The Wings came out of the All-Star break well-rested and ready to hit the NHL running in Ottawa as Dan Cleary returned and his teammates looked to build upon a defensively solid performance against New Jersey a week ago. Of course, if you read the title, you know how well that went. The Senators, embarrassed by a 2-1 loss to those same Devils the night prior came out very strong early on and forced the Wings into the run-and-gun style that worries the hell out of us. Seven goals by the Wings and five by one individual should feel better, but by the end of the season, I'll be happy that they again found a way to come out of there with two points.
Refereeing was again a bit of an issue for the teams, but I'd call it consistent. The Wings can't constantly blame the refs for not getting power plays until either late in the second or into the third period, as their own work habits in games would seem to portend to exactly that happening. Each side got away with one particularly obvious trip and there were several picks and screens run both ways. Both sides had more success on the man advantage than defending against it though, as Detroit went 2-3 and Ottawa 1-2. Fortunately, the one on which they were held scoreless was a late third period advantage with Detroit hanging on to a very precarious one-goal lead at the time. Overall, the Wings held a 38-34 shots advantage, but looked at times to really struggle keeping Ottawa from getting quality chances.
Jimmy Howard could have been pulled after three goals to wake up the team in front of him or he could have been pulled after five goals to give the defense more confidence that the guy on the back end could stop one. Mostly, he got absolutely hung out to dry by his defense, but damnit if I don't want to see him make some spectacular saves. I counted one in the entire game. I only consider the last goal as half-weak, so his rating is +0.5 for the night, which in the way the ratings have gone this year, equals out to just slightly above terrible and less than acceptable.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jump.The Goals
1st Period 1:15 - Ottawa Goal (PP): Alexei Kovalev (wrist shot) from Sergei Gonchar and Erik Karlsson
Ottawa gets a power play 32 seconds into the game thanks to a Niklas Kronwall stick slash. Kronwall gets a minus. On the power play, the Senators move the puck around the zone to make space, going from low-to-high as Kovalev eventually goes to Karlsson at the top of the zone to release a slap shot through traffic. Howard manages to stop the blast with Michalek in his face, but the rebound is a bit too hard for Helm to reach before Gonchar scoops it up and gets it back to a wide-open Kovalev on the other side, who calmly puts it over a sprawled out Howard. This is good puck movement by Ottawa, to give any minuses other than to Kronwall would be insulting to how well they moved the puck here. No adjustment.
1st Period 6:52 - Detroit Goal: Johan Franzen (wrist shot) from Ruslan Salei and Valtteri Filppula
The play happens here on a rush as Ottawa gets their line changed and Detroit starts one of their own. Salei finds Cleary cutting up the middle heading in, but Cleary finds himself up against five defenders stacked at the blue line. Instead of turning it over or trying a dump-in with no momentum, Cleary cycles back to Kindl at his own blue line. Kindl immediately finds the outlet forward as Filppula and Franzen are crossing in the corner. Filppula carries into the middle at the top of the zone while Franzen gets set up in front of the net. Flip finds Salei coming in and sets it on a tee for a one-timer that hits Lehner and bounces off. Franzen finds the rebound to tie it. The smart play by Cleary deserves reward, as he got nothing for having changed in favor of Zetterberg immediately after making the play allowing the Wings to regroup with possession. Cleary will get a plus instead of Zetterberg. Also, Kindl's quick-thinking pass to Filppula is worth a half-assist on this play.
1st Period 7:40 - Detroit Goal: Johan Franzen (wrist shot) from Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi
The Senators forecheck very aggressively and nearly create a goal of their own as Mike Fisher shovels a backhand from behind the net looking for a roving Brian Lee in front. The combination of a good poke by Howard and good stick work by Zetterberg pops the puck in the air where Kronwall knocks it down to his feed and makes a good outlet pass to Bertuzzi to catch Lee. Bertuzzi takes a bit of time getting control of the puck, turning the 2-on-1 into a 3-on-2 as Zetterberg catches up. Bert feeds Z on the crisscross and heads to the net to create traffic. Z starts wide, but hits Franzen with a beautiful cross-ice pass on the backhand to Franzen's stick. Franzen collects it and fires it over a sprawling Lehner for his second goal in 42 seconds. Zetterberg will get a bonus half-plus for his defensive coverage in his own zone while Kronwall will get both an assist and a bonus half-plus for his work.
