A battle for most points in the Western Conference between one of the league's best defensive teams and the league's most complete team went to a goalie battle on Friday night with the victory going to the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in a 34-save performance by Jimmy Howard to rebound from having been pulled between periods two days earlier against Atlanta.
The Wings' struggling penalty kill got plenty of chances to prove that they could succeed on the night, taking the game's first five penalties. Fortunately, they were up to the night's challenge an were able to stifle the struggling Columbus power play. The Wings' own power play had a good night, converting one of three opportunities and looking very dangerous on another (the third power play wasn't impressive, but let's not go looking for needles in trash heaps.)
Jimmy Howard had an outstanding night in net for the Red Wings, stopping 34 of 35 shots and every one Columbus threw at him prior to the Wings building a two-goal lead. He made four big saves including one that will likely be a candidate for best of the week on a Blue Jackets power play in the 2nd. The one goal that got behind him was a result of a few mistakes by his teammates and came off a rebound of a very good save on a first opportunity that was slipped through him as he moved to adjust. His rating on the night is +4.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jump.The Goals
2nd Period 7:04 - Detroit Goal: Johan Franzen (snap shot) from Todd Bertuzzi and Valtteri Filppula
Filppula comes onto the ice for Datsyuk and immediately jumps into the play to force the Blue Jackets to slow down coming out of their own zone. He then crosses the ice to backcheck on Jan Hejda as he crosses Detroit's blue line. Filppula deftly separates Hejda from the puck and starts a 3-on-1 odd-man rush the other way with Bertuzzi and Franzen as Columbus is caught in a change. Filppula feeds to Bertuzzi on the right wing and follows him up the middle After crossing into the zone, Bert finds Franzen on the opposite wing for the open net. Filppula will pick up an extra plus for the backchecking which creates this odd-man rush and goal.
Penalty Adjustment: With Detroit up 1-0 about two minutes after the Franzen goal, Ruslan Salei gets pressured at the Columbus Blue line and lets both the puck and Jared Boll get behind him. Salei takes Boll down from behind, leading to a penalty shot chance that he fails to convert. This could have had a huge impact on the game. Salei gets a minus here.
3rd Period 8:06 - Detroit Goal (PP): Valtteri Filppula (snap shot) from Brad Stuart and Jiri Hudler
This goal is scored with Columbus' Fedor Tyutin in the box for cross-checking Henrik Zetterberg. This is a dumb penalty to take, but not a drawn one. After being frustrated most of the power play, Filppula carries in and almost creates a goal for Franzen, who puts a pass from behind the net off the post into the corner. Franzen follows up his shot and gets to Kronwall at the point. Kronwall feeds hudler at the faceoff circle, who passes on to Filppula low. Filppula passes from low to high on the opposite point where Stuart is standing and then switches to the opposite side of the ice behind the Columbus net. Stuart handles the puck toward the middle of the ice before firing a pass to Filppula on the back door. Flip partially fans on the one-timer, but gets enough on it to slide it by Mason before he can get over to stop it. Again, Flip makes a great play and will get a half-plus for all the little things he does right on this play, including the carry in, pass to Franzen, pass to Stuart, and finding the open area. I'm also going to give Kronwall and Franzen half an assist each for their puck-handling and quick movement in helping this play develop.
3rd Period 9:05 - Columbus Goal: Antoine Vermette (backhand) from Jared Boll and RJ Umberger
A minute later, Datsyuk wins a defensive zone faceoff back to Ericsson, who rims the puck around behind the net to Zetterberg. Z feels immediate pressure and reverses flow by carrying the puck behind Jimmy Howard. Once he crosses behind to escape the pressure from Boll, RJ Umberger steps in front. Zetterberg tries to get it back to Ericsson, but Umberger picks it off and feeds a backhand out front to Boll, who shoots it on Howard low. Jimmy fights off the first attempt, but leaves a rebound in front which Vermette picks up and puts between his legs as he moves to adjust to the new angle. Zetterberg's turnover behind the net is good for a minus on the play, as he has to get it past Umberger here. Ruslan Salei will keep his minus for letting the pass get through and Datsyuk will keep his minus for not recognizing the play soon enough to get back on Vermette. Both Ericsson and Holmstrom are doing their jobs here and will not receive a minus.
Penalty Adjustment: just 34 seconds after Columbus gets their first (and only) goal and are threatening to really build on their momentum, Todd Bertuzzi forces Mike Commodore to take a holding penalty with some good play on the boards and by doing a great job of keeping his feet moving while the big lug held him up. Bertuzzi will earn a plus for this.
+2 to Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader: Steve Mason playing like a man possessed was the only thing standing between these two and a two-point night. Two of Mason's biggest saves were off Abdelkader's stick as fed by Helm. If that's not good enough, they also both played very big roles in Detroit's 5-for-5 penalty killing on the night and drew the fist Columbus penalty at the end of the 2nd period.
+1 to Brad Stuart: Aside from playing a very solid defensive game and earning an assist on the game-winning goal, Brad Stuart gets an extra plus primarily for a play he made with 1:56 on the clock in the third period, as he cleared a puck out of the crease behind Jimmy Howard that would certainly have been a Columbus goal if not for him.
+1 to Nicklas Lidstrom: Rick Nash could not get away from Lidstrom all night and as a result, was kept quiet again. Aside from making Nash disappear, he also put on a clinic in the 2nd period on how to kill penalties. He was always in the lane and wasted no time in sending the puck down ice whenever it got on his stick.
-0.5 to Jiri Hudler: I expected more out of him this game, but even with that, he did not have a great game. He made a slow decision with the puck in his own end in the first and turned the puck over, forcing Salei to take a slashing penalty to tie his man up. He earned his assist on the night and I'm happy for that, but he made too many mistakes.
+1 to Henrik Zetterberg: Put simply, I don't think he deserves a minus-2 rating on the night considering that he was the early favorite for player of the game coming out of a very strong first period. he and Datsyuk faded late, but so did most of the opposition's scoring chances when they were on the ice. The combined gaffes of the two of them leading to the Vermette goal did earn them their official -1 rating on the night, but he played too well to get a minus 2.
Penalty notes: I'm not awarding additional minuses for the Bertuzzi, Filppula, or Zetterberg penalties because I think two of them were the result of dives by Columbus players and the third was more a product of a turnover by Franzen which forced Filppula into a position where the center ice ref would make a call. Also, the replay of the too-many-men penalty shows Salei had his feet off the ice when the puck was touched. Pretty close call, but I think it was a 50/50 call in the first place.
Honorable Mentions: I think Kronwall had another silent-yet-solid game on the night. He's not putting up big numbers on the scoreboard, but his big defensive gaffes are becoming fewer and farther between lately. If he could learn to shoot the puck, he'd have at least three more goals this season. Dan Cleary played well at even strength and on the PK, but didn't stand out enough for any bonus adjustments. Jonathan Ericsson continued to pleasantly surprise, but he had as many small gaffes as he did good plays. He was solid, but unspectacular.
Join us again on Sunday as the Wings turn around and welcome Columbus into their house for the end of the home-and-home. Ken and Mick mentioned on the broadcast during this game that the Jackets asked Detroit to wear their road whites at home and guessed that it would be the Jackets wearing their cookie cutter third jerseys again. No word on whether they're bringing Dick Cannon the BJ Salesman with them.