Detroit finished off the home-and-home against a Blue Jackets squad that ate Thanksgiving dinner tied atop the Central (technically) with 28 points and now start the caroling and shopping season looking up to the tune of a four point deficit to the Wings who have a game in hand. A 4-2 victory over Columbus on the night showcased a Red Wings team that may not always play perfectly for 60 minutes, but unquestionably has purpose.
Detroit's improving power play took a step backwards on the night, putting up an 0-for-5 performance with Jiri Hudler playing the point on the 2nd unit in place of Mike Modano. I thought that they created some good chances and Steve Mason earned the title of his team's best penalty killer. The woeful Blue Jackets power play put up a 1-for-7 performance, but the special teams story of the night belongs to the cadre of Wings penalty killers who stifled them for a full two-minute 5-on-3 in the third period with the Wings up 3-1.
Jimmy Howard had another great performance on the night, stopping 27 of 29 shots on his way to yet another victory. I counted four big saves on the night, while the two that got by him were screened and tipped. His rebound control was again an improvement over the previous games where he seemed to fight with his positioning and with the pucks. This was another great performance by our goalie in a game that mattered, aided by a good defensive effort in front of him as well. His rating was +4.
Scoring and plus/minus adjustments after the jump.The Goals
1st Period 19:17 - Columbus Goal: Derick Brassard (tip in) from Anton Stralman and Jan Hejda
The teams skate four a side here as Antoine Vermette took a boarding penalty with about two minutes to go in the period followed by a hold by Henrik Zetterberg a minute later after he loses the puck and position on a Columbus penalty killer. After a nice scoring chance on Mason, Rick Nash picks the puck up and carries it into the zone where he walks around LIdstrom and puts a pretty good chance on net. He picks the rebound off Howard's pads and passes to Hejda at the point, who crosses the ice to Stralman. Stralman takes a step to his right to get a shot off around the oncoming Datsyuk. Brassard, standing behind Lidstrom gets his stick on the puck and deflects it over Howard's outstretched glove and in. Zetterberg will get a minus here for taking the holding penalty to take Detroit off the power play, while Lidstrom will get an extra half-minus for letting Nash walk around him and then for losing his man, Brassard. Rafalski will be the only Wing to avoid getting a minus as he is in good position while this play develops.
2nd Period 10:12 - Detroit Goal: Niklas Kronwall (wrist shot) from Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen
This goal comes one second after the expiration of a Detroit power play, so for scoring, I'm going to consider it a power play goal. Justin Abdelkader had been in the box for helping Steve Mason re-enact the part of the Civil War where, after the thing ended, a guy got shot and there was acting involved. Fortunately, on the ensuing kill, Helm's speed kills and he forces Stralman to trip him in order to avoid a Helm breakaway and the possible shame that would happen to his goalie if Helm were to actually ever convert on one of those. Anyway, on the abbreviated power play, Datsyuk and Franzen carry the puck in. Pavel tries to feed Filppula in the middle, but has his pass blocked. He collects the puck back (thanks to some crafty pick-running by Flip) and carries to the side boards. With Filppula charging the net, Datsyuk feeds Kronwall behind the net. Before the Columbus box can adjust, Kronwall carries in front and slams the puck into Mason. The initial try is stopped, but he picks up the rebound and slides it under the goalie to tie the game. Helm gets a plus for drawing the penalty here. Filppula also gets a half-assist for both helping Datsyuk get his pass back and for being in the way enough to let Kronwall get to the net and get to his own rebound. However, since this is essentially a power play goal, nobody gets a plus here. That means Datsyuk, Filppula, Franzen, Ericsson, and Kronwall each have theirs erased. Hey, that's the breaks...
2nd Period 10:26 - Detroit Goal: Darren Helm (wrist shot) from Drew Miller
14 seconds later, Helm keeps the good mojo going by putting another past Mason. A scrambled faceoff eventually leads the puck to Drew Miller's stick for a dump into the zone. Helm is the first in on Commodore with Miller cutting off the clear up the boards. Commodore can't get past the two forecheckers and Miller slams the puck off the back boards, where it bounces to the red line. Kris Russell either forgets that hockey is played on ice or simply wants to pay proper respects by bowing before Helm and gets turned around and fails to jump on the speedster, who takes a couple steps out front and fires a laserbeam through Steve Mason to put Detroit up 2-1. There is no scoring adjustment on this play.
