There's a phrase about winning ugly. I'm not sure what it is, but it certainly applies tonight.
A night after coasting to an easy 5-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres, the Wings headed down to Texas to take on a Dallas Stars team racked with injuries and trying mightily to stay in the Western Conference playoff race. Both teams came into the game having played less than 24 hours earlier, and what transpired can only be described as slightly prettier than Rosie O'Donnell porn.
You know what I do like? When Tomas Holmstrom scores. You know what I like more than that? When it's not on the power play, because that means the 4th line is contributing offensively. He absolutely ripped a slap shot past Richard "Thinner" Bachman to give the Wings an early lead, something that has been sorely lacking in their road play as of late. The Stars got that one back, on the power play if you can believe that. Alex Goligoski teed up the puck and blasted a shot that deflected in off Brenden Morrow's leg and through a screened Ty Conklin. The Stars took the lead on a very similar play. This time it was Sheldon Souray's shot that was initially stopped, but Loui Eriksson put home the rebound despite having a broken stick. The Wings looked unable and unwilling to break through the Stars' defensive shell, only managing 5 shots on goal. All in all, a pretty lousy period by Red Wing standards.
After failing to convert on a power play early in the second period, the Wings were gifted a goal when Jiri Hudler's pass deflected in off Goligoski's skate and past Bachman. It was a fluke but it counted, and the Wings drew even.
I wish I could explain what happened during the third, but I blacked out. When I came to, the game was in overtime.
So what happened in overtime, you ask? Nothing. Then it went to a shootout, which I normally loathe, but because I was half in a coma from watching the Wings saunter up the ice and shoot the puck into Bachman's pads every single shift, I was able to summon some energy. Pavel Datsyuk went first, and he would have scored if not for that pesky post. Eriksson went next for the Stars, and he also hit a post, meaning both team's best shooters were not able to score. If you were like me, you thought we were headed for the infinite shootout, but Hudler used some of the moves that he normally saves for 8's and scored the skills competition's only goal, and the Wings were able to escape with 2 points.
- I was extremely curious to see how both teams handled playing the second game of a back-to-back, and it was the Stars that had a lot of the jump early. They manhandled the Wings in the first period, holding them to 5 SOG and dominating the faceoff circle despite missing their top 2 centers.
- However, the Wings seemed to find their legs in the third, finally getting some sustained offensive pressure as they broke through the defensive shell of the Stars. While the Wings were firing shots from everywhere (it is Dallas, after all), most of them were unscreened shots from far away, easy saves for any goaltender, even a back up. Ian White was credited with 7 of the Wings' shots, I can guarantee all 7 of them hit the logo on Bachman's chest.
- I was curious to see how the lineup changes would play out on the ice, and the results were good. Jan Mursak made a hell of a play to beat the Stars' defenseman to the puck and set up Homer's goal in the first, and Mike Commodore played yet another solid, unspectacular but effective game. Interesting fact that may interest only me: Commie has not been a minus player in any of the games he's been in.
- Look at Ty Conklin go, with his second win in three games. I'm always annoyed when a goal goes through a goalie, as the first one did, but it's a deflection. But the second goal was a tap-in on a rebound with a lot of traffic in front, and he was solid the rest of the way. For his efforts, he's your Player of the Game for the Red Wings.
- Speaking of traffic, the Wings had a lot of problems dealing with the very aggressive forecheck of the Stars tonight. Dallas skated very hard and won a lot of puck battles, something that was concerning as the game wore on. The days of just being able to be physical with the Wings and win are long gone, but teams should know that pressuring the Wings' defense usually leads to turnovers, something the Wings were guilty of all night.
- Still, a win is a win, regardless of how it happens. More importantly, it's a road win, which are hard to come by for the Wings this season. They move one step closer to that elusive .500 road record, sitting with a 12-13 mark on the season. Seriously, if anyone can figure out why they look so damn unbeatable at home and like utter shit on the road, let me know. Because it can't just be about matchups considering the Wings don't worry too much about keeping their big guns away from the other team's checking line.
Could that be the Red Wings in first in the Western Conference? Why, what a wonderful sight that is. It's like the world suddenly makes sense again.
In all seriousness, it was great that the Wings took 2 points from a tired but very competitive Stars team. It shouldn't have been that tough, but kudos to the Stars for sticking to their system and getting a single point. Out of all the teams that could sneak into that last playoff spot, they are one of the least-hated for me.