Detroit went to Buffalo for a Saturday night meeting of the Millers that didn't happen (thanks, Babcock). After losing their previous two games and going down 2-0 in the first period, it looked early like the bad feelings would continue. Thankfully, Detroit was able to buckle down defensively and scratch back into a hard-fought game to earn a shootout victory over real American hero Ryan Miller.
Special teams didn't get much of a workout in this one, as there were only three total penalties called. Detroit converted on one of their two chances while keeping the Sabres scoreless on their lone opportunity. Overall, the Wings outshot the Sabres 37-32 after Buffalo jumped out to a 15-7 advantage in that department through the first period.
Joey MacDonald had a shaky start to this game, but fought back and played very well down the stretch as the Wings were trying to overcome their two-goal deficit. His first of three big saves came less than four minutes in, as he picked a puck out of a crowd to make a save on a shot from the point. The second came on a good chance by Mike Grier on a semi-break in the 2nd period. But, the third was the best of them all, as he grabbed and held a shot from Chris Butler with 8 seconds left in the game. It wasn't a horribly challenging shot, but a rebound here means a heartbreaking loss for the Wings. It wasn't all great though, as I thought he didn't do a good enough job of getting square to Sekera on the first goal. Overall, his rating was +2.5.
Reminder: the H2H2 Pledge Drive continues through March 5th.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jump.The Goals
1st Period 12:55 - Buffalo Goal: Andrej Sekera (backhand) from Jochen Hecht and Drew Stafford
The play starts behind the Sabres net, as Miller goes to Montador to start the breakout up the boards. Montador goes to Stafford at the half-boards, and Stafford bounces it off the wall past a forechecking Datsyuk to Jochen Hecht, the winner of the phlegmiest-name in all of hockey. Salei tries to step up on the play here, but Hecht pokes it past him to Sekera to start a 2-on-1 rush. Kronwall covers the cross-ice passing lane to Ennis, but Sekera never has to use it, instead backhanding it over Joey Mac's glove. MacDonald is not square to the shooter here and will get a half-bad goal for this. The Salei pinch was ill-timed and he'll get an extra half-minus. The other Wings defenseman was doing his job exactly as he should have been, so Kronwall will only get a half-minus. Franzen and Hudler were doing their job on the other end of the ice and will not get minuses. Datsyuk will keep a half-minus for letting the puck bounce past him on the boards. Granted, that's a much harder puck to corral than the one Kronwall missed in the Stars game, but he won't get completely cleared of blame here.
1st Period 14:59 - Buffalo Goal: Mike Grier (wrist shot) from Andrej Sekera and Rob Neidermayer
Sekera has control of the puck in his own zone while Detroit sets up the 1-2-2 defense. He goes D-to-D with Montador, who passes back the other way up-ice. Niedermayer gets a stick on the puck enough to deflect it to Sekera moving up ice with speed. As Zetterberg and Stuart pinch at the blue line, Sekera bounces the puck off the boards into the zone to himself and gets a step on Stuart in the process. Lidstrom steps toward Sekera and misses the puck as the Sabres' D-man gets it across the ice to Grier before he dekes MacDonald and slides it in on the forehand. Stuart's step-up is a bad decision here and Brad will get an extra minus for it. Frighteningly enough, the Lidstrom decision to move over to play Sekera going around the edge while leaving the more dangerous Grier behind is two games in a row featuring a bad decision by the Wings' captain. Lidstrom will get an extra minus for leaving the more dangerous guy to cover the less dangerous one and missing the centering attempt in the process. Zetterberg will keep his minus for not properly angling Sekera off at the blue line. Again, the wingers are cleared of minuses, as both Bertuzzi and Cleary were doing their jobs.
Penalty Adjustment: 4:31 into the second period, Draper carries up ice with speed. His work in keeping his feet moving forces the ever-dirty Patrick Kaleta to stick a knee in to get a piece of him. Kaleta gets two minutes for this and Draper gets a plus.
Penalty Adjustment: 7:52 into the 2nd, Brad Stuart gets his stick in Thomas Vanek's feet as he's trying to get moving into the Detroit zone. Stuart interrupts his stride just enough to bring him down. I originally thought this call was pretty weak, but the slow-motion replay shows that it's a good job by Vanek to get his feet moving and not an embellishment, which is what it looked like at full speed. Stuart will get a minus.
