[Ed Note: I hope to have the AAR for the Nashville game on Saturday done soon, but I wanted to tackle this one first]
The Red Wings somehow remained perfect with me in attendance over the weekend, despite giving the Sabres the first three goals of the game in the first period. After digging a hole, the Wings got busy digging themselves out and ended up winning 6-4 on the strength of a Henrik Zetterberg hat trick.
I'm not sure the reffing in this one was good, but I wouldn't go far enough to call it bad. Detroit ended up with more power plays, going 2-for-4 with the man advantage while Buffalo put up a 1-for-3 performance. Despite allowing 4 goals, the Wings only surrendered 15 shots, winning the shot count battle 26-15
Petr Mrazek made four saves on seven shots and got pulled for doing that. Ok, in reality, he got pulled because his team was playing like garbage in front of him. Thomas McCollum saved seven of eight and ended up with the win. He wasn't tested, considering how many minutes he played, but he made enough saves to let the Wings climb back into this one.
1st Period 01:46 - Buffalo Goal: Drew Stafford (wrist shot) from Cody Hodgson and Andrej Meszaros
The game starts off poorly for the Wings as the Sabres score early. Sheahan makes a pass in the offensive zone which is tipped out by Girgensons and starts the transition for Buffalo. Meszaros jumps up and shoots from long-range on Mrazek, who blockers it off to his right side. The puck bounces at the dot just over Meszaros' stick as Ouellet and Smith are both working to keep him from getting to the net-front. Sheahan comes back and picks up the overskated puck, using his momentum to carry him behind the net where both Smith and Ouellet are tying up Meszaros. As this goes down, the Buffalo defender simply stops skating to give Sheahan no room to come out from behind the net. Smith is already backing away to receive a pass so he can start transition and Ouellet is already realizing that there is no defenseman at the net front, so they go off to do those things and allow Cody Hodgson to come in and take the loose puck. Varone is coming from the near-side circle to the net-front and Ouellet covers him, but can't get into the lane as Hodgson passes back to Stafford in the slot instead. Stafford waits a beat and then roofs it over Mrazek's blocker. Weiss has just come on and won't keep his minus. Pulkkinen is also just in off a change, but he leaves Stafford open because he sees that Varone is uncovered. Since Varone is the more-dangerous option, I don't blame Pulkkinen for this decision, but I'm not going to clear him from what is essentially a decision to leave the guy he should have been covering. Sheahan makes two bad turnovers on this sequence and will get one and a half turnover minuses for it. Finally, Both Smith and Ouellet will get a minus for their coverage. Smith first makes the mistake of going behind the net where he shouldn't, but Ouellet compounds it with his slow reaction to the play.
1st Period 10:21 - Buffalo Goal: Tyler Ennis (wrist shot) from Nikita Zadorov and Andre Benoit
Detroit makes it almost eight more minutes without giving up another embarrassing goal. A Wings' change gives the Sabres space to do the same while Ennis picks up speed to gain a clean entry into the Wings' zone. Ericsson keeps him to the outside as he hits the skate while trying to center the puck and then is forced to dump it around the rim. Zadorov steps up from the point to pick it up and take it low to the corner while holding off Smith until getting behind the net and getting Ericsson involved. As soon as Riggy makes a move, Zadorov goes back to Ennis in the opposite corner and now with a bit of room. From here, Ennis waits a bit for traffic to get set up and then feathers a centering pass there which tips off the stick of Ericsson and squeaks through Mrazek's five-hole. Glendening will get the only minus cleared here. Andersson keeps his for allowing the Ennis zone entry that gets them all set up. Miller will keep his minus for not boxing out Moulson better. I think a better net-front job there makes Mrazek play that attempted pass differently, which probably means his five-hole isn't open. Ericsson and Smith will each get a coverage minus. Smith's angle on Zadorov behind the net was incorrect, which drew Ericsson over to leave the pass to Ennis. While Riggy's mistake there is minimized, it's more than made up for by him tipping the puck past his own goalie.
1st Period 13:37 - Buffalo Goal (PP): Chris Stewart (tip in) from Tyler Ennis and Nikita Zadorov
It takes just 12 seconds on the power play for Buffalo to make it 3-0. Helm loses the faceoff to Girgensons, who recovers the puck behind the Wings net on a shot-tip play that just misses wide. Zemgus circles around before feeding Zadorov at the top of the zone who immediately feeds it back to Ennis at the top of the faceoff circle. Ennis one-times this shot just as Stewart is crossing Mrazek's field of vision. Stewart tips it off the far post and into the net. This is a very well-executed power play by the Sabres. The only adjustment here is the customary half-minus to Helm for losing the faceoff cleanly.
