Fresh off a thrilling come-from-behind win that saw the Red Wings tie the Oilers late last Friday before Pavel Datsyuk ended it in overtime, the Wings went into St. Louis to meet up with a team that started selling assets early to shut the door on their playoff chances in the St. Louis Blues. They left "the Loo" another two points richer in the standings, thanks to another batch of late heroics by Pavel Datsyuk, who split two defenders and walked another before firing home the game-winner in this 5-3 contest.
The reffing standard was good in this game, as they called the pretty obvious ones and generally let both teams play when it mattered. Detroit's penalty killers did a great job of limiting chances to the inside and getting the puck cleared when they could, preventing St. Louis from capitalizing on any of their four chances. On the other side, the Wings' recently struggling power play was only given two chances to shine and made the most of it by scoring one goal nine seconds into a chance.
Despite seeing 29 shots against, Howard wasn't tested as much in this one as he had been in previous games. None of the three that got by him were soft and he did a good job challenging shooters and controlling rebounds. In the 2nd game of back-to-back nights, a team needs their goalie to help them control pace and I think Howard did this admirably. Thanks to the zero bad goals combined with stopping a breakaway in the first period, a good shot through traffic on a power play later in the same frame, and then a Patrik Berglund slapper from the high slot, his rating was +3.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jump.The Goals
1st Period 09:17 - St. Louis Goal: Adam Cracknell (slap shot) from Ryan Reaves and Cam Janssen
This play starts as David Backes beats both Salei and Helm on the boards at center ice to get into the zone. Backes throws a backhander at the net that Howard kicks out to the far side up in the zone. From here, Shattenkirk drives it into the corner off Draper's shinpads. Janssen falls for no reason in the corner, but pushes it around behind the net to Ryan Reaves, who engages with Kindl at the boards in the corner and eventually comes slightly up the boards before throwing it back around behind the net for Janssen to recover at the far corner. Janssen backhands a pass to Reaves at the top of the faceoff dot before Reaves makes a quick move and passes to Cracknell low in the circle. Cracknell releases a quick one-timer that beats Howard on the short side. Helm will get a half-minus for losing the center ice board battle which allows the Blues to gain the zone in the first place. Salei will earn a half-minus for the exact same thing. Kindl will get a half-minus for not being tighter to his check, allowing Cracknell to get off a clean shot. I'm going to clear Abdelkader's minus. He was covering the points consistently well. Draper will keep his minus because a better effort to get back on the shot by Backes puts him in position to pick up the rebound that Howard kicks to Shattenkirk.
1st Period 11:51 - Detroit Goal: Ruslan Salei (wrist shot) from Danny Cleary
The Blues do a good job cluttering up center ice and preventing the Wings from bringing in with speed, but Cleary gets it on the blue line and tries to throw a cross-ice dump to a streaking Bert. Instead, the puck hits Berglund and bounces to the near corner where the Blues forward picks it up. Zetterberg cuts off his ability to cut behind the net, so instead he returns it to the corner on the backhand to Pietrangelo, who follows the same path, but is cut off by Cleary following up on the play. Pietrangelo tries to throw it to Hensick at the Half-boards, but a streaking Salei cuts off the weak pass and fires a wrister over Halak's shoulder from the top of the faceoff dot. Zetterberg will get a half-assist and half-plus for his work forcing the play behind the net. Cleary will get a half-plus for the smart decision not to force the play in and for pressuring Pietrangelo. Salei will get a bonus plus for jumping all over this pass at just the right time.
1st Period 12:07 - Detroit Goal: Darren Helm (tip in) from Justin Abdelkader and Kris Draper
Off the ensuing faceoff, the Wings get another. Kindl has a pass blocked, but breaks his stick to make a play preventing Janssen from gaining the Wings' zone as Helm swoops in to pick it up and dish it to Salei to start the puck moving the right way. Draper gets it from a Salei pass connecting in the neutral zone and tosses it to Abdelkader cutting into the Blues zone. Abby pushes it in and finally regains control in the corner to Halak's right. From here, Abdelkader throws a harmless-looking shot at Halak's chest from an impossible angle, but gets exactly what he was looking for, as the puck goes off the goalie's chest protector and straight to the top of the crease, where a net-crashing Darren Helm gets body position on Ryan Reaves and puts it into the gaping net. This is a good, solid play all around. Helm will get a half-assist for helping out in his own zone to start the rush up the other way. Salei will get a half-assist for a good 75-foot outlet pass to Draper.