2nd Period 10:43 - Detroit Goal: Pavel Datsyuk (snap shot) from Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg
With Jochen Hecht in the box for holding Zetterberg, the Wings gain control on the faceoff. A Kronwall shot through traffic deflects to Zetterberg at the top of the circle. He goes cross-ice looking for a deflection off either Holmstrom or a defender, but it gets through everybody. Datsyuk picks it up at the boards and plays catch with Lidstrom before skating in and attempting a shot, which is only stopped by a good stick-check from Thomas Vanek. Datsyuk picks the puck back up and carries up the boards; he runs another quick give-and-go with Lidstrom at the top of the zone before he fires a shot from the slot that gets blocked by Paul Gaustad. Fortunately, the puck comes right back to him in good position to fire it past Miller through the Holmstrom screen. Homer will get an assist for screening Miller. Zetterberg will get a plus for drawing the Hecht penalty to put Detroit on the power play.
3rd Period 19:02 - Detroit Goal: Jiri Hudler (wrist shot) from Danny Cleary and Johan Franzen
With the Wings pressuring late to tie the game, Lidstrom has a mis-handle in the Buffalo zone that springs Gerbe in 1-on-1. Gerbe takes a shot on MacDonald that he blocks to the far faceoff dot where Cleary picks it up and cycles around his own net to start back up ice. Cleary goes to Zetterberg in his own zone and just misses the return pass from Hank. Hustling into the Buffalo zone, Cleary beats out an icing call. He tries to sweep it back up the boards, but has that attempt blocked by Chris Butler and the puck sits behind Buffalo's net until Gaustad comes in and tries to pass it over to Butler to get a clear. The Wings catch a break here, as Butler's stick is caught in the boards and he can't get a hold of the puck. Instead, Cleary picks it up and goes up the boards to Kronwall. Kronner fakes a one-timer before poking it to Franzen coming up the boards. The Mule skates it to the blue line and turns with space before firing a low wrister that's deflected on net by Cleary standing out front. Miller stops the shot, but can't stop the rebound from going right out front and directly onto Jiri Hudler's stick as he enters the zone for Joey MacDonald. Hudler slams the puck into the open net to send the game into overtime. Henrik Zetterberg will get an assist and a plus on this play for the pass to Cleary that establishes the zone. Cleary will get an extra assist and a bonus plus for fighting to regain possession and the pass up the boards. Kronwall will get an assist for freezing the defense with the fake one-timer before getting it to Franzen and moving down to create room for the Mule to turn and fire. Ordinarily, when I give a plus back to a player who changes, I take it away from the guy who comes on, but Filppula earns his plus by covering the point and by working as a decoy/option for the Kronwall/Franzen passes. He was doing his job and deserves the plus.
+1 to Pavel Datsyuk: Datsyuk was again the two-way dynamo we've all come to expect and consistently the primary driving force behind Detroit's offensive chances.
+0.5 to Jiri Hudler: Hudler lived up to his billing of being the guy who will disappear into the high-scoring areas of the ice and reappear once the puck's gone into the net off his stick. If not for a bad defensive zone turnover in the first, he would have gotten a full plus.
-1 to Niklas Kronwall: His positioning in this game was feast or famine and too often, the risks didn't pay off. He was pretty close to actually earning a plus, but overall, just made too many mistakes, twice running into his own teammates. He also attempted ten shots and only managed to get two on goal. That's terrible.
+1 to Jakub Kindl: Kindl had an excellent game in all three zones. His sense of when to step up in the offensive zone was excellent, and he singlehandedly broke the Buffalo forechecking pressure a couple times with good decision-making in his own zone.
+0.5 to Jonathan Ericsson: While not as impressive as Kindl, I think Ericsson played a solid game. He didn't have any egregious turnovers or positioning errors for a refreshing change. More than that though, he made very good decisions.
Honorable Mentions: Modano and Filppula played well in their first games back, but didn't stand out enough to earn bonus pluses for what turned out to be decent play, but also play that showed all the signs of being the first game back after missing time. I can't wait for Brad Stuart to get that jaw protector off his mask, as I think it's affecting his game more than he'd like. I liked Helm planting Gaustad after the Kaleta kneeing, but I don't give bonus pluses for everything that makes me smile, otherwise my daughter would be leading the league in that category (awwwww).
Monday, the Wings are in Los Angeles for a late night game. Get your naps in, you mighty F-18s. BRING IT. WINNING. BUH-BYE.