To say the Detroit Red Wings needed a win going into the Olympic break, facing a four-game losing streak is an undertstatement.
What they got was one of the best performances of the season against one of the best teams in the NHL; the kind of performance that inevitably maddens their fans with the question, "Why can't they do this every night?"
The Red Wings defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night, featuring Johan Franzen's second goal in three games back, two points from Pavel Datsyuk plus a pair of highlight-reel moves that reminded fans of how good he can be, and another night of solid goaltending from Jimmy Howard. On top of all this, the Red Wings scored a pair of power play goals.
Indeed, facing the dreaded two-goal lead, Detroit instead pressed in the third period, with 16 shots on goal for a game total of 40, dominating play and wrapping up a game that they had control of throughout.
Howard ended the evening with 29 saves.
Detroit opened the scoring when Brad Stuart took a blue-line shot that Brian Elliott stopped, but Derek Meech managed to poke the puck to out of Elliott's glove and out to his right. Kirk Maltby found it and took a backhand shot that went past Elliott to get his fourth of the season.
The Wings second goal started with a tenacious Henrik Zetterberg stealing the puck inside the Ottawa zone. The puck went around to Nicklas Lidstrom at the blue line. Lidstrom made a pitch perfect pass/shot to Datsyuk, who deflected it in past a frozen Elliott to give the Red Wings a two-goal lead. Zetterberg picked up the second assist.
The Senators would get on the board in the second period. Alex Kovalev fired the puck off the boards to the right of Howard, then skated in to pick up the puck. He fired a shot on Howard that Howard blocked, but he caught the rebound and backhanded it to Peter Regin, who fired it past Howard to pick up his ninth. Filip Kuba earned the second assist on the play.
But the Red Wings would respond three minutes later. Drew Miller managed to keep the puck in their end on a power play and got it to Todd Bertuzzi to the left of Elliot. Bertuzzi skated in and laid a picture-perfect pass to Dan Cleary, who had his stick on the ice ready to receive. Cleary simply deflected the puck in to earn his 13th.
Finally, with Elliott pulled for an extra skater, Franzen put the puck in the left side of the empty net to wrap up the scoring, with assists going to Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski.
Player of the game: Pavel Datsyuk. His goal and assist were impressive, but a pair of moves in the third period showed the flashes of brilliance we haven't seen much of this year from the Russian.