For a game that was meaningless in terms of making the playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings regular season home finale had more than enough excitement to make up for it.
After two periods that saw the Red Wings seemingly without effort or luck against Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason, Detroit lit the lamp three times in 1:16, with two of those goals coming on the power play, to flip a 2-1 deficit to a 4-2 lead.
It turned out they needed all of them, as Columbus scored one more, but not enough to come back. Detroit earned a 4-3 win, enabling them to leapfrog the Los Angeles Kings and tie the Nashville Predators for fifth place in the Western Conference standings at the final horn. The Predators were facing the
Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Dan Cleary each scored in that third-period stretch, as part of a crazy sequence that saw the Blue Jackets called for three penalties, including a 10-minute misconduct.
Niklas Kronwall also scored for Detroit.
Jimmy Howard picked up his 35th win of the season, which ties him for ninth in the NHL, and first among rookies. He made 21 saves.
Mason, who made a number of fantastic saves throughout the first 40 minutes, suddenly looked mortal in the final 20 minutes, allowing three goals on 15 shots to get the loss.
The Red Wings jumped out early. Kronwall fired a 35-foot shot that should've been easy for Mason to handle. But Brad Stuart was 15 feet in front of Mason and was engaged with a Blue Jacket player, completely screening him, which meant he didn't move at all to block the shot that went in to his left for the seventh goal of the season. Stuart and Todd Bertuzzi picked up the assists.
The Blue Jackets tied it up. R.J. Umberger took advantage of a dual line change, grabbed the puck center-ice, and drove towards the ice. After spinning around Nicklas Lidstrom, he drove towards the net at put it on the far side past Jimmy Howard. It was his 23rd goal of the year.
Columbus would take the lead later in the first period on a strange play. The Red Wings were trying to clear the puck, when it deflected off Mike Blunden's skate and started moving towards the goal. Both Johan Franzen and Andreas Lilja seemed to think the other player had it, and it skated past them, where Samuel Pahlsson pounded it away for his third goal of the season. Tomas Kana earned his first NHL point on the play.
Then came the barrage. After Blunden was called for a tripping penalty on a debatable call, Kronwall set up Henrik Zetterberg. His shot went off Tomas Holmstrom's skate, which was clearly in the crease, and into the net. Holmstrom picked up his 10th of the season.
After the goal, Umberger started arguing about the fact that there was no call on Holmstrom, and picked up a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. That put the Red Wings back on the power play, and they would capitalize just 40 seconds later. Franzen put a pass to Lidstrom, who connected to pick up his 10th of the season.
Thirty-six seconds later, Darren Helm set up a streaking Cleary, heading towards Steve Mason. He put the blast over the shoulder of Mason to pick up his 15th of the season, with Patrick Eaves getting the second assist. After that, Derick Brassard, who was still giving the officials grief for the original Blunden penalty that started the three-goals-in-76-second, was sent off for 10 minutes.
But just 52 seconds after that, Blunden would take advantage of a Kana pass to get his second career NHL goal of the season to cut the lead back to one. It was both Blunden's and Kana's first multi-point NHL games, Blunden's coming in his 49th game, while Kana's came in his fifth.
The two teams will meet again on Friday night in Columbus.
Player of the game: Niklas Kronwall. With a goal, an assist, and a pair of hits, Kronwall was on fire.