The Detroit Red Wings have not lost three consecutive games this year.
Tonight, they tested that pretty severely as they went into Buffalo after losing back-to-back games and gave up two goals in the first period, forcing themselves to once again play catch-up hockey. Thankfully, they were able to buckle down defensively and turn it on before time ran out, tying the game with 58 seconds left on a fantastic shot from Jiri Hudler.
Andrej Sekera opened the scoring 13 minutes into the game, as he took advantage of an overzealous Wings forecheck and roofed a backhand over Joey MacDonald as the Sabres came in on an odd-man rush. Just over two minutes later, the Sabres converted again as Sekera took advantage of a bad step by Brad Stuart and a rare miss by Nick Lidstrom on a cross-ice pass to Mike Grier. Grier gets it with just enough room to deke MacDonald and slide the puck in behind him. An undoubtedly interesting locker room during the first intermission provoked the Wings into playing better hockey going forward. Pavel Datsyuk started the comeback for Detroit at 10:43 by picking up his own blocked shot and firing it through the screen in front of Ryan Miller. After another 28 minutes of Detroit trying to solve the Buffalo defensive shell, Detroit was able to force overtime as Jiri Hudler comes off the bench for Joey MacDonald and slammed home a rebounded shot from Johan Franzen. The Wings and Sabres played one of the most exciting overtime periods I've seen all season, but at the end of five minutes, the game had still yet to be decided.
Before tonight, two things had been at 100% in the shootout: The Buffalo Sabres and Thomas Vanek. Joey MacDonald, Pavel Datsyuk, and Jiri Hudler combined to change that. Joey Mac stopped Drew Stafford to start the skills competition, followed by a Datsyukian backhander over Ryan Miller. Vanek went next for Buffalo, sporting a fancy 5-for-5 success ratio when MacDonald shut him down on a glove-side shot to put the game on Jiri Hudler's stick. Hudler, in what's starting to become a habit for the diminutive nutjob, failed to disappoint as he copied Datsyuk's move, but added the extra panache of going off the crossbar and then off Miller's ass for the game-clincher. Needless to say, Hudler wins this game of H-O-R-S-E.
Follow through the jump for the bullet points.
- Modano and Filppula combined for over 30 minutes of ice time (Flip - 16:37, Mo - 13:46), a +1 rating (Filppula's), and 5 shots on net (three guesses as to which one of these two had more... If you get to guess #3, stop drinking absinthe) Overall, I liked the jump they provided. The timing wasn't quite there, but that will come back with, well, time.
- A minor boo to Mike Babcock for not playing Drew Miller against his older-but-much-younger-looking brother Ryan. Did we really need Abdelkader for this one (or maybe Draper)?
- I said this in the game thread, but it bears repeating. Just once I'd like to hear Larry Murphy refer to it as a "Me dump."
- I understand that Ryan Miller has been under some fire lately for not performing up to the lofty expectations people have come to put on him and possibly being a hindrance to Buffalo's future chances with his relatively large cap hit, especially considering the Detroit-based movement to put a very solid defense in front of lower-paid goaltending to get more bang for your buck. Well, I can tell you after this game that he was worth every penny. Miller didn't get the win, but he made a handful of absolutely marvelous saves. He ultimately couldn't pull off the win for his team, but he's the reason they got a point tonight.
- On the other end, I thought Joey MacDonald played well after giving up the first goal in a somewhat soft fashion. He wasn't tested as much as Miller, but there were certainly opportunities for Buffalo to put the game away late and he was able to shut the door. Swallowing up the rebound on a slapshot from Chris Butler while Rob Niedermayer was sniffing around the crease for a loose puck. Also, big credit to MacDonald for keeping Tyler Myers off the scoresheet, earning the children another $20 in the H2H2 Pledge Drive.
- Defensively, the Red Wings' corps broke into two factions tonight: Niklas Kronwall, and everybody who didn't suck. Kronwall registered more hits on Red Wings players than he did on Buffalo players. I especially liked how confident Jakub Kindl looked in his first game back in the lineup. I know I'm not supposed to notice defensemen more for what they do below the other team's faceoff dots, but I thought he took his chances very well. Oh yeah, he played well in his own zone too. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to see Jonathan Ericsson play a defensively sound game. He's still got a ways to go before he can shed the well-earned title of Riggy Shitbox, but we've got to take baby steps here.
- If Lindy Ruff and Mike Babcock ever had an angry scowl-off, the world might end. Babcock would win hands down, but we'd all be losers, as we tried to piece back together the world as we know it.
- Only three penalties were called in this game, as referees Mike Leggo (my Eggo) and Don VanMassenhoven (gesundheit) chose to "let them play". Ultimately, I thought the game was well-reffed and well-paced. Sure, the Brad Stuart call wasn't great, but it was really easy to see why it would have been made.
- No vote needed here, Jiri Hudler is your Red Wings Player of the Game.