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Players Understand Smith Stole Yesterday: Red Wings 4 - Kings 3

If this were a teen movie, Hank would be the cool, suave frat leader and Smith would be the special kid that overcame all odds.
If this were a teen movie, Hank would be the cool, suave frat leader and Smith would be the special kid that overcame all odds.

If you're like me, you were ready to turn this game off with about 5 minutes left in the third period. Down 3-2 to the Los Angeles Kings, a solid defensive team with a great goalie with less than 6 minutes left in the game, the Wings appeared to be dead and buried. Detroit had around 10 shots on net at that point, and looked very disinterested throughout the entire game.

But despite the injuries, the lack of hustle, the abysmal power play, the Wings could still rely on Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula, currently one of the best 1-2 offensive punches in the NHL. Those two combined for 3 goals and 3 assists, feeding each other like they were newlyweds on their honeymoon. Darren Helm would score the game-winning goal with just over a minute left in the game, and the Wings found a way to win a game they had no business being in 4-3.

There's no question the Wings are going through an extremely rough time right now. The injuries are absolutely ridiculous, although the news is getting better. Tonight the Wings were missing 8 regulars, or a 1/3 of their roster, and yet they were able to come back against a very good defensive team and show the type of heart that we have been waiting to see.

It may be a little presumptuous to call this win "season-defining", but this win definitely gives the Wings some momentum before they depart on their last road trip of the season. How did they do it? Follow the jump for the bullets.

  • I'm done talking about the power play, because we all know that it blows. So I'm going to try and be somewhat positive and point out that they didn't give up a shorthanded goal. Baby steps.
  • The Wings, as is their custom, chose to go strength against strength tonight, matching up Zetterberg-Filppula-Hudler against Doughty and Scuderi. The results? A -3 for Doughty and -4 for Scuderi. The $100 Million Man Doughty looked particularly Norris-like as he got out-muscled by Helm on the GWG. Kings fans can't be happy with this guy.
  • I'm officially off the Dan Cleary bandwagon. I don't know if he's battling an injury or he's just not as good as he used to be, but he's turning into a liability almost every time he's on the ice. Let's keep giving Gustav Nyquist some ice time and see what he can do. He's going to have to learn to take the puck to the net and shoot, but that will come with experience and confidence.
  • Henrik Zetterberg has 23 points in last 16 games, which is the most in the Western Conference during that time span. Tonight he showed that even with Datsyuk out of the lineup, he can lead this team offensively and create goals when the Wings really need it. He accounted for 33% of the Wings' shots tonight.
  • Brendan Smith deserves a spot in the lineup. That third period was a thing of beauty, drawing a penalty, keeping difficult pucks in the offensive zone, making smart passes, and creating offense. Don't hurry back, Kindl and Ericsson.
  • It's not all peaches and cream, though. The power play sucks, they gave up another goal on the PK, and only generating 15 SOG is not nearly good enough. This was a game where the Wings actually looked like they weren't trying through the first 2 periods, but somehow turned it around in the third. The schedule doesn't get any easier as the Wings will head out West for their final California trip of the season. With the Blues showing no signs of slowing down and the Predators hot on their heels, the Wings need to generate some good mojo after tonight's win and stay in the divisional race.
Like I said earlier, this isn't a "season-defining" win, but it could have been an absolutely devastating loss. A win like tonight brings a locker room together and gives the team a boost, and when the injured players start to come back (like they should later this week), then the effect is magnified. Despite not having a combination of Dastyuk, Lidstrom and Howard in the lineup for the last 2 weeks, the Wings remain only 2 points behind St Louis for first in the Central and that coveted top-3 seed. Detroit won't have long to revel in this win, however, as they head south to take on the Predators in Nashville. Word is that Alex Radulov may be back with the Preds soon, and no wanking motion is big enough to show how little I care.