Well, I guess that should just about wrap up the conference.
The Red Wings entered tonight's game still smarting from allowing the Penguins to jump out to a 4-0 lead on Monday night. Although the Wings showed great spirit in coming back to erase that deficit, it was a position that they did not want to find themselves in again.
Flash forward to tonight, and the Wings prevented the highest-scoring team from getting out to a 2-0 lead, and trying to come back against the second best defensive team in the NHL was not going to happen. The Wings fired 40 shots at Roberto Luongo, but were only able to get one past him as the Canucks won their 7th straight road game, and the Wings are once again mired in a 3-game losing streak.
The first period was a spirited affair, although neither team could score. The first was highlighted by a pair of power plays, one for each team, and some spectacular goaltending by Roberto Luongo. The two best chances belonged to Darren Helm, who was thwarted on (surprise, surprise) a breakaway, and Mason Raymond, who took too long to make a move and had the puck pokechecked away by Brad Stuart. Jan Mursak also had a partial breakaway where he was able to get the puck by Luongo but could not beat the post. The Wings outshot the Canucks 11-5, many of them good chances.
Daniel Sedin increased the Canucks' lead to 2-0 after a flurry in front of Howard. With Eaves in the box for high-sticking, the Canucks applied a lot of pressure in front of the Wing net. After Ryan Kesler jumped on Howard, Kris Draper failed to clear the puck, and after a few shots, Sedin buried a slap shot. Jiri Hudler got the Wings on the board with a power play goal of their own. After a Nicklas Lidstrom slap shot, Luongo left a rare rebound for Hudler to deposit in the back of the net, and with 8 plus minutes to go, the Wings were back within a goal. The Wings had a number of chances to tie it up, but Luongo was up to the task, and when the final horn sounded, the Wings were on the wrong end of a 2-1 score.
Follow the jump for the third period highlights as well as the analysis.
- Oh, where to start. How about a positive? Jimmy Howard looked good tonight. I can't really fault him on either goal, as the first one was a bad bounce off of Lidstrom, and the second one was after a long scramble that never should have happened (for a couple of reasons). However, 31 saves on 33 shots for a .939 SV% a game after giving up 4 on 15 is a good night, and he deserved a better fate.
- After a tough start on Monday, the Wings came out with hustle, intensity and determination in the first period. They also played extremely well in the third after it was 2-0, but the second belonged to Vancouver. That's understandable in a game against the top team in the NHL. I give full credit to Luongo for a great game by him tonight, as he was the biggest factor in the Wings not earning a full 2 points. However, no one should be surprised because it was a regular season game that didn't mean anything. Luongo won't earn a damn thing in terms of respect until he mans up in the playoffs.
- For a game that the Wings lost, they really played quite well. I thought the defense as a whole stepped up and prevented many good scoring chances for the Canucks. I was concerned about the number of odd-man rushes they gave up in the second period, but part of that can be chalked up to the long change. Brad Stuart foiled a great attempt by Raymond in the first, and I was impressed by Ruslan Salei's grittiness tonight.
Nicklas Lidstrom is the best defenseman in the NHL. He will win the Norris Trophy for a 7th time his June. But he very well may end the season for the first time as a minus player, and the Canucks' first goal is a classic example of how the year has gone for TPH. He's all on his own trying to defend Sedin below the goal line, and the puck goes in off his skate on a fluke play.
Every team has injuries, and some of them have to deal with superstars being out for long periods of time. The Wings are certainly hurting, and while the inclusion of their hurt players would have been great, they played a good game in their absence. The Canucks are also dealing with a rash of injuries, missing important depth players like Alex Edler and Manny Malhotra. However, when they showed the injuries side by side tonight on the broadcast, my initial reaction was "Pavel Datsyuk is better than all 5 of the Canuck injured players combined." That's not a knock on the Canucks, but more a testament to how important Dats is to the Wings.
Mike Modano and Jiri Hudler were 2 of the 3 most maligned players on the Wings earlier this year. Hudler came around quite a while ago, but I'm ready to declare that Modano is now an important, contributing member of this team, and his play will go a long way to helping the Wings advance in the playoffs.
The Canucks second goal. Look, I'm not going to get into it. We as Wing fans have our own opinions about the play, and I certainly have mine. Bitching about it won't make a difference, and to be completely honest, Draper had all day to clear the zone. I believe that it never should have come to that, but it did, and he messed up. Whatever. Remember it and move on.