Todd Bertuzzi ensured his 1000th game was a memorable one. Bertuzzi scored the game winning goal in the shootout in front of his wife and kids to give the Wings a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the surging Minnesota Wild.
The first period was mostly uneventful. The Wings looked like a team that was playing their third game in four nights, and the Wild played their typical brand of "exciting" hockey. The second period was more of the first, and after 40 minutes the shots were 21-13 in favour of the Wings and there were no goals on the board.
Nicklas Lidstrom broke the scoreless tie less than 90 seconds into the third period. Jiri Hudler came across the blue line, stopped and found Lidstrom high in the slot. Lidstrom's shot found its way past 2 players in front and through Niklas Backstrom, and the Wing fans in attendance at the Xcel Energy Center had something to cheer about. The Wild responded less than 4 minutes later. Dan Cleary's pass to Brad Stuart ended up in Stuie's feet, and Martin Havlat ended up on a breakaway. He put the puck threw Jimmy Howard's legs, and the Wild pulled back to even. The rest of the period played out as most of the game did, with neither team getting many offensive chances, and after 60 minutes the score remained 1-1.
Follow the jump for the OT and SO highlights as well as the bullets.In overtime, Dan Cleary missed a gorgeous chance to end the game when he had the puck all alone in front of the Wild net, but Backstrom somehow managed to get a glove on it and make a beautiful save. Just about a minute later, Pavel Datsyuk rang a shot off the post, but the Wings were unable to put anything past Backstrom, who had a great game, and it was off to the gimmick.
In the shootout, Datsyuk made up for his post and scored to put the Wings up. Howard made a save on Pierre-Marc Bouchard to keep the Wings in front. In the second round, Jiri Hudler tried a slapshot (which always baffles me) and predictably, it failed. Matt Cullen tried to do a Bertuzzi by coming in really slow, but Howard was up to the task, and the game was on Todd Bertuzzi's stick. He put a great backhand move and won the game for the Wings, 2-1.
- Congratulations again to Todd Bertuzzi on the achievement of playing in his 1000th game. He was booed throughout the game by the Minnesota fans, who apparently have bad feelings from a Wild-Canucks playoff series a few years ago. The issues throughout his career have been well-documented, and I will give him a ton of credit for getting his game back on track after all of his troubles. I will never condone what he did to Steve Moore, but he served his punishment and has not had even the smallest incident since then. I thought it was extremely fitting that he scored the game-winning goal today, and loved his interview after the game when he said he loved it in Detroit.
- Uh, so Jimmy Howard is good in shootouts, eh? One of my main criticisms of Howard's game last year was how poor he was in the gimmick, but he's really turned it around this year, and he improved to 3-1 in the shootout this year. Most impressive? He's only given up 1 goal on 14 attempts all year. That came in the game he lost to the Avalanche when Brandon Yip scored in the 6th round of the shootout but the Wings were unable to get 1 past Peter Budaj. Overall Jimmy had another strong game as he continues to pick up wins and lower his GAA at the same time.
- However, Niklas Backstrom was the story of this game, and the only reason the Wild survived both the third period and the overtime as the Wings did everything but score. The Wings fired 39 shots at Backstrom, and his saves ranged from ordinary to un-freaking-believable (specifically the save on Cleary in overtime). Without Backstrom, the Wings win this game in the third or in overtime.
- In the category of "running out of things to say about the game so I'll go to an old standard", Nicklas Lidstrom is amazing. If he does not win the Norris Trophy this year, I will question the sanity of every single voter. He scored a goal and broke up a 2-on-1 by knocking a pass out of mid-air. I defy anyone to name a better defenseman in the NHL right now; go ahead, I'll wait.
- Today's game was one of 3 being played early on Hockey Day in America, and we were treated to Pat Foley for play-by-play and Darren Pang for colour commentary on the broadcast, further proving that NBC and the NHL truly hate Red Wing fans.
Look, let's call a spade a spade, here: that was a pretty ugly game to watch. There was little in the way of exciting action, and up until the third period, I think calling the game "boring" would have been praise instead of an insult. However, the Wings got the 2 points and did not have anyone get hurt, which is the only important things right now. That makes 5 in a row for the boys in red and white and caps off a perfect road trip through Florida and Minnesota. Next up is a date with the Sharks on Tuesday at the Joe, and it's a big one: the Sharks are playing quite well lately and still in the mix for one of the top 3 seeds in the West. Happy Hockey Day in America, everyone, and enjoy the Heritage Classic tonight.