2nd Period 01:00 - Detroit Goal (PP): Gustav Nyquist (bunt) from Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall
Detroit breaks the shutout early on the power play with a Goose goal. Zetterberg wins the faceoff before two more people touch it back to Kronwall to set up the umbrella. Kronner feeds it to Hank at the top of the circle for a one-timer that he misfires on, but has the puck say in his feet. The angle has changed slightly from the first shot, so Z has a lane that his second slapper gets to the net-front where it hits Tyson Strachan in the face. The puck bounces off Strachan and to the net-front where Nyquist is the first to get his stick on the puck for a rebound opportunity. Enroth stops this one, but the puck bounces into the air where Nyquist bunts it in. Good power play setup on this one created by the faceoff win. Zetterberg will get a half-plus.
2nd Period 04:07 - Detroit Goal: Drew Miller (wrist shot) from Joakim Andersson and Danny DeKeyser
Miller cuts the deficit to one a few minutes after the Nyquist goal on some great forechecking and net-front presure by the fourth line. Miller dumps it softly into the near-side low corner for Andersson to race against Zadorov for control while Glendening cuts off the behind-the-net escape angle. Andersson effectively separates Zadorov from the puck and feeds it up to Miller in the high corner. Miller fires from the sharp angle just as Glendening is going to the net front. Enroth stops the shot, but the puck bounces right into the slot as it hits off Stewart's skate and then again off Enroth. Miller follows it into the slot, poking at the puck to prevent a clear and then taking up body position to shield it while he turns and fires right back on net. This time the Miller shot slides in under the goalie and it's a 3-2 game. I'm going to give Andersson a plus for the forecheck and Miller a plus for the puck retrieval. Finally, Glendening will get a screener's assist. Enroth is guessing when the shot gets through him.
2nd Period 10:08 - Detroit Goal: Tomas Tatar (wrist shot) unassisted
Tatar ties it just after the midway point of the game on a well-supported but unassisted wrister. The Helm-Datsyuk-Tatar line is forechecking well in the Buffalo zone and keeping them from being able to get out. Finally it breaks down as Tatar, Helm and Ericsson support each other at the top of the zone to keep it in. Gorges gets it near the faceoff dot and tries to clear it, but Tatar has already jumped low enough to stop that. Ellis is there trying to clear it as Datsyuk jumps on him, but his attempt to softly bounce it around Datsyuk ends up turning into him softly bouncing it straight to Pavs at the half-wall. Datsyuk throws a backhand pass to Tatar in the middle that just gets broken up by Kaleta before Tatar can gain full control. Ellis is there again to try and pick up the loose puck as it slowly rolls across the slot. Kaleta gets in the way and Helm comes away from the net-front to pester Ellis as well while Tatar continues pressure from the back side. While Kaleta is still looking for the puck in his feet, Tatar finds it and snaps it in using one fluid motion. I'm going to give Tatar a plus and a half on this sequence. He's all over the ice in the offensive zone here. Datsyuk, Ericsson, and Helm will each earn a plus for their work on this play to keep the Sabres from clearing and helping them get in their own way.
3rd Period 01:59 - Detroit Goal: Henrik Zetterberg (backhand) from Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar
Detroit takes the lead on an advantage brought on by a delayed penalty that takes place thanks to a strong transition rush that leads to a scoring chance which is prevented when Brian Flynn hooks Tatar to keep him from getting to a Datsyuk net-front feed. Before anything else, I'm going to give Tatar, Helm, Datsyuk, Kronwall, and Smith all a half-plus for the drawn penalty. This was truly a case of the entire unit creating transition quickly from behind their own net. The play goes on for about 37 more seconds while the ref has his arm in the air as Zetterberg replaces McCollum on the ice as the extra attacker. Z gets a chance immediately off the bench on a feed from Tatar that the Wings recover, moving corner-to-corner, then up the half-wall and back down around to the opposite-side point. Eventually, it's played to Zetterberg on the right wing side along the boards for a cycle to Datsyuk at the dot. Pavel escapes two Sabres trying to pinch him off and gets it back out to the right side point, then across the middle where he wrists it through an impressive bit of traffic (all five Sabres are within body/stick distance of the lane Datsyuk uses and two Red Wings players are there as well with Kronwall in the slot and Helm at the net-front). Enroth is able to stop the shot as he sees it very late, but nobody is there at the side of the net where Zetterberg quietly jabs home the rebound. Great passing and puck pursuit on this sequence. Helm will get a half-screener's assist. His positioning doesn't lead directly to the goal, but it helps create the problematic rebound for Enroth. Most of the heavy-lifting done on this shift to prevent the Sabres from gaining control is by Datsyuk and Zetterberg; each of them will get a half-plus.
