I'm back after a week of vacation, and I got to take in my first full Wing game of the new year. After that first period, I'm still waiting for the Wings to play a full game. The Avalanche took advantage of a slew of Wing mistakes in the first period, scoring 4 times en route to a 5-4 victory over the Wings.
There were 6 goals in the first period, and while the Wings came out of the first down 4-2, I think a lot of us still believed the team had the ability to come back. The Avs opened the scoring when Paul Statsny found a loose puck after some real confusion in front of the Wings net. However, Jan Mursak deposited a rebound past Peter Budaj for his first NHL goal, and the Wings got back to even. Then the Wings fell asleep for the next 6 minutes as the Avs got goals from Matt Duchene and Kevin Porter to take a 4-1 lead. That meant the end of Jimmy Howard's night, and the Wings seemed to respond as they started putting pressure on the Avs defense. Brian Rafalski is suddenly on fire in the goal-scoring department, and he got the Wings back to within 2 goals with his third goal of the season.
The Wings opened the second by playing "Let's Break Our Record of 16 Icings in 3 Minutes" after killing off an early penalty. Darren Helm led an odd-man rush about half-way through the period, but Kris Draper magically morphed into Jason Williams and his rising slap shot missed everything, ultimately resulting in David Jones giving the Avs their 3-goal lead back. The Wings pulled back to within 2 when Henrik Zetterberg extended his point streak to 11 games with a power play goal, and the Wings once again ended a period down by a pair.
In the third, the Avs were clearly playing a prevent-style defense, and the Wings got to within 5-4 when Tomas Holmstrom tipped in a Zetterberg shot after an Avs penalty. The Wings buzzed around the Avs net for the rest of the period, but they were unable to tie the game and get it to OT, and the Wings ended their "road trip" with a loss after 6 straight road wins and 3 wins overall.
This was one of those rare games where it always seemed like the Wings were still in the game no matter what the score was, but it was just not meant to be. Follow me after the jump for the bullets.
- What can you say about that first period? It was just awful for Wing fans. First there was the collective brain-fart on the first goal where Kronwall and Zetterberg couldn't find the puck and it made it on to Stastny's stick. The second goal was a soft one by Jimmy. The third one bounced in off Ericsson's skate, and the fourth one was on a 2-on-1 rush. The Avs outshot the Wings 14-9 in the period, and they earned 3 power plays.The Avs were the better team for about 15 of the 20 minutes in the period, and it was the Wings' downfall. Once again, a poor start doomed the team.
- To anyone who says that the Wings need either a) an enforcer or b) a big-hitting defenseman: two of the Avs' goals came about after a Wing defenseman stepped up to make a hit, resulting in an odd-man rush the other way. I like hits, but only smart ones. I don't want the Wings running around trying to decapitate anyone if it means the other team is going to get a quality scoring chance.
- It's weird to not lay the blame at the goaltender's feet when he gives up 4 goals on 10 shots, but I just can't say that this loss was Jimmy Howard's fault tonight. He was absolutely hung out to dry on 3 of the goals, but the second one was brutal. He was pulled because the defense in front of him was playing like garbage, not because he was off his game. I would have liked him to have made the save on the second goal, but ultimately I think with the way the Wings played in the first, it wouldn't have mattered.
- I like that the Wings kept battling throughout the game, as they did through most of their road trip. But after a while, "battling" means that they are continuing to put themselves behind early and in a position where they need to come back. I love seeing them never give up, but I love seeing them get a big lead and coast to an easy victory even more. It's less stressful, and at my advancing age, any break my heart and blood pressure can get is recommended by my doctor.
- Hats off to Peter Budaj of the Avs for a really well-played game. He made a few saves when the score was 4-2 and 5-2 to prevent the Wings from mounting their comeback earlier. If the Wings bury one of those chances, we might be talking about a different result. Kudos.
- It's still early, but it appears that no one got injured during the game. There was a scary moment where Nicklas Lidstrom left the bench for about 5 minutes after the Wings' third goal, but he came back and we all started breathing again. However, there was news from before the game that Chris Osgood will miss 6-8 weeks due to a sports hernia surgery. I was struck by two things after hearing this news: first, thank whoever you all believe in that he got his 400th win already, because if I had to deal with this for another season, I'd have even less hair; second, I was surprised that he had the hernia since it's been the team carrying him for his entire career.
- The line of Drew Miller, Jan Mursak and Justin Abdelkader was amazing tonight, and was by far the best line for the Wings in the game. Miller was a force in both ends, and really deserved a goal for his hard work. Abdelkader was throwing the body around a little more tonight and was involved. And Mursak picked up his first NHL goal by going to the net and potting a rebound. I love seeing guys get their first ever goal, because I can only imagine the pride and elation they must be feeling. I can still remember the first goal I ever scored when I was 6 years old: I was a defenseman at the time, and I floated a wrist shot that somehow missed everyone in front of the net, including the goalie. I was so happy that I completely blew my assignment on the following play and the other team scored right away. In a sign that my coach was some sort of psychic, he bestowed the nickname of "Ericsson" on me after that. I never understood what that meant until right now.
- You know who is pretty good? Matt Duchene. I'm pretty happy the Wings don't have to face him again this year, because he torched the Wings for 7 points in 4 games, including 4 goals. I was nervous each time he touched the puck tonight, and I envision him being a thorn in the Wings' side for many years.
- I'd be remiss if I did not point out how awesome the crowd was tonight. I swear at times it seemed like there were more Wing jerseys than Avs jerseys (I know that's not true, but it just appeared that way). It was cool to see that many people jump up and cheer for the road team, and I imagine that the Avs players were excited to play in front of more than 13,000 people for once. They saw a good game.
The Wings are off for the rest of the week as they fly back to Detroit before playing a home and home against the Blue Jackets this weekend. Given how well Joey Macdonald played in relief of Jimmy Howard tonight, I fully expect him to get one of the starts. Then, get your hate ready: the Wings enter their version of "Rivalry Week" when they take on the Penguins, Blues and Blackhawks. It's going to be a fun week.