklas Lidstrom
Detroit's power play here because Steve Ott is a donkey who trips up Zetterberg in the Wings' defensive zone. More a stupid play by Ott here, so no adjustment for Z. On the faceoff, Filppula wins it cleanly and ends up with the puck. He carries to the corner to move the PKers before faking a drive to the net. Instead, he passes to Hudler in the corner, who immediately goes to Lidstrom back up top. Lidstrom fires a shot into traffic playing in front of Lehtonen. The initial shot gets blocked, but Todd Bertuzzi quickly picks it up and fires it to Jiri Hudler standing in the corner for the easy snap shot past a sprawling Lehtonen. Filppula will get an assist and a half-plus here while Hudler will get a half-assist. Flip's faceoff-winning style of "knock the other guy on his ass" was a nice touch.
Penalty Adjustment: late in the first, the Stars move into Detroit's zone and Morrow gives Franzen a subtle little chop that sets the Mule off. Franzen reacts by punching Morrow in the head and taking a penalty. Well-played, Morrow, you dick. Franzen gets a minus for the retaliation.
2nd Period 5:39 - Dallas Goal: Brad Richards (wrist shot) from Loui Eriksson and Trevor Daley
The Wings finish one shift in the Dallas end and are changing when Daley finds Eriksson with an outlet from his own zone. Eriksson coming up the wing through center finds Richards cutting in behind the forwards and he comes in on a breakaway. Richards outwaits Howard on the move and pots it top-shelf over his shoulder. There are two failures on this play: one by Eaves, who doesn't have this lane blocked and one by Stuart, who is playing far too narrow and doesn't pick up Richards coming with speed. Only Stuart's mistake is extra-punishment worthy and will get him an extra half-minus. Eaves keeps his minus for not blocking the pass. The rest of the line, Bertuzzi (who was changing), Helm, and Lidstrom do not get minuses.
2nd Period 6:24 - Dallas Goal: Mark Fistric (slap shot) from Brenden Morrow and Jamie Benn
Less than a minute later, Dallas strikes again. This time, it comes off a clean faceoff win by Benn to Morrow, who gets it to Fistric at the point for a slap-shot that deflects off Bertuzzi's stick and over Howard's shoulder. I feel everybody on the ice for the Wings could have been just a bit tighter to prevent this from happening, so I'm not clearing any minuses. I will give an extra minus to Filppula for losing a faceoff in his own zone cleanly though.
2nd Period 8:56 - Dallas Goal: Jamie Benn (wrist shot) from Mike Ribeiro
The fun keeps coming, as Dallas puts another one in less than 90 seconds after their second. Jamie Benn carries into the Wings zone and is only partially taken out by Ericsson. This leaves him with the room he needs to take it from between Ericsson and Eaves to go to the net. He pushes the puck a bit too far out to catch up, but Rafalski pokes it behind his own net where Helm misses a chance to get a stick on it. Ribeiro picks it up and goes around the net wide before putting off a bad-angle shot at the corner. Howard stops it, but the rebound goes into the slot for Benn to put home. Kris Draper will not get a minus on this play for being in position. Ericsson gets an extra minus for two mistakes: the first where he fails to get all of Benn in the corner and the 2nd where he fails to tie up Benn out front. Eaves is also weak on Benn coming into the zone and will get an extra half-minus for it. Rafalski's poke to the corner is the right move with traffic cycling and the puck coming to the front of the net. Raffi won't get completely absolved, but I'm going to halve his minus on the play.
2nd Period 8:56 - Detroit Goal: Nicklas Lidstrom (slap shot) from Valtteri Filppula and Todd Bertuzzi
Detroit now decides they want to get in on the quick-goal act and put one in less than two minutes after Dallas' third. The Wings come out of this woken up and spend three consecutive shifts pressuring in the Stars' zone with only minor clears and no whistles before they score. The last clear traps the Dallas D in their zone as Rafalski steps up to block it. He leaves it at center ice for Hudler, who passes across the blue line to a streaking Todd Bertuzzi. Bert carries in and, to everybody's surprise, fires off the wing. This shot is blocked, but ends up on Fillpula's stick as he trails Bert. Flip can't quite control it, but he pokes it forward behind the net and goes to get it (thanks in large part to a Bertuzzi screen). Filppula carries into the corner and threads a pass to Lidstrom sneaking into the slot for a one-timer past Lehtonen. On this play, I'm going to give Rafalski a plus and a half-assist for stepping up and keeping the clear too close to Dallas' zone to allow them to change. Hudler will pick up an assist for the pass to Bert that got the Wings in with speed. Bert also gets a bonus half-plus for making sure that Flip got to retrieve his own puck and had the room to maneuver in the zone with it.
