Two weeks after getting blasted in the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets by a 4-1 count, the Detroit Red Wings improved on that result by one goal, losing a 4-2 decision. A putrid performance on special teams was counteracted briefly by Gustav Nyquist continuing his torrid scoring streak, before a bad Brendan Smith pinch decision led to a controversial Jackets game-winning goal.
In one of the themes of the night, the Red Wings got off to a slow start in the first and were down early. A Todd Bertuzzi high-sticking penalty brought out one of the marquee matchups, Columbus' 0 for 36 power play against the Red Wings' 13 for 18 penalty kill. Columbus prevailed and it was 1-0 at 1:35 of the first. A series of penalties later on created a Columbus 4-on-3 advantage which they capitalized on as Danny DeKeyser deflected the puck into his own net, successfully preventing a pass on a 2-on-1 down low.
Nyquist asserted himself, extending his goal-scoring streak to 6 games. A shot at Sergei Bobrovsky rebounded to Riley Sheahan who found Nyquist with a wide open net. Skate to stick, and the deficit was 2-1. That would be the last we would see of Bobrovsky as he did not return for the second period due to illness. I wonder if he came into contact with Todd Bertuzzi during the game.
Good pressure by the Red Wings at their blue line sprang Tomas Tatar and Nyquist for a 2-on-1. Tatar took the shot, and the rebound bounced off of Nyquist and Ryan Johansen into his own net for a tie game. Before we move on, I bring you Rule 63.6 from the NHL rulebook:
Rule 63 - Delaying the Game
63.6 Awarded Goal: In the event that the goal post is displaced, either deliberately or accidentally, by a defending player, prior to the puck crossing the goal line between the normal position of the goalposts, the Referee may award a goal.
In order to award a goal in this situation, the goal post must have been displaced by the actions of a defending player, the puck must have been shot (or the player must be in the act of shooting) at the goal prior to the goal post being displaced, and it must be determined that the puck would have entered the net between the normal position of the goal posts.
The Red Wings would lose the third period in Columbus for the second time in two weeks thanks to an awarded goal off the stick of Cam Atkinson. A terrible decision to pinch by Smith led to an odd man rush toward Jimmy Howard. Howard made the initial save but couldn't corral the rebound. Smith made contact with Atkinson that knocked the net off its moorings, but Atkinson started sweeping to the puck toward the net while it was still on its pegs. Amidst a game full of terrible calls from the stripes, this was one I begrudingly say they got right. Despite some pressure and attempts to get the equalizer, Johansen salted the game away with an empty-netter.
The top line of Johan Franzen, David Legwand, and Daniel Alfredsson didn't register on the scoresheet, and that's definitely a result that needs to change for Detroit to make the playoffs, but they finally started playing in the offensive zone and generated some good scoring chances. If they keep playing the way they did in the second and third, offensive production should ensue.
All the credit in the world to Curtis McElhinney. Coming in for Bobrovsky in the second period, he faced 23 shots the rest of the way and stopped 22 of them, some of them very un-backup-like, high-quality saves. The Red Wings could certainly have helped themselves by not shooting so much into his chest, but McElhinney contributed a lot to Columbus' win.
The refereeing in this game was maddening. There were easily some of the softest calls I've seen this season to be found in this game. At the same time, the Red WIngs penalty kill futility continued, giving up a power play goal for the sixth straight game and now going 15 for their last 22. The power play continued to sputter, and that's being generous. There's a lot that needs to go right for the Red WIngs to win games and make the playoffs, and special teams absolutely needs to start producing.
I'm not about to start any "Fire Babcock" trains anytime soon, but I have to question the decision to have Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson, and Bertuzzi out for the empty-net situation. Moreover, I couldn't believe I was reduced to preferring recently-sent-down Cory Emmerton over Todd Bertuzzi in tonight's lineup. Finally, Mitch Callahan had a pretty decent NHL debut. He was engaged, kept within himself, and even had a sweet pass to set up, I think, Helm for a scoring chance. I'll be hoping for more from him if he gets into more games.
There are now 4 teams tied with 80 points in the top 4 spots in the Eastern Conference Wild Card race. Instead of thinking about more of those depressing details, I'm going to point you to these more entertaining things:
- Luke Glendening obviously went to the Bertuzzi School of How to Keep Your Helmet On. That's at least the third time in the last week Glendening's lost his helmet on the ice. Even better, Callahan had a shift where he lost his helmet. I know it's funny if it happens occasionally, but I really don't want to see anyone get hurt because of this.
- Brendan Smith can fly!
Montreal on Thursday. Two points would make me very happy.