1st Period 8:40 - Ottawa Goal: Peter Regin (tip in) from Alexei Kovalev and Chris Campoli
The Senators get the puck into the zone about 30 seconds before they score and the entire play that leads to the goal stems from an early failure. Regin brings in and fires a cross-ice pass high in the zone that misses Michalek and bounces off the boards. As Rafalski and Helm converge, Michalek turns around and drags the puck past both of them on a pretty spin move that should have ended when either of the two dipshits standing near him planted his ass in the Scotiabank ice. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and he got a good shot off that led to a keep in and a dump low in the zone. Regin and Kovalev work together to outmuscle Rafalski behind the net and to screen Helm from coming in to help. Regin brings it out to one side as he switches spots with Campoli while handing off the puck to him. Kovalev runs another screen to keep Helm off Campoli and Rafalski is nice enough to not try to pin him to the boards. With a step on Rafalski, Campoli comes out the other side and takes advantage of Regin cutting through the middle to take Eaves' stick out of the cross-ice passing lane, where he finds Kovalev. With Michalek in the play, always moving around the center of the ice, the Senators now have two players on Jonathan Ericsson in front of the net. Ericsson doesn't recognize in time that Regin is behind him and the Senators make Detroit pay with a cross-ice pass back over to Regin for an easy tip-in behind Howard. Knee-jerk reaction was to wonder why Ericsson lost this coverage so badly, but the replay of how the entire thing set up shows that Ericsson had to respect Michalek's positioning through the slot the entire play. His only mistake was to recognize that he needs to cover the lower man of the two he was left to defend. I'm not clearing anything, but Ericsson will only keep his official minus. Rafalski isn't so lucky as he had two opportunities to at least try to muscle a guy on the boards to close the highway that was running behind howard and he failed both times. For this and for the screw up on Michalek to start the play, Rafalski gets two extra minuses.. Eaves makes a sloppy handoff as Regin cuts down through the zone and Kovalev is Helm's man on this play right before he makes the shot-pass that Regin tips, so both Eaves gets extra minus while Helm's combined mistakes here are good for an extra minus and a half. Finally, Kris Draper never gets into a defensive position. He needs to be the guy coming down to take Michalek from Ericsson in this situation and he's never below the hash marks. Draper gets an extra minus as well.
1st Period 11:12 - Ottawa Goal: Chris Campoli (snap shot) from Daniel Alfredsson and Nick Foligno
Some very aggressive forechecking and neutral zone play by Ottawa forces the puck off Bertuzzi's stick at center ice and back into the corner for Lidstrom on a long shift to fight with Nick Foligno for the puck in the corner. Zetterberg comes in to help, but Foligno holds them off long enough for Daniel Alfredsson to swoop in and take it. Alfreddson carries around behind the net and finds Campoli standing out front on the other side wide open for a quick snap shot over Jimmy's shoulder. The forechecking is great and the shift was long, but Lidstrom and Zetterberg combined need to either win this board battle or not lose it so cleanly. Both Zetterberg and Lidstrom will get extra half-minuses. As Alfredsson comes behind the net, Kronwall needs to pick him up and stop the pass to Campoli, but doesn't. Kronwall gets an extra half-minus. Bertuzzi is standing at the top of the zone in front of Gonchar, but behind Fisher, earning Bert an extra half-minus as a couple steps deeper in the zone are enough to cut off the passing lane to both of them and to free Franzen. Franzen is standing in the passing lane from Alfreddson to Fisher, but is slow to react to Alfreddson coming behind the net, and never reacts to Campoli coming low. Franzen will pick up a half-minus.