3rd Period 00:52 - Detroit Goal: Valtteri Filppula (snap shot) from Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi
The third period starts a bit frighteningly, as a quick defensive breakdown leads to a fantastic scoring opportunity that Howard has to stop off Umberger's stick. The Wings re-collect the puck and carry up ice in a 3-on-3 that turns stupid after Filppula dumps the puck far-corner. Bertuzzi is the first on the puck and he throws the puck toward the net for a quick redirect from Franzen, who was driving the center lane. Mason has to make a good toe stop to keep the puck out here, but also can't stop the rebound from sitting right on his doorstep for Filppula to collect and bury as he also follows the play by driving the net. The line change by Vermette here after Filppula dumps the puck in is what gives him the space to pick up this rebound and bury it. I'm going to give Jimmy Howard an assist on this goal because if it weren't for one of his spectacular saves on the other end just ten seconds earlier, this is an entirely different story.
Penalty Adjustment: Just over 8 minutes into the third period, with Detroit leading 3-1, Valtteri Filppula is trying to dangle around Mike Commodore when his stick ramps up off the defender's and into his face for a high-sticking double minor. 90 seconds into that, Niklas Kronwall takes a holding penalty to give Columbus a two-man advantage. I'm not giving minuses on either of these penalties because the Filppula high stick was a freak accident (although it's a good call on the "control your stick" concept, it's one of those things that happens) and the Kronwall penalty was weaker than the Zetterberg call, made by the center ice ref, and helped along by Vermette. However, the ensuing two-minute 5-on-3 was a huge part of this game and is without a doubt in my mind what sealed the victory, despite there being two more goals scored after this point. I want to give credit here for a fantastic penalty killing effort by Nicklas Listrom (+0.5), Jonathan Ericsson (+0.5), Brad Stuart (+0.5), Ruslan Salei (+1), Pavel Datsyuk (+1) and Henrik Zetterberg (+1.5).
3rd Period 18:29 - Columbus Goal (PP): RJ Umberger (tip in) from Antoine Vermette and Jakub Voracek
Columbus is on a power play here because Jared Boll gets body position on Jonathan Ericsson and forces him to take a holding penalty. This is a good call and Ericsson will get a minus for this. After Cleary nearly ices the game himself with a great shorthanded scoring opportunity, the Jackets pull Mason for the extra skater. Voracek collects the puck off Helm's stick and dishes to Vermette at the top of the faceoff circle who unleashes a slap shot through both Helm and Eaves out front which deflects off Umberger's stick and in to make the game interesting. The quick decision by Vermette to shoot here at the exact right moment is the biggest contributing factor to this one, so aside from the Ericsson minus, there will be no further scoring adjustment.
3rd Period 19:01 - Detroit Goal (EN): Danny Cleary (backhand) from Pavel Datsyuk
After the play restarts and Columbus dumps back into the Detroit zone to get Mason off for the extra skater in an effort to tie it, Brad Stuart ties up his man and gets the puck to Datsyuk behind his own net. Pavel tries to angle it out of the zone off the boards, but it takes a weird bounce and is kept in at the point. Datsyuk de-goats himself by then taking the puck back off Rick Nash's stick and carrying to center, where he feeds off to Cleary. The hard-working Newfie gains the center line and throws a backhander down ice into the open goal to seal the game for Detroit. Brad Stuart will get an assist on this play, as getting it to Datsyuk in the first place was crucial here.
The only bonus adjustment I'll make here is to give Kronwall a +1 for a couple of absolutely fantastic backchecking jobs that very likely saved at least one goal. He took a penalty for the second one, but it was the textbook definition of a good penalty to take. Other than that, I will give honorable mentions to Cleary, and Datsyuk. They all had points on the night, but they played well elsewhere too. Datsyuk took seven shots on goal in the game while Cleary had four. I'm also getting tired of mentioning it in this light, but Jiri Hudler gets a warning mention for being too quiet. I think he's improving still, but we're more than a quarter of the way into the season. At some point, those improvements need to turn into actual points scored.