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Habs Cash in 2-for-1 Coupon, Down Wings 6-3

We’re all muttering under our breath like an angry Elmer Fudd after that one.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Detroit Red Wings Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

With third place in the Atlantic Division on the line between them, the Wings welcomed the Habs to the Pizzarena. It was a titanic effort from the Wings for 20 minutes, but the Habs shook the rust off in the amount of time it takes for a delivery pizza to show up at my apartment. Despite Trevor Daley coming back, the Wings still couldn’t get a full sixty minutes on the ice and lost in frustrating fashion to a really lukewarm Montreal squad.

First Period

The game opened at a sluggish pace, but Glendening took a slashing penalty at the 2:12 mark. Detroit stymied the Habs and got a great 3-1 opportunity against Price, but Larkin sailed the puck high. The Wings were killing off the penalty in dominant fashion, but Brenden Gallagher redirected a Pacioretty shot with 3 seconds remaining in the penalty to make the game 1-0 Habs. It was Montreal’s second shot of the game.

The Wings didn’t take long to strike back, though. They re-established control in the Montreal zone, and Mantha launched a sharp-angle shot that bounced off the Habs’ Defenseman and past Price to make the game a 1-1 tie.

The Habs then proceeded to go to the box on a Danault high sticking penalty, and those lethargic opening minutes suddenly felt a lifetime away. Nielsen got some initial great looks, and then Zetterberg’s unit applied some great pressure, but the game remained tied.

The ice remained fairly even throughout the period, with the Wings and Habs both posting up in each other’s zones, but shots remained low. Howard did make a nice save off an odd-Hab, rush, though.

Eleven minutes into the period Zetterberg did an oopsie and sent a puck over the glass in the Wings’ own end, but Larkin just used the penalty kill as another opportunity to get another great opportunity against Price that was swatted up and away. Not to be outdone, Helm also generated a great chance, and then Larkin got another rush after the penalty concluded. It cascaded into great zone pressure, and the Red Wings’ young forwards really had begun using their speed to establish dominance over the slower Canadiens’ defensmen. (Man, how weird is that? Our speed pressuring slow defensemen.)

Jacob de la Rosa committed a hold against Nick Jensen, which would come back to bite the Habs. The Wings got some amazing movement on the man advantage with Zetterberg, Kronwall, Nyquist, and Tatar all cycling the puck really well while Abdelkader did his net front thing. The puck cycled around the backside of the net and up top, then to Nyquist in the slot, who made a real slick behind-the-back pass to Tatar. Tatar wasted no time getting the shot off and sniping the puck past Carey Price to put the good guys up 2-1.

The remainder of the period ran out and the Wings could feel pretty good going into the locker room, but the score could have been lopsided in their favor. (A shame, too. The blogging gods owe me for having to cover that Edmonton game last week. *shakes fist at sky*)

Score: 2-1 Red Wings

Shots: 13-6 Red Wings

Second Period

The period opened with Ozzie explaining how he sometimes uses black tape on his sticks to better hide the puck. Good to know, me too. Fools everyone in my level 1 rec league.

The Habs wasted no time marching to the box again, and the Wings got some great looks again, particularly from Larkin and Mantha, but Price made some solid stops to keep the score the same.

Five minutes into the period, Gallagher puts on some slick moves to create space for his teammates, the Habs drove the net and shuffled the puck through the crease back to Gallagher, who tied the game 2-2.

The Habs wasted no time making the most of the momentum and Andrew Shaw threw another puck past Howard off the rush to make it 3-2 Habs. Six minutes into the period, the Habs put eight shots on Detroit’s net while Detroit generated four in the other direction. The ice began to tilt for the Habs, for sure. Shout out to David Booth, whose backchecking broke up a dangerous-looking 3-on-2.

The commercial break gave the Wings a chance to get their heads back in the game, and fresh off it, Nyquist deflected a Green shot from the blue line that should have knotted up the game, but Price made an amazing stop. It seriously looked like vintage Price.

Kronwall tripped Danault though, so farewell momentum. Weakest penalty kill so far in that Larkin only had kind of one fast break, and Helm and Nielsen only got to lug the puck down ice once. Kind of a disappointment after such exciting PK’s earlier in the game.

Most exciting thing that happened for most of the remainder of the period was Ken and Mick talking about Philadelphia’s utter inability to find a goaltending solution. Ken brought up how they used to have Bobrovsky, which I totally forgot about. I smiled.

Then I definitely didn’t smile, because the Habs pulled something really similar to the Tatar goal with the puck movement, and Alex Galchenyuk launched a puck from the slot to allow the Habs to double up on the Wings, 4-2, at the 17:49 mark. DeKeyser did his best to get one back, but by now Carey Price was dialed in and grabbing and blocking and kicking everything Detroit could muster. A big adjustment made by Montreal to give them the edge was a more concerted effort to push Detroit’s speed to the outside.

The Red Wings would need to get desperate and hungry after the second, because it went about as badly as a period possibly could without it totally going off the rails into crazy town.

(I want to formally apologize for spurning the blogging gods earlier in the game. I take it all back.)

Score: 4-2 Canadiens

Shots: 22-19 Red Wings

Third Period

The Red Wings came out hard with a lot of good work by the Swedish Guard to set the tempo. Larkin/Mantha unit continued the pressure with Larkin making a beautiful centering pass to Mantha, but #39 just couldn’t cool the puck for a shot.

And yet, despite the pressure, the shots weren’t racking up the way they needed to. Part of the problem was that the Habs turtled up, doing their best to get in the way of shots and clog up the neutral zone. It really helped the Habs neutralize the speed Detroit used to dominate the first period.

The Habs gained control of the zone once again, and Jeff Petry fired a shot from the blue line. The puck deflected off both Gallagher and Kronwall before bouncing past Howard to give the Habs a commanding 5-2 lead. Howard never had a chance on it, and Kronwall’s positioning wasn’t to blame, either. Just some old fashioned puck luck for Montreal.

To rub salt in the wound, the Habs would up making the game a boring affair. To make the comeback nigh impossible, Nyquist took a holding penalty with about four minutes remaining. And of course, the Habs crashed the net and Pacioretty scored because Ericsson shuffleboarded the puck into the Wings own freaking net to make the game 6-2 Habs with less than four minutes to go.

The Wings showed some pride in the final minutes, with Nyquist very nearly getting a goal, but he couldn’t get any altitude on the puck. The ensuing powerplay even knocked in a goal, as Nielsen scored off one foot via a Mantha pass and his own rebound. 6-3 Habs.

Pride is one of those important cultural elements of good teams, but it’s only one piece, and the Red Wings game plan missed a lot of pieