Detroit went into Monday night's tilt against the Rangers the losers of two straight and without having scored a goal in more than 120 minutes worth of game time. Fortunately, they welcomed back much-missed Russian superman Pavel Datsyuk for his first game back after missing 19 with a broken wrist. Dr. Dangle managed a goal and an assist in his first night back, but had his performance overshadowed by his goaltender, as Jimmy Howard stopped 45 of 47 shots on his way to victory.
Neither team managed to score a power play goal in this contest, with the Wings going 0-for-2 and extending their power play malaise to the tune of having scored on just 2 of their last 28 attempts. Meanwhile, the Wings' PK held the Rangers to an 0-for-5 performance, even killing off nearly 40 seconds worth of 5-on-3 late in the game with a frighteningly tentative one goal lead. Overall, it was just nice to see Detroit score the first goal for a change.
As mentioned earlier, Jimmy Howard played exceedingly well in this game. There were a few scary moments when he seemed to have a bit of difficulty tracking pucks, but he was quick on his recoveries, accurate on his rebound control, and tall in his crease, despite the turnovers happening in front of him. I counted five big saves for him on the night and am not blaming him for either of the goals against. For the times this season I've said that Howard had the chance to win a game for the Wings and couldn't get it done, I owe him credit for being able to pull it out on this one. His rating is +5.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jump.The Goals
Penalty Adjustment: Just a few minutes into the game, the line of Hudler-Datsyuk-Cleary shows their early jump and draws a penalty. Datsyuk is pinched by two Rangers at center ice, but pokes it to Hudler, who is immediately set upon, but not before he finds Cleary streaking in on the opposite wing with a beautiful pass that gets Cleary a jump on Michael Sauer, who's forced to trip him to prevent an even better scoring chance than he got. Both Hudler and Cleary deserve pluses for this play.
Penalty Adjustment: In the last minute of a Ranger-controlled period, New York fights off some pressure and comes the other way. Brandon Dubinsky gets it on the wing on Kronwall's side and pushes it deep to go chase. Kronwall grabs the Rangers' forward on his way through and gets two minutes for the play. This will result in a minus for Kronwall.
2nd Period 2:52 - Detroit Goal: Pavel Datsyuk (wrist shot) from Jiri Hudler and Danny Cleary
The play starts out behind Detroit's net, as Howard mishandles the puck and it rolls into the no-play zone where the Rangers jump on it. A centering pass to the slot in front of Howard is picked off by a hard-backchecking Datsyuk, who finds Hudler 100 feet away with a great stretch pass. After Cleary throws a puck on net from an acute angle, it ends up going behind the cage and toward the corner. Pavel steals it from Boyle in the corner and pushes to Cleary along the boards, who immediately goes to Hudler covered in the middle. Huds passes back to Pavel moving off the boards with some space. Datsyuk takes it to the net. Biron shuts down the five hole attempt initially, but Datsyuk stays on it and chips the rebound over the Rangers' netminder for the Wings' first goal in forever. The backchecking by Datsyuk and vision up ice creates this outlet. The steal in the corner creates the space for the goal. Datsyuk will get a bonus plus for these two plays.
3rd Period 3:09 - New York Goal: Derek Stepan (wrist shot) from Matt Gilroy and Wojtek Wolksi
Following a mutual line change by both sides on a dump into the Detroit zone, Rafalski tries to chip a puck over the forecheckers for a clear, but fails. This leads to a turnover and a weak shot on Howard, then another weak clearing attempt by Rafalski to go high off the same side. Erik Christensen pinches on Darren Helm at the side boards and Wolksi is the first to get the puck out of the scrum. Wolski dishes to Gilroy coming low on the far side. As the defense adjusts to Gilroy coming in, he sneaks a pass back to Derek Stepan on the back door for the tying goal. None of the forwards do an incredibly impressive job here, but the screw-ups are on the D-men. Rafalski fails to clear the puck twice and then lets Stepan get a step on him to the back door for the goal. This will earn Rafalski and extra one-and-a-half minuses. Jonathan Ericsson is a beat slow reacting to Gilroy here and I feel Big Rig deserves an extra half-minus for this.
3rd Period 5:04 - Detroit Goal: Jiri Hudler (wrist shot) from Jonathan Ericsson and Pavel Datsyuk
Two minutes later, Detroit retakes the lead on a beautiful passing play that starts with a Rafalski outlet from his own zone off the boards to Datsyuk, who gains the blue line and dumps it the rest of the way while pestering Sauer Cleary coming in to help forces Sauer to try a Rafalski-esque blind puck-lift out that's stopped high in the zone by Hudler. Huds keeps the puck with his back to the play while the defense approaches. Before they get to him, he deftly passes on the backhand to Datsyuk skating back high through the middle with two defensemen in tow. As Datsyuk receives it, Ericsson jumps into the hole created by this movement and gets a pass from Pavel. Ericsson looks on Biron just long enough to freeze him before finding Hudler through an open lane on the other side to collect it and fire a wrister over a down-and-out goalie. Hudler will get an assist and a half-plus on this play. Letting the play develop before finding Datsyuk in space was a brilliant move. Cleary also gets an extra half-plus, as without his forecheck forcing the turnover by Sauer, this play doesn't develop.