Penalty Adjustment: After a great job of forechecking by Helm to fight along the boards to get the puck past two defenders on one side and then a third on the other, he passes to Stuart, receives a pass back, and then goes cross-ice off the boards to Kronwall. D'Agostini moves to the puck coming off the boards, but Kronner gets there first and makes a quick move around him to head toward the net. D'Agostini badly beaten here, takes Kronwall's legs out and goes to the box. I'm going to give a plus to both Helm and Kronwall on this play for making this penalty happen.
Penalty Adjustment: Late in the first period, Brad Stuart and Chris Stewart fight for a 50/50 puck that actually turns out to be a 58/42 puck as Stewart gets to it first with just enough time to poke it past the D-man and make a move to try to get around him. Brad Stuart ends up taking the man down to keep from getting beaten here and gets sent to the box or it. Stuart gets a minus.
Penalty Adjustments (x3): To start off the Red Wings' three straight 2nd period penalties, Johan Franzen skates to the front of the net and runs into Carlo Colaiacovo while Datsyuk fights out front to get a scoring chance. Even after the puck is gone, Franzen interferes with the Blues' defenseman by tugging on his leg with the stick and ends up taking an interference penalty for it. Franzen will get a minus. Next, late into a shift where his line has created some high-quality scoring chances, Zetterberg goes for lazily slashing Oshie's shin as the Blues' forward moves it out of the zone. Zetterbeg will get a minus. The third call comes on a hook by Bertuzzi following a faceoff just outside the Detroit zone. Bert doesn't keep his feet moving and gets his stick parallel. This is an easy call for the ref to make. Bert gets a minus.
2nd Period 18:35 - Detroit Goal (PP): Niklas Kronwall (slap shot) from Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen
Detroit gets a power play opporrtunity here thanks to a hold by Ryan Reaves on Todd Bertuzzi. This is a bad decision and lazy play by Reaves so there will be no penalty adjustment. It takes the Wings only 9 seconds to convert on this power play opportunity; Datsyuk wins the faceoff back to Kronwall, who passes to Franzen on the half boards. Mule cuts toward the net through the faceoff circle before delivering a back pass to Datsyuk in the middle of the ice. The Blues PKers have the angle cut off so Datsyuk can't turn and fire it, so he steps away from his man and goes back to Kronwall at the point. Kronner moves into the middle of the ice and blows a slapshot off Andy McDonald's stick and past Halak with Holmstroom screening. Homer gets the screener's assist. Kronwall will get a half-assist for his pass on the play.
3rd Period 03:48 - St. Louis Goal: David Backes (snap shot) from Andy McDonald and Matt D'Agostini
After another good group of scoring chances by the Bertuzzi-Zetterberg-Cleary line, St. Louis brings into the Detroit zone. Bertuzzi mildly overplays his backcheck (being too deep in the zone), which gives Colaiacovo a very good scoring chance from the dot that he sends high and wide to the far end. The puck rings up the boards where Backes gets to it first and throws it back around the boards around Zetterberg. D'agostini gathers it on the far side and skates to the half-boards before going back behind the net for McDonald. Kronwall gets his stick on this pass and pops it up, but Backes pulls it out of the air and brings it to the front at Howard's right side. As he loses his balance, Backes tries to go to McDonald at the back door, but a combination of a tough pass and good body position by Zetterberg leads the puck to get kicked back out into the slot. By now, Backes has regained his feet and is in good position to fire this puck and he wastes no time in snapping it over Howard's shoulder. First off, I'm going to erase Cleary's minus. The puck didn't go through him on this play and he stayed in good position. I'm also going to halve Stuart's minus. While the play is developing and all the pieces of the defense are moving, he recognizes where he needs to be in the zone. I wish he would have picked up on Backes a little bit sooner, recognizing that Kronwall had lost position on him, but he would have had to have leave his coverage of D'Agostini sneaking in through the middle to have covered a guy who he last saw fall down. I'm not adjusting any other minuses here. Kronwall was a step behind Backes, but it wasn't because of a mistake he made. When he popped the puck in the air, he was covering McDonald; then, Backes swooped in with speed to pick it up and he immediately switched off. If he does it quickly enough to prevent Backes from getting it, he also ends up taking an interference penalty. Zetterberg and Bertuzzi both at one point let passes get through them, so they keep their minuses.