2nd Period 17:38 - Detroit Goal (PP): Patrick Eaves (wrist shot) from Johan Franzen and Brian Rafalski
Steve Ott is still playing the old Anaheim game of "They can't call them all" when he gets whistled for another donkey play. This time it's roughing. The Stars look like they've killed this one off, as they get a clear down ice with 17 seconds left, but Johan Franzen is having exactly zero of that bullshit. Mule gets a pass by Rafalski through center ice and turns Morrow around with a quick move before powering through Ribeiro and then cutting in on Skrastins as he moves to cut him off. After single-handedly embarrassing three of the Stars players, he decides to give Eaves a chance to share the joy and threads a cross-ice pass directly to the man's stick for a one-timed wrister past Lehtonen, who at this point must be wishing he hadn't bought Christmas presents for any of the assholes who just left him out to dry on this play. Franzen's play is worth a bonus plus and a half-assist.
3rd Period 5:29 - Detroit Goal: Brad Stuart (slap shot) from Jiri Hudler and Drew Miller
Jan Mursak dumps a puck in for Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader to go retrieve on the forecheck while he changes out for Jiri Hudler. Abby and Miller to their job and the puck gets to Hudler at the low right corner. Hudler carries to the point with the inside of the ice covered by his man. With no other options, he dumps back around to Drew Miller behind the net, who is pressured by Brad Richards into clearing it up the boards on the other side to... Jiri Hudler again. This time, Huds collects and has an open lane to Brad Stuart for the one-timer bomb past the goalie with Abby in front. Abdelkader gets the screener's assist on this play and Hudler will get another bonus plus. He was all over the ice on this shift.
3rd Period 13:23 - Detroit Goal: Kris Draper (slap shot) from Patrick Eaves & Darren Helm
The Stars put on a lot of pressure in Detroit's end, but have that broken up by a couple of good plays which create chances the other way. Dallas gets it back in their own end and try a rush up ice that's ended when Helm catches Neil trying to dangle around him at the blue line. The play moves to Bertuzzi, who wants to get a change, so he gains the center line and dumps in. Helm turns on the jets to beat Grossman to the puck. Helm fights off Grossman and pokes the biscuit past Morrow, who comes in to deliver a hit. Eaves picks up the pass and passes to Draper streaking in through the faceoff circle. Draper gets off a one-timer aimed for Lehtonen's chest that somehow finds the top corner instead. Darren Helm will get a bonus plus for his hard work on both ends of the ice to make this play happen.
3rd Period 14:07 - Detroit Goal: Patrick Eaves (tip in) from Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg
Less than a minute after the Draper goal, Detroit puts another one home. Franzen dumps a puck in that Eaves beats Robidas to in the corner. He gets it off to Zetterberg and clears out while Z staves off Morrow. Zetterberg and Franzen criss-cross down low with Franzen getting the puck. Mule looks cross-ice and sees that Eaves is left all alone while Nicklas Grossman quietly sits in front and ponders what he's doing with his life. The redirect off the Franzen pass beats Lehtonen for Eaves' 2nd of the night from Franzen. I like the forechecking work by Eaves to retrieve this puck and will give him a bonus half-plus for it.
3rd Period 17:46 - Detroit Goal (EN): Patrick Eaves (wrist shot) from Jonathan Ericssson and Jimmy Howard
Down by three, Marc Crawford decides to pull the goalie at the 17 minute mark of the 3rd. Babcock responds at the first whistle (a horseshit set of offsetting minors where Kronwall gets sent to the box for having his stick held too long by Jamie Benn) by putting Eaves on the ice to go for the hat trick. The first pass by Helm to Eaves fails to connect and the Stars carry back in. This time, a shot from the point by Brad Richards gets about half its mustard taken off by the stick of Ericsson. Howard kicks the rebound to the corner where Big Rig uses his body to shield Jamie Benn from recovering and to find Eaves for a short pass. Eaves turns with the puck and fires from his own end into the empty net for the hat trick goal. Ericsson makes a couple good plays here that will earn him a bonus plus.
+1 to Drew Miller: Miller took a penalty in the first for a slash, but the reality is that he saved a goal and only got sent to the box thanks to the fickle nature of composite sticks breaking. He had a good night.
+0.5 to Ruslan Salei: Quietly effective in all three zones in this game while leading the Wings in ice time.
+1 to Valtteri Filppula: He's not flashy, but he's taking his added responsibility since the Datsyuk injury seriously. He's making poised and responsible plays all over the ice and actually trying to shoot more often.
+1 to Darren Helm: The Wings' #1 PKer had a good night and it was nice to see him finally rewarded on the scoresheet. His speed created problems and his willingness to go to the net with the puck compounded them. Add that into his angles in the defensive zone and constant pressure on the points on the PP and you've got a solid night from #43.
Honorable mentions: I've been impressed by Mursak in his two games. I like his hustle. He needs to calm down just a hair on his passing, but that's really the only complaint. He's speedy and he fights for the puck. He played just under 9 minutes and recorded 2 shots on goal. Also great to see Jiri Hudler put up another couple of points. Both came on power plays, but I liked his 5-on-5 play as well. Seems he's figured out that playing on the boards for a guy that size sucks, so when he's got the puck at the side, he's keeping a better distance from the edges. It makes defensemen a little less likely to try to press because there's room to step around.
Up next, the Islanders come to town fresh off a shootout win over Pittsburgh for a New Year's Eve celebration. As a CSSI note, I'm recording that game and watching it sometime after I get home on Saturday. I don't know when the analysis will go up, but I hope to have it done by the end of the weekend.