2nd Period 10:36 Detroit Goal: Kris Draper (wrist shot) from Patrick Eaves and Darren Helm
Kindl makes the safe play under pressure at the top of the Ottawa zone and dumps it deep where Draper fights Kuba for possession. Kuba comes up with it, but the pestering by the experienced speedster and Kindl's coverage high causes him to make an ill-advised attempt at a dump out of the zone up the middle. Helm picks off the attempt and turns to fire through traffic. The shot goes wide where Kuba recovers it and, trying to avoid the traffic he had just failed to clear through, decides to try to reverse the play. Draper is behind the net to intercept this attempt as well before he feeds it out to Helm cutting through two defenders for a quality shot on net. Lehner makes the first stop, but Eaves is there for a high-quality rebound. Lehner AGAIN makes the stop, but this time Draper is in position. Kris takes this rebound and fires it high over the young Swedish goalie as he tries desperately to mentally deal with Kuba doing the hockey equivalent of stabbing him in the back 47 times. Kindl makes a couple of smart plays here and shows good positioning. Kindl gets a bonus half-plus. Draper's aggression creates this play. He will get a bonus plus and an assist.
2nd Period 10:49 Detroit Goal: Niklas Kronwall (slap shot) from Nicklas Lidstrom
Immediately after the Draper goal, the puck ends up back in Ottawa's goal with Zetterberg and Franzen bearing down on the forecheck against Chris Phillips. With Z covering the low dump-around and Franzen covering the boards, Phillips tries to force it up the middle, but misses Alfredsson with the pass. Lidstrom picks it up and carries to Kronwall for a pass right in his wheelhouse. Kronwall releases a slap shot from the point, which deflects off Foligno's stick and past Lehner for the last goal he'd give up on the night, as he's pulled in favor of Brian Elliott. Zetterberg and Franzen will each get a half-assist and half-plus as their share of the reason Phillips turned the puck over in the first place.
2nd Period 11:18 - Ottawa Goal: Milan Michalek (wrist shot) from Peter Regin and Chris Campoli
Of course, the Wings can't let us enjoy this league for more than a full minute before giving it back. Campoli throws a two-line pass that bounces off of Regin and into the Wings zone. Lidstrom beats Regin to the puck, but can only manage to weakly poke it around him where Michalek beats Filppula to it. The Senators forward carries along the boards to the inside of Regin as he prevents Filppula from making the defensive play. This catches Lidstrom flat-footed and gives Michalek room to take it to the front of the net out of the corner. Howard stops the first shot and the rebound, but Michalek is able to get it again unimpeded and puts it behind him to tie it up again. Lidstrom gets an extra minus for losing his positioning while Filppula gets an extra minus for both failing to stop the Campoli outlet and for failing to prevent Michalek from getting the puck in the first place.
Penalty Adjustment: Late in the second period, Valtteri Filppula gets his feet moving and draws the first Ottawa penalty of the game as Mike Fisher trips him up. Filppula will get a plus.
3rd Period 00:30 - Detroit Goal (PP): Johan Franzen (wrist shot) from Henrik Zetterberg and Brian Rafalski
Late in the power play, after Michalek nearly creates a scoring chance that's stopped by a good defensive play by Rafalski, the Wings move it back up ice to Franzen coming through center. The Mule immediately recognizes that Erik Karlsson is trying to angle him off too early and cuts back to Karlsson's backside, creating enough space for himself to get all the way to the left faceoff dot uncontested where he fires a wrister past Elliott. The only adjustment here is to give Rafalski a half-plus for the sweep-and-poke, which I hear costs big money at Charlie Sheen's house.
