What a freaking homestand. The Red Wings, who have spent the majority of this month playing in the friendly confines of Joe Louis Arena, capped off a great stretch with a great comeback, erasing two two-goal Calgary leads en route to a 5-4 win in overtime. The Wings earned 11 out of a possible 12 points on this homestand, and earned points number 10 and 11 in style.
The Wings got on the board early when Johan Franzen scored the first of three Red Wing power play goals, this one off a nice pass from Brian Rafalski (more on him in a moment). The Flames got that one back when Niklas Hagman took a pass from Jarome Iginla and got the puck past Jimmy Howard. In the second, Rafalski was overpowered by Matt Stajan, who took the puck and fed it out to Iginla in front for the Flames' first lead of the game. Iginla made it 3-1 with a tough angle shot that he was able to bury. The Wings were not good in the second period, but they had another wild third period.
It got started when Pavel Datsyuk tipped in a Nicklas Lidstrom point shot past Mikka Kiprusoff to get the Wings back to within one. However, Rafalski had a brain fart and forgot which way he shot, allowing a Jonathan Ericsson pass to get by him. Alex Tanguay pounced on the loose puck and scored, restoring the Flames' two goal lead. The Wings made it 4-3 when Henrik Zetterberg went through 2 defenders while it was 4-on-4. Then, when it seemed like the Wings were just not going to get it done, Datsyuk entered the Flames zone with less than 10 seconds left, and was able to get a pass over to Zetterberg, who buried it with 3.2 seconds left, guaranteeing the Wings at least one point. Thankfully, they weren't happy with just one, and they sent us all into a state of euphoria when Helm fed Lidstrom, who dangled Kiprusoff while at the same time giving us all a heart attack. Wings win a wild one and now start a stretch where they play five of their next six games on the road. Let's jump over the hot coals (I can't believe I waited this long to make a pun) to check out the bullet points.
Games like this are awesome, because they leave you with such a great feeling. It's different from leading the whole time and holding on; a big comeback like this really pumps me up and puts a huge smile on my face.
- We've gotten on Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datyuk for having less-than-stellar games lately, but there's no question that these two guys are what stir the drink for the Wings. Lidstrom is the unequivocal leader of the team, but when Dats and Hank are scoring and playing great defense, this team is almost unstoppable. There isn't another tandem in the NHL that is as good as these two are at both ends of the ice. They are going to have some off games, but that's ok; games like this more than make up for any struggles they may have.
- The much maligned power play went 3 for 7, a large part of why they won tonight. The Wings used their home ice advantage to draw so many penalties, and if Teemu Selanne hadn't been playing tonight, I'm sure his nachos would have hit the TV in a fit of rage as he saw Flame after Flame go to the box. However, the only really questionable call I saw was the slashing call on Hagman while the Wings were already killing Todd Bertuzzi's temper tantrum penalty. A healthy, potent Wings power play means another way the Wings can beat you.
- Brian Rafalski is probably going to drink himself into oblivion to forget tonight. He had a great start when he made a beautiful pass to Johan Franzen (who was much better in my eyes tonight) for the game's first goal. However, he was out-muscled by Matt Stajan on the Flames' second goal, which is unacceptable because anyone the Maple Leafs deem to be "not good enough for our team" should never steal a puck off a player of Rafi's caliber. Then on the Flames' fourth goal, he had a stroke trying to figure out whether he was right or left-handed, ultimately allowing Tanguay to walk past him for the Flames' fourth goal. Then, at the very end of the game, he was unable to keep in a bouncing puck at the blue line and had it not been for Pav and Hank's clutchiness (that's a word), he could have been the real goat. He got bailed out, but that's just fine.
- I have never seen Nicklas Lidstrom dangle anyone like that. The fact that I have been watching this man play for almost 20 years and he can still amaze me like that is a testament to his supreme awesomeness. I am fully on the "Nick Lidstrom for Hart" bandwagon.
- Jarome Iginla creates a lot of conflict for me. On the one hand, he's been brilliant for Team Canada in the past, he's a great offensive talent, he fights, he hits, and he's a good leader. If he were on the Wings, I would own an Iginla jersey. But the problem is that when he's wearing the Flames sweater and he's playing the Wings, he turns into an absolute moron. I don't get why he plays the way he does against the Wings, but it drives me crazy. He did have a hat trick against the Blackhawks a couple of days ago, so that earned him some big brownie points in my book. Oh, and Mikka Kiprusoff is pretty damn good. I really thought he was going to steal a win for the Flames tonight.
- There are only 2 problems I have with tonight: the first is Dan Cleary's potential injury, and the second is the ongoing problem of not playing a full 60 minutes. The reports indicate that Cleary had an Upper Body Injury, so he could have a strained shoulder or his arm was amputated; I guess we'll know more tomorrow. While I loved seeing the comeback, the fact that they were down by two goals twice in this game is just not acceptable. It drives me crazy to see the Wings let up for large chunks of time like they do, and tonight it was like they were still full from their first intermission snacks, as they were lethargic and slow for most of the second period. You could just see Babcock's frustration/anger with the team in his second intermission interview, and I almost drove to my storage unit to get my hockey gear so I could be ready to go.
The Wings have come-from-behind in their last three games, ultimately winning two of them. Some people may point to their struggles as evidence that they may not be as good as their record suggests: I counter that the Wings being able to win games in which they are out-played at times proves that they are indeed the best team in the NHL, and this season may have something magical in store for us. Think about what the Wings have done in the last 3 games: they played a mediocre two periods against the Blues before exploding for 4 goals in 3 minutes to win 7-3; they overcame a 2-1 deficit against the trappiest trap team in the NHL to salvage an OT loss point against the Wild, a game they could have won had they just been a little better; and tonight they came back from being down 3-1 and 4-2, scored a goal with 3.2 seconds left in the third and won the game in OT. Games like this just give me a strange feeling that things are going to be ok.
The Wings now get a couple of days off before they start their first game against the JV conference when they take on the Thrashhawks on Wednesday night in Atlanta. The last time Detroit went down there, there were a lot of red and white jerseys, so this may feel like another home game for the Wings. A lot of the leaders in the West have feasted on the East so far this year, so it will be nice when the Wings can get stuffed before the holiday on some lesser-lights.