In the sixteenth game of the season, the Red Wings got a boost of magic they'd been missing since late April. We made some adjustments in the lineup to welcome back Pavel Datsyuk. I think we all knew that Datsyuk coming back wasn't going to fix all of the Red Wings' problems, but it was too bad to be reminded of that tonight.
As expected, the crowd at Joe Louis gave special cheers for a special player. Datsyuk took a couple of shifts and looked completely like himself again. The trickle-down effect Datysuk's return had on the roster became evident only three minutes and change into the first period, when Dylan Larkin fed a pretty pass for a Tomas Tatar snipe over the shoulder of Martin Jones. Less than a minute later, Jonathan Ericsson tripped Nikolay Goldobin on a partial breakaway, but the struggling Sharks' power play wasn't able to generate any offense, and ended about half a minute early when Darren Helm was held as he skated the puck through the neutral zone. Then the Sharks tied it up 1-1 when Melker "not-Erik" Karlsson banged it in from the side of the cage.
The Wings' first chance with the man advantage took a bit to get going, and probably their best chance came on a tip-in attempt by Riley Sheahan, who then was right at the front of the net looking for any garbage to pick up, but Jones kept the puck out.
Datsyuk danced around a little in the offensive zone and I've gotta say, I missed that kind of control when there's defenders all around the puck-handler. The Magic Man nearly had a goal himself as he and the puck went right across the front of the net, but he couldn't quite get his stick on it cleanly. Not too long after, Matt Nieto scored for the Sharks on a rebound from a wrap-around attempt with three Wings in front of the crease and none on the side that needed defending. Can't assign all of the blame to either the goaltender or the team in front of him, but that goal shouldn't have happened.
Score: 2-1 Sharks
Shots: 9-7 Red Wings (this is not a typo!)
Standout Players: Datsyuk
Tough Period: Howard
Speed was the name of the game early in this period, as the Wings got some good looks off of play by some of the faster guys on their team. Andreas Athanasiou had a high shot on goal that Jones had to save, and then the Nyquist-Larkin-Tatar line spent a good amount of time running in circles in the Sharks' zone. Larkin had a tape-to-tape cross-ice pass that sadly didn't end in a goal. Tatar had a chance to tie it to Jones' left, but he couldn't handle the puck on his backhand.
A Paul Martin point shot from way too far out makes its way into the net after a double deflection, the last off Joe Pavelski, putting the Sharks up 3-1. Larkin tries his hardest to cut the deficit back to one goal on a wrap-around attempt that Jones corrals. The lines get shuffled around a bit after the Wings go down by two goals, the biggest and most obvious change being the switch of Abdelkader and Helm. Say what you want about that, I guess.
Glendening tries to backhand one in with about a minute left and then there's some rough stuff that leads to a 4-on-4 that will carry over into the third. But hey, Luke Glendening for Joe Thornton? I'll take it. A big 20 minutes coming up, because the Wings were definitely not winning the goalie battle so far and the offense just wasn't there either.
Score: 3-1 Sharks
Shots: 22-11 Red Wings
Standout Players: Larkin
Tough Period: Ericsson
Back to even strength and we're seeing the lines changed around again. The Tatar-Datsyuk-Helm line was reunited and it doesn't look like their chemistry from last season has diminished. San Jose was nearly gifted a fourth goal on an Ericsson turnover in the defensive zone, and then had another chance on a second giveaway (not by Ericsson). Athanasiou nearly tapped in his second NHL goal when he was out with... Glendening and Abdelkader? Oh, um, okay then.
Kronwall welcomed Joonas "
Big Little Foreign Joe" Donskoi with a nice hit at the Sharks' blue line. Not a patented Kronwalling, but it was a good, solid check. Tatar rang one off the crossbar looking for his second goal of the game.
I'm not even going to try and keep up with the line changes now, because it seems like they've been changing every other shift. Blashill did some serious line-juggling in Grand Rapids as well, and we first saw mid-game tweaks in the second game of the season with good success, but it seemed more like confusion on ice tonight. It would have been nice to see the same happen tonight, but the luck wasn't in the Wings' favor to begin with and they couldn't create their own when they needed it late. Wings pull the goalie with three minutes left, and just over a minute later, Teemu Pulkkinen gets on the board, probably by diving all over the place or something (it was a cannon blast that ricocheted off of Braun's leg and in the net). The Wings defend their empty net and prevent another goal, but run out of time to even up the score and drop this one in Detroit.
Score: 3-2 Sharks
Shots: 28-14 Red Wings
Standout Players: Datsyuk
Tough Period: Ericsson, Kindl
This was the first time the Wings held an opponent to under-20 shots all season, let alone under-15.
We had almost three minutes of an empty net and we didn't allow an ENG. Yay?
Datsyuk played almost 21 minutes tonight, while Glendening only played about 11. We doubled up the Sharks on shots tonight. Coincidence? No, of course not, that's to be expected when your best possession players play a lot and your poor possession players don't.
Datsyuk played tonight. *confetti*
Yeah, we lost, and yeah, that sucks, but I honestly didn't think this game went that badly. Not much for luck and some goaltending that wasn't up to the standards we'd seen so far (and admittedly so by the man in net tonight), but we didn't get dominated and then get our faces smushed into the dirt.
I had a chocolate cupcake after this loss and felt better. I think we could all use some chocolate cupcakes. Cheer ourselves up with some sugary goodness and get ready for tomorrow against a division rival.