Penalty Adjustment: with the Rangers fighting to get back to even, they put on decent pressure. The Wings get a clear, but have to go back into their own end as the rush is turned away. Kindl gets it and tries a Murphy-Dump over the onrushing forward and accidentally throws it out of the playing surface. This gets Kindl a minus for the delay of game penalty.
3rd Period 14:37 - Detroit Goal: Drew Miller (backhand) from Justin Abdelkader
The Wings' energy line does a great job of frustrating the New York breakout, keeping them pinned on their half of center ice for a good 3/4 shift. Finally, with a chance to clear and start a rush, Erik Christensen tries to pass to Christensen at his blue line for a quick tap-pass back to Stepan with speed. This pass doesn't connect and instead ends up with Abdelkader picking up the puck in the middle of the ice. Abby's shot gets stopped by Biron, but the puck lays behind the netminder in the crease, where Drew Miller swoops in and pokes it home, as he has a step on Gilroy out of the corner. Both Abdelkader and Miller get bonus half-pluses here for the forechecking work on this shift. Kronwall will get an assist and a plus on this play. The turnover by Christensen at the top of the zone is a result of pushing the puck a little too hard under pressure. I feel that this is a direct result of a Kronwall step-up hit on Christensen as he tries to exit the zone about 30 seconds prior to the goal being scored. The threat of a Kronwalling forces the error which leads to the goal. For that, Kronwall gets rewarded.
3rd Period 15:55 - New York Goal: Brandon Dubinsky (snap shot) from Sean Avery and Marian Gaborik
Now with a two-goal lead, the Wings try to keep the pressure on to some measure, as they have both Datsyuk and Cleary forechecking in the Rangers' zone. Girardi has a slight bobble of the puck that brings Datsyuk in to pressure, but he recovers in time to throw it up the boards. It's here that Jonathan Ericsson decides to pinch on Marian Gaborik at the half-boards. Zetterberg is back, but neither of the two of them have accounted for Sean Avery taking a run behind the coverage. Sure enough, Gaborik beats Ericsson and bounces a puck past Zetterberg up to Avery for a 2-on-1 rush against Rafalski. Avery feeds Dubinsky on the far side and he rips it over Howard before he can get set. I'm still a little baffled by the idea to step up on the play here by Ericsson and will give him a minus. Zetterberg also needs to realize that he's the last man back and try to get caught back up on Avery. This will get Z an extra minus.
Penalty Adjustment (x2): On the very next shift, Ericsson goes to the box for high-sticking Avery behind the Detroit net. To make matters worse, with time still left on the Ericsson penalty, Abdelkader takes a double-minor for trying to finish what Big Rig started on Avery's face only 76 seconds prior, putting the Wings down 5-on-3. Abdelkader and Ericsson both get minuses.
+1 to Pavel Datsyuk: It was great to see him back on the ice and with his linemates, they dominated play.
+0.5 to Jiri Hudler and Danny Cleary: By far the most dangerous line for Detroit on the ice, they were the only forward trio that was not outshot badly. This was a very promising game for two guys back from recent injuries and a third who needs to keep up his improved play of late.
+1 to Henrik Zetterberg: He didn't, but practically did kill off the entire late 5-on-3 advantage.
+1 to Johan Franzen and Ruslan Salei: A plus to each of the men who stopped a surefire goal from going in. Salei's came when he tied up the stick of Anisimov skating out front and looking to put a rebound past a sprawled-out Howard. Franzen's came later in the 2nd, as he went down to one knee to stop a sure goal, as Howard had lost the puck during the mad scramble in front.
-1.5 to Jonathan Ericsson: Had he not been punished on goals, this number would be higher. Ericsson had such a maddeningly bad game that I'm starting to think that doing something stupid to replace the liability that he's become would be a good idea..
+0.5 to Todd Bertuzzi: He was invisible for the first two periods, but watching again reveals that he was only offensively invisible. He had a good defensive night and several good plays in the third period. Looking at the box score is a little concerning seeing that he played fewer minutes than Justin Abdelkader.
-2.5 to Jakub Kindl: He was lucky enough to avoid any minuses, but the rookie had four defensive zone turnovers. Three of those led directly to big saves by Howard. He has to play better than this.
+1 to Drew Miller: With or without a stick, Drew Miller played very well in this game and it was great to see him get a well-deserved goal
Well, that's just about everybody. Hopefully the Wings can build off of this as they see the Predators on Wednesday and attempt to exact revenge for the recent 0-3 shutout they were forced to endure.