3rd Period 00:50 - Ottawa Goal: Milan Michalek (wrist shot) from Alexei Kovalev and Peter Regin
Aaaaand 29 seconds later we're back to square because your blood pressure wasn't high enough already. By this point in the game, the Wings are still somehow unaware that Michalek is a speedy skater and he's able to step around Kronwall to the outside to get a shot on Howard from a Sharp angle as Regin crashes the crease. The puck caroms off the Regin and the post before heading to the top of the zone on the far side where Gonchar bodies off Hudler to make sure Kovalev gets to it unmolested. Kovalev throws a wrister through traffic that lightly brushes Michalek on its way straight through Jimmy Howard, who realizes far too late that the shot is coming. The slow reaction by Howard makes this goal half-weak. Elsewhere, Lidstrom and Filppula are cleared of their minuses for being in position, but on the other side of the play here. Kronwall gets the extra half-minus for getting walked around. I feel Hudler could have skated harder into Gonchar to try to draw an interference penalty and that Cleary could have blocked the shot from the point to prevent this goal, so they will both keep their ratings.
Penalty Adjustment: Nearly seven minutes into the third period, Eaves comes into the zone quickly and completely undresses Chris Campoli with an outside-inside move that forces the D-man to take a hooking penalty. The hustle and the move is good for a plus for Eaves.
3rd Period 7:10 - Detroit Goal (PP): Johan Franzen (wrist shot) from Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom
While on the power play, the Wings get a two-man advantage thanks to a penalty to Chris Phillips for cross-checking Kronwall into the boards. The Wings gain control in the zone while the D-Men cross over a couple of times to get open shooting lanes and to tighten down on the three defenders. Rafalski fires a one-timer off a pass from Lidstrom that just misses wide, but bounces out to Franzen on the other end of the net, where he gets the puck and lifts it over Elliott for his fourth goal and what would be the game-winner. No adjustment here.
3rd Period 19:26 - Detroit Goal (EN): Johan Franzen (backhand) from Henrik Zetterberg
After killing off a weak penalty, the Wings defend against an Ottawa squad who has an extra attacker by virtue of having no goalie. This plan backfires as the Senators learn that without a goalie, it's very difficult to stop shots. Lidstrom picks off an entry pass at the blue line and immediately gets it to Franzen at center ice. Figuring that four goals is enough for any man and wanting to give Bertuzzi his birthday goal, he passes off. Unfortunately, the mean and stingy Sens prevent Bert from getting the shot off. This makes Franzen mad, so he pressures the puck carrier into giving the puck up to Zetterberg so HE can get the empty-netter and keep his ridiculous 2-shots-in-a-game streak alive. However, Zetterberg rewards Franzen's kindness by dishing it back to him as they cross in the zone. Franzen flips a backhand over the oncoming defender for his fifth goal of the night and for the longest and dumbest paragraph describing an empty net goal ever. Lidstrom will get an assist and bonus half-plus for making this play happen and Franzen will get an extra half-plus.
+1 to Danny Cleary: He just missed a wide-open net in the 2nd period, proving that he had a bit of rust to shake off, but this isn't a sentimental plus. Cleary laid the body, forechecked aggressively, and made his line that much better.
+0.5 to Jiri Hudler: The homer scorekeeper in Ottawa only credited the Wings with three takeaways the whole game. Hudler had one of them. By my count, he either took it away or caused a turnover four times. He was defensively good in this game.
+1 to Ruslan Salei: He broke up plays and covered his man all night long with no turnovers. For a defensive defenseman that is his entire job and he did it very well.
Honorable Mentions: Bertuzzi took a slashing call call late in the third. I've watched this ten times now and I still haven't seen anything wrong, so I'm not giving him a minus for it. Franzen scored five goals, had an official +3 and took ten shots on goal, but I can't give him a bonus plus for his play in the offensive zone because he did not at all handle the pressure well in his own end. Mursak nearly earned himself some bonus kudos for his play in the third period, but I have no note of him existing in the first two periods and that isn't going to cut it.
Up next, the Wings take on Columbus on Friday at the Joe, where Datsyuk is expected to make his return to the lineup after missing infinity games over the last forever or so.