The Red Wings needed a big win in the Sunshine State tonight against the leaders of their division. They started off strong before surrendering the lead not once, but twice. Detroit battled back from a two-goal deficit, scoring four unanswered goals to come away with two points. Here's how it all went down.
We got a surprise just before the game started that the Wings' forward lines had been changed back to what they ran with on Thursday. More proof that Jeff Blashill reads WIIM, I suppose, because he must have seen how much we disagreed with his decisions.
The first seven minutes or so were all Detroit, leading in shots 6-0 and really giving Florida no time in the offensive zone. Just before that marker was probably the best chance of the game so far, when Pavel Datsyuk stole the puck behind the Panthers net before sending it through the middle of the zone for a pressuring Anthony Mantha. The kid fired a shot on net that Roberto Luongo got with his left pad. So close!
The Panthers' shot-less streak ended with a pillow-soft puff that Howard easily saved. Because the Hockey Gods are cruel, or maybe just think they're funny, Florida scored on only their third shot just a couple of minutes later after some sloppy defensive zone play that allowed the Panthers to retain possession and get a two-on-one in close. 1-0 Cats. Good news, though, because the Wings didn't completely collapse after the Panthers goal. They were a little on their heels for a few minutes, but quickly regained much of their composure.
Andreas Athanasiou drew a hooking call by none other than former Red Wing Jakub Kindl with just under two minutes to go in the period. I bet you were expecting the Wings to dink around for the rest of the period on a futile man advantage, huh? Well you'd be dead wrong, because Brad Richards sent in a shot from the point that Tomas Tatar tipped in for the tying goal just four seconds in. The period was not to end uneventfully, as Justin Abdelkader took a high-sticking penalty with 16 seconds to go. Panthers start the second on a power play of their own.
Shots: 11-6 Red Wings
Score: 1-1 tie
Standout Players: Datsyuk, Smith, Green, Mantha
Tough Period: Ericsson
Luke Glendening got a chance early in the period while on the penalty kill when he had a streaking Darren Helm coming up with him, but had his pass blocked. The penalty expired without consequence, though Reilly Smith ripped a shot after it ended that hit the post. The puck stayed out and Jimmy Howard corralled it.
A Datsyuk pass hit the skate of Reilly Smith that led to a turnover just outside of the Wings' zone. Vincent Trocheck took it from Jokinen and got in on Howard to put the Panthers back up 2-1 a little over seven minutes in. A few minutes later, Brendan Smith got called for holding the stick. The ref fell on his way to announce the penalty, so I'm taking that as evidence that it was a soft call. The most dangerous chance on the Panthers' power play came on yet another keep-in at the line when the puck rattled off the crossbar. After the penalty expired, Teddy Purcell banked the puck in off an aggressive Jimmy Howard. Howard came out to stop the initial shot on the turnover, but ended up too far out to stop the shot from behind him and the puck trickled into the net.
Abdelkader drew a call with a little less than five minutes to go, and this time it took longer than four seconds to score, so of course the Wings' power play decided to give up shorthanded chances to Florida. The Panthers escaped unscathed, though Larkin didn't when Ekblad decided to shove him down at the whistle. Whatever, Aaron, you don't get to meet Nick Lidstrom after the game now.
Wings get another power play late as Sheahan went down at the blue line. With ten seconds left, the Wings cut the lead to one with their second power play goal of the game. Yes, you heard that right! Datsyuk got credit this time with Abdelkader in front, causing Luongo to throw the puck out of the goal and claim interference, but Florida decided not to challenge.
Shots: 23-17 Red Wings
Score: 3-2 Panthers
Standout Players: Kronwall
Tough Period: Zetterberg
Wings started the third on the PK again because Helm got called for tripping at the end of the previous period. They looked good on the kill early, or maybe it's just the Panthers looked like the Wings on the power play for a change. Florida iced the puck and then Larkin scored off the faceoff in the Panthers' zone to tie it up at three! That's Larkin's 21st goal of the season and his fourth against Florida.
For anyone that was worried about retaliation for the Abdelkader hit on Aleksander Barkov last month, they were treated to a fight between Abby and Jonathan Huberdeau. No harm, no foul, both players to the box for five minutes, so I guess that's that?
The Wings were continuing to press after some good work by Larkin and Zetterberg to protect the puck. Then Larkin threw the puck on net and suddenly it was in the net, just over the line behind Luongo. Glendening, who was only out there because Abdelkader was in the box serving his fighting major, got his stick on the Larkin shot to tip it past the Florida netminder. 4-3 Wings!
Clock winding down and the Panthers were starting to get a little more time in the Wings' zone. Detroit was able to minimize potential damage by not allowing any shots through to Howard. The Wings bench was noticeably shortened by this point, with Athanasiou and Mantha seeing only one shift between them in the final period. 4-on-4 hockey with 4:36 to play, but of course you don't put out fresh legs in that situation. Luongo came out of the goal with just over a minute left for the extra skater. Datsyuk got the empty netter with 37 seconds left to give the Wings the insurance marker, and the victory went to Detroit!
Shots: 30-26 Red Wings
Score: 5-3 Red Wings
Standout Players: Abdelkader, Larkin, Datsyuk, Glendening
Tough Period: Athanasiou and Mantha, because their butts were probably sore sitting on the bench the entire time.
- Hey, a Red Wings win! And it was by more than one goal, you say? That sounds a little far-fetched, but I guess I can-- wait, you're telling me they scored two power play goals too? Now I know you've lost it.
- It was weird on my end, but was anyone else not super upset when the Panthers went up 3-1? I don't mean in the numb-to-the-world, I-knew-this-was-going-to-happen kind of way. Like actually not worried. Maybe it was because they looked so good in the game despite the score not in their favor.
- Maybe it was just me again on this, but it seemed like Wings got a lot of the puck luck they'd been deeply missing over the last little while. Whether it was Panther passes bouncing favorably off their sticks or shins, or Florida failures at keeping the puck in the zone, it was a relief to see the tables turned. And as the saying goes, you create your own luck!
- Abdelkader was strongly considered for POTG, due to how very deeply he lives inside the heads of the Florida Panthers. He looked great tonight, drawing a call and taking Huberdeau off the ice for a while with the fight as well as providing the screen on the second goal. However, it's hard to argue with Datsyuk's two goals, including one at a crucial time before heading into the second intermission. The Magic Man definitely made up for his costly turnover on the Panthers' second goal.
- The Panthers may have Kevin Spacey as a celebrity fan, but the Red Wings have @helmerroids, who is obviously the better Spacey because she cheers for Detroit.