3rd Period 05:05 - Detroit Goal (PP): Henrik Zetterberg (wrist shot) from Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader
Hank gets what will be the game-winner on Detroit's second (official) power play goal of the night. The top unit comes on about 30 seconds into the power play off a Buffalo clear and quickly gains the zone, setting up a cycle that lasts more than a minute before Zetterberg's goal. I won't go pass-by-pass, but it's a lot of Zetterberg and Kronwall moving around the perimeter with a bit of Pulkkinen and Abdelkader trying to massage the PKers into vacating a lane for a timely one-timer. There are a few shot attempts that get deflected off to the corner for the Wings to recover during this time as well. Finally, we get a bit of a break as Zetterberg gets space to walk into the circle just above the dot. His shot is deflected over the net, but Abdelkader is the first on it with plenty of room back there to set up. When he gets pressured, Abdelkader goes to Nyquist in the corner with all the space created by Zadorov chasing Abdelkader back there. Nyquist turns and faces the middle as he drifts into the bottom-outside of the circle and throws it to the middle perfectly between all four defenders where only Zetterberg can get his stick on it and redirect the pass into the net. This is a beauty pass by Nyquist and will earn him a half-plus. Zetterberg, Kronwall, and Abdelkader will each earn half-pluses as well for their puck retrieval sklls on this PP.
3rd Period 08:31 - Buffalo Goal: Tyler Ennis (wrist shot) from Matt Moulson
Buffalo makes it interesting on a squeaker with plenty of time left. This one comes off an icing faceoff that shouldn't have happened (Sheahan was in position to cancel the icing). The faceoff is scrambled as Sheahan and Mitchell form a tent over the puck while their teammates come in to try and grab the loose puck. Just as Weiss gets there to help, Moulson jabs it right past him where Ennis is coming from the inside. Ennis has just enough time to spin and fire it on net and McCollum doesn't get down on it quick enough as it squeaks through him. This is a weird goal in how it all goes down, but only Nyquist is going to be cleared here. McCollum should have had it, but Weiss should have had it and Sheahan should have had it and Quincey should have stopped Moulson from getting his stick on it and Ouellet should have blocked it. None of those things happened, so everybody else keeps their minuses.
3rd Period 11:59 - Detroit Goal: Henrik Zetterberg (wrist shot) from Kyle Quincey and Danny DeKeyser
Hank finishes the hatty at 4-on-4 and we finish our scoring for this wild game. Z takes it to center ice and then dumps it just wide of the net while two defenders converge on him outside the blue line. This gives Zetterberg position to be the first one on it as he enters the zone. Enroth plays it to the corner, but Hank rolls of Zadorov and picks it up, cycling up to the outside hash marks before turning in thanks to space made by Nyquist skating directly through that area. As Hank hits the circle, he fires the puck on net and it trickles in through the goalie for the hat trick. Zetterberg will get a plus for the one-man rush and goal.
1st Period 13:25 - Kyle Quincey (tripping) against Matt Ellis: Quincey jabs the skate out from under Ellis in the corner and sits. Minus for Quincey. Cut-and-dry penalty here.
2nd Period 00:49 - Tyler Myers (roughing) against Darren Helm: Helm is doing his job holding the net-front area against Myers as the puck is 60 feet away and Myers thanks him with a punch to the back of the head. Helm will earn a half-plus for this. It's just as much Myers' stupidity as anything, but Helm battles well here and doesn't retaliate.
2nd Period 17:33 - Jonathan Ericsson (hooking) against Philip Varone: Riggy gets to sit for some defensive zone battling that earns him one of those penalties guys take where they do one too many things that would be considered chintzy in a very short time and the ref calls one of those things. The hook on Varone isn't a strong call, but it's about the third one Ericsson commits on this shift and he's not moving his feet well. Ericsson will get a minus.
3rd Period 03:26 - Josh Gorges (tripping) against Justin Abdelkader: Abby sticks his ass out to shielf Gorges from the puck on a rebound kicked behind the Buffalo net. Gorges responds by putting his stick behind Abby's knees and then driving it into him with his hip. Abdelkader will get a plus for the good positioning work to draw this one.
3rd Period 10:57 - Andrej Meszaros (slashing) against Justin Abdelkader: Abby is going for a puck behind the Buffalo net only to have Meszaros chop his stick in half. No adjustment. This is a lazy dumb play by Meszaros.
3rd Period 11:09 - Stephen Weiss (holding) against Patrick Kaleta: 12 seconds into the power play, things go 4-on-4 as Weiss and Kaleta chase a puck to the wall and for some crazy reason, the ref calls a penalty. This is by far the softest call of the game. No adjustment. There is simply no hold here.
3rd Period 15:00 - Buffalo bench (too many men): The Sabres simply let six guys skate out there for a bit before the refs catch them. No adjustment.
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The lines got juggled in this one about the same time McCollum came on, so some of the traditional groupings we're used to had mixed times with and against certain lines. The first and third pairs also go t switched, with Smith jumping on Kronwall's pair and Riggy taking his place next to Ouellet. You can see in the running Corsi graph at the bottom the point where the Wings never really looked back in terms of creating and suppressing shots. Even the guys who were in the negative for Corsi did a pretty good job of suppressing attempts; it's just that they did a worse job of creating them.
Zone usage was centered around creating offense for a big portion oft his game, so the fourth line got their usual low opportunities while the top offensive guys were given more chances to start in the opposition's end.
Falling behind on bad mistakes early isn't going to win you many games, but neither is doing what the Buffalo Sabres do. This was as much fun as I can remember having at a game.
Corsi Timeline from Hockeystats.ca