Two team hoping to end losing streaks met tonight in Calgary as the Flames hosted the Detroit Red Wings. Ken Daniels on the Fox Sports Detroit broadcast brought up that these two teams were the two worst for shot differential in the league, so how bad could it get?
The first few minutes saw the players getting a feel for the game. Dylan Larkin was driving the net and setting up teammates, but the timing was slightly off. But the line and defense changes that Jeff Blashill made were paying immediate dividends. Larkin drew a penalty on Sam Bennett, and the ensuing power play was phenomenal. A won faceoff led to Mike Green and Niklas Kronwall playing catch along the near side point. Their antics drew the penalty-killing forwards up top right at the moment Green fed Henrik Zetterberg down low. The spacing between the PK forwards and defense gave Gustav Nyquist plenty of ice to tee up a one-timer for a 1-0 Red Wings lead.
Calgary didn't take long to tie the game. Luke Glendening left the puck behind trying to carry it into the offensive zone, presumably to dump it in and make a line change. Calgary got the puck and went the other way, getting some zone time for their top line out against the Red Wings' fourth line. A cycle and Mark Giordano shot later, the game was tied 1-1.
Giordano would atone for his sin of scoring a goal against Detroit, however. His delay of game penalty gave the Red Wings their second power play of the period, and this time the second unit featuring Brendan Smith at the point got some ice time. They got the puck from behind their own net into the Calgary zone, and some more high to low back to high passes ended with Smith with the puck at the point. He took a couple strides into the zone to collapse the traffic in front of Jonas Hiller, and Smith's shot clipped off a Flame and behind Hiller for a 2-1 Red Wings lead and their second power play goal of the game.
One major development for the Red Wings in the first period: Green took a legal hit from Josh Jooris and got hurt on it.
Score after one: 2-1 Red Wings
Standout players: Brendan Smith, Dylan Larkin, Mike Green, Henrik Zetterberg
Tough period: Darren Helm, Luke Glendening
Thanks to a scumbag hit by Joe Colborne on Larkin, the Red Wings started the second period on the power play. It was another beautiful two minutes of special teams hockey for Detroit, but the problem was it lasted two minutes. The Red Wings won lots of puck battles and kept possession, but there was no third power play goal to be had.
The middle of the second period was a lot of back and forth puck moving but no end-to-end action that had a lot of shots on goal. The second period woke up a bit when the referees decided the standard for interference wasn't stringent enough, and they claimed Kyle Quincey as their first victim. It was the first of two penalties on Quincey — the second one more legitimate than the first — and the Red Wings survived some nerve-wracking moments to end the period with the lead intact.
Score after two: 2-1 Red Wings
Standout players: Jonathan Ericsson, Brendan Smith
Tough period: Kyle Quincey
Down a goal, the third period was pretty much all Calgary. The period started a bit slowly, then Detroit got its fourth power play of the game because of a Sean Monahan cross-check. The power play looked merely average this time and also didn't score a goal. It also ended early because Giordano is capable of being felled by a Teemu Pulkkinen love tap.
This point is where the game really tilted heavily in favor of Calgary. One of the more visible signs of the turn came when Smith missed the puck on a neutral zone pinch, leaving Josh Jooris all alone in on Howard. Howard was up to the task.
Detroit took the lead into the final two minutes. On a cycle in the Detroit zone, the worst possible option for Detroit had the puck at the point in Giordano. He fired the puck toward the goal in pretty much the same way as his goal in the first period. This time, the puck tipped off Colborne's stick in the slot and completely changed direction on Howard, tying the score late. The third ended tied, and Detroit entered its first 3-on-3 overtime of the season.
Score after three: 2-2
Standout players: Jimmy Howard
Tough period: The rest
Some dude for Calgary scored.
Final score: 3-2 Flames
Red Wings Player of the Game: Jimmy Howard
- Tomas Tatar can't win. He got absolutely stoned on one chance, and he found himself in great positions to score on numerous opportunities. If he didn't have someone right at his stick blade ready to block the shot, he was getting stopped by Hiller. If he keeps playing like he did tonight, the goals will start coming in bunches.
- Dylan Larkin is the best player on the team. He was the catalyst for his line with Tatar and Pulkkinen on his wings, and pretty much every time they were on the ice, good things were happening for Detroit.
- One play in particular in the third: Larkin was chasing a puck at the half-wall in his own zone. He knew he would win the race to the puck, but he made a cheeky little play to get it behind him so he could turn and protect the puck with his body. This play bought him plenty of time to spring Helm in the neutral zone with plenty of speed. Absolutely cerebral play by the kid.
- Jimmy Howard played a no-nonsense game and absolutely gave the Red Wings every shot to win tonight. He put his rebounds in great spots or off to the corners, and while he had one nervous puckhandling moment, he made pretty solid plays on the puck to get the play moving the other way.
- Memo to the Calgary Flames: you can survive a game of hockey without all the hits to the head.
- Sadly enough for Mike Green, he did not return to the game after the Jooris hit. The defense pairing changes were absolutely money early on, and having to go with five defensemen for the rest of it — especially a guy who was supposed to be on the top pairing for tonight.
- The forward line changes were more mixed. The third and fourth lines had exactly one good shift in the offensive zone each. But the top two lines were wreaking havoc on the Flames for most of the game.
- Process: Detroit still got outshot, and they got outpossessed. You can pin that phenomenon on score effects, but this was a half-finished game in terms of execution. The special teams scored on half the power plays, and the Red Wings killed off all their penalties. Even strength still needs work.
- Overtime: The result didn't favor Detroit, but the 3-on-3 overtime went pretty much as advertised. Chances at both ends, and while the pace wasn't as frenetic because both teams had instances where they held onto the puck to wait for a play to develop, it was exciting.
The Red Wings know what they have to work on, but they'll probably be doing it without Mike Green tomorrow in Vancouver. I hope Jakub Kindl can find the answers to the Red Wings' goal-scoring questions.