It's not every day you witness a miracle, but tonight, if you were watching the Red Wings take on the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first of three meetings this season, you would have seen two. The first was a Red Wing player scoring a shorthanded goal. The second was the Red Wings winning a shootout.
The first 5 minutes of the game were pretty forgettable. Darren Helm took the game's first penalty when he put the puck over the glass, but the Wings' PK was flawless and didn't allow a shot to the Jackets' power play. Brendan Smith took a big hit from Kerby Rychel and had to go to the room, leaving the Wings with 5 defensemen for the rest of the period. Justin Abdelkader took an interference penalty, and this time Jackets had a couple of quality chances, but they were unable to score and the game remained scoreless. Columbus struck first late in the period. Boone Jenner out-skated and out-muscled Alexey Marchenko off the puck and then put a shot past Petr Mrazek short-side, a goal that Mrazek absolutely can not allow.
Score: 1-0 Blue Jackets
Shots: 6-4 Blue Jackets
Strong Period: Dylan Larkin
Tough Period: Petr Mrazek
The Wings didn't start the period well, giving up some good chances to the Jackets early. However, the Wings started to exert some pressure in the Columbus zone, and it paid off with their first power play of the game after a brutally dirty hit by Dalton Prout on Andreas Athanasiou. The Wings power play did its thing, which was give up 2 odd-man rushes, one that resulted in a good save by Mrazek while the other was a whiffed shot on a 3-on-1. It didn't let up as the Jackets missed several good shots by missing the net, and they tilted the ice in their favor. Niklas Kronwall took a hilarious hooking penalty considering what had been let go, and after all the chances the Jackets had, it was only a matter of time before they scor........HOLY SHIT RILEY SHEAHAN SCORED A SHORTHANDED GOAL. The Jackets had another odd-man rush when Mike Green fell down, but once again the attempt went wide.
Shots: 15-11 Red Wings
Strong Period: Kyle Quincey
Tough Period: Teemu Pulkkinen
The Wings began the third period with a great scoring chance as Brendan Smith was sent in all alone on Curtis McElhinney, but was stopped. After a tight affair in the first two periods, the third opened up a little, as both teams started to get more chances. The Wings spent a good amount of time in the Columbus zone, but McElhinney was up to the task. After giving up a soft opening goal, Mrazek matched him save for save. Kyle Quincey made a great play to break up a 2-on-1, and Mrazek came up big a few times in the final few minutes to preserve the tie and get the game to OT, where the Wings earned a point for the 3rd straight game.
Shots: 25-24 Red Wings
Strong Period: Kyle Quincey
Tough Period: Darren Helm
After a lot of complaints by Wing fans about the overuse of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, the Wings elected to start Athanasiou in OT. Niklas Kronwall had the first good chance of OT but his shot was blocked. Mrazek made a gorgeous save and looked to feed Datsyuk for a breakaway, but a too quick whistle by the referee negated that chance. Mrazek made a couple of great saves, and the Wings had a close-in chance where again a quick whistle prevented a scoring chance. No one scored, and we went to a shootout.
In the shootout, Jeff Blashill's comments about switching up the lineup were true, as Sheahan and Athanasiou both scored for the Wings, who won a shootout for only the 2nd time this season.
Points of Observation:
Nicklas Lidstrom looks like he could put on a jersey and immediately be the Wings' best defenseman. That man is going to look better at 80 than any of us will look on the best day of our lives. And he'll probably live to be 134. He's just that perfect.
On NBCSN, Randy Hahn indicated that Jeff Blashill warned fans not to have high expectations for Niklas Kronwall in his first game back. For those of us that have paid attention to Kronwall's play this year, that wasn't going to be an issue. And yet, Kronwall looked good tonight, and for this writer, seemed to have a calming presence on the blueline. Some of the passes were a little off and his skating wasn't the greatest, but his return to the lineup should solidify the defense corps.
Speaking of NBCSN, this happened during the first intermission:
Uh.......huh pic.twitter.com/GjqhKggGkP— Graham Hathway (@GrahamWIIM) February 24, 2016
The real question will be what happens when Jonathan Ericsson comes back. If I'm guessing, I say Alexey Marchenko comes out of the lineup, as he hasn't played his best hockey in the last couple of games and may be hitting a bit of a wall. Getting beat on the opening goal was not a good look for him.
A game after Jimmy Howard nearly single-handedly beat the Rangers, Mrazek let up an absolute stinker of a goal to open the scoring. I'll admit to being a little concerned that this was going to be another game where Mrazek struggled, but he put those fears to rest with a dynamite performance, particularly late in the third and OT when called on to make some big saves. He had some luck as the Jackets missed the net several times, but puck don't lie.
I don't normally complain about the refereeing, and I will point out the Wings won the game, but the penalty standard was questionable throughout the game, and the quick whistle after Mrazek's save in OT was straight-up horseshit. That could have been a highlight on every sports show in the country, but the refs hate fun, so they blew it.
I've been a big supporter of Teemu Pulkkinen, and still believe that he should have a regular spot in the lineup. But his play tonight was not inspired and didn't leave much doubt that Tomas Jurco should be brought back in in his place. Pulkkinen was inserted in the lineup to assist the power play, but at the end of one in the second period, he looked very slow in trying to get back to negate and odd-man rush. It seems that Blashill agreed, because Pulkkinen didn't see the ice for the final 8 minutes of the third and all of OT.
Player of the Game was a tough one tonight. Athanasiou made a strong push with a very good game. He nearly won the game in OT with a beauty of a one-man rush, and scored the shootout-clinching goal on a very slick move. After we all wondered why he wasn't playing more, he played over 6 minutes in the third period and OT, which was more than Luke Glendening and Darren Helm.
Riley Sheahan was another option, as he scored the Wings' shorthanded goal of the season on a breakaway, then faked the move he scored with in the shootout to score there too. He led all Wing shooters with 6 shots, and was named the game's first star by the media. Between Sheahan and Athanasiou, it was nice to see the a couple of young guys carry the vets for once.
However, we can't overlook the extremely strong game that Kyle Quincey put in tonight. The Bearded One was an absolute force on the back end, breaking up several quality chances, and pretty much doing everything right. His play on a potential 2-on-1 in the second period while the Wings floundered offensively was awesome.
The Wings just finished a stretch of 4 games in 6 nights, and earned 4 of a possible 8 points. Not great, but could have been a lot worse. The next game is a big one, as the Wings travel to Denver to take on the Avalanche in the Stadium Series game at Coors Field. I'll be attending that game in person, as will J.J, Jeff and Kyle, so if you're going to be in the area, let us know so you can tell us how great we are and shower us with praise and beverages of our choosing.