3rd Period 06:19 - St. Louis Goal: Matt D'Agostini from Kevin Shattenkirk
Within the next three minutes after the Backes goal, St. Louis pulls even as the Blues dump it in while both sides make a line change. Matt D'Agostini is the first to challenge on it, as Ericsson rubs him out of the play, allowing the puck to roll behind Howard's net where McDonald picks it up and goes right back to D'Agostini coming off the boards. D'Agostini brings it to the faceoff dot on his backhand before turning and firing a quick attempt which goes wide of the net and bounces to Ian Cole at the far corner. Cole tries to throw it back on goal, but Kronwall's stick redirects it across the front of the net and to Zetterberg waiting in position. Z can't turn it up ice because of pressure by D'Agostini, so he's forced to skate toward the corner and try to bank it off the boards and out of the zone. Unfortunately, Kevin Shattenkirk picks up the puck at the blue line and turns back toward the net with it. Given all the time in the world by a confused Jonathan Ericsson, who backs off instead of pressuring to clear the zone, Shattenkirk fakes inside to move the Big Rig out of the way for him to step outside and let off a half-slapper at the mess of traffic that has now moved into position in front of Howard. D'Agostini gets a stick on the puck as it travels and bounces it off the ice over Howard's pad. Ericsson has to recognize that he's now the forward in this position and pressure the guy at the blue line as he fights to gain control of the puck. His failure to do this is a horrible error. His failure to then block the shot is another. These two mistakes will earn Ericsson a minus and a half on this play. The Zetterberg clearing attempt is not a good one either. The idea was good, but the execution was not there. Zetterberg will get an extra half-minus. Cleary and Kronwall will both have their minuses cleared. They're both doing their jobs on this play covering the men they're supposed to.
3rd Period 13:13 - Detroit Goal: Pavel Datsyuk (wrist shot) from Tomas Holmstrom and Niklas Kronwall
#13 scores the game-winner at 13:13? Perfect. Late into a shift by Datsyuk's line, Kronwall gains the center stripe and rings a hard shot around the boards. Ian Cole gets to it first, but Holmstrom immediately pressures. Cole tries to poke it by the Demolition Man, but Homer picks off the attempt and sweeps it off the boards to Datsyuk cutting in. Pavel deftly moves between Cole and TJ Oshie to get himself in the clear behind the two defenders. From here, he cuts into the middle of the ice, dangles around Roman Polak's stick, and by the time Darren Pang has a chance to utter an "uh oh" on the Fox Sports St. Louis feed, rips it to the far side over Halak's elbow. This is simply an amazing play by the Russian magician and it will earn Datsyuk an extra plus. The good work getting to the clearing attempt can't be overlooked however and I think it's worth a bonus half-plus for Holmstrom.
3rd Period 14:33 - Detroit Goal: Justin Abdelkader (wrist shot) from Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart
A minute and a half later, Justin Abdelkader wraps this one up with a pretty bow. The Blues try a coffin-corner punt dump-in to try to establish time in the offensive zone, but Brad Stuart beats Adam Cracknell to it and pushes the puck up the boards to a waiting Kronwall. Kronner beats the defenseman pressuring in here by going off the boards where he finds Justin Abdelkader streaking up ice. Abby brings it up the wing with speed as Roman Polak moves to keep him to the outside. Right as he hits the half-boards, Abby cuts to the middle of the ice too fast for Polak to adjust and slides a low shot back across the grain into the net. The outlet pass by Kronwall here is amazing and will earn him a bonus plus for beating the pressure.
+1.5 to Brad Stuart: Aside from the penalty he took, Brad Stuart might have been Detroit's best player in this game. He was a black hole on defense, just consistently making the right choice as far as when to take the puck and when to take the body.
+1 to Henrik Zetterberg, Todd Bertuzzi, and Danny Cleary: It was really too bad to see them end up a minus on this night thanks to some bad puck luck because they were very dangerous in this game.
+0.5 to Johan Franzen: He was noticeably moving his feet to create chances and to backcheck very well.
-0.5 to Jonathan Ericcson and Jakub Kindl: Each of these players at one point had a turnover that led directly to a scoring chance which they did not make up for at some point with a better-than-average defensive play.
+1 to Darren Helm: Four shots on goal, three takeaways, more than four minutes of penalty kill time, the Wings' fourth line center drove the engine which prevented the Blues from controlling pace.
+1 to Pavel Datsyuk: The defensive dynamo shined in this one. He erased what would have been two scoring opportunities by David Backes and kept the pressure on in the St. Louis zone.
Honorable Mentions: Nick Lidstrom also had a defensive zone turnover that led to a scoring chance, but he absolutely did make up for that gaffe with the way he eliminated scoring opportunities for the Blues. Hudler, Modano, and Filppula each showed good hustle, but lacked any kind of wow factor to earn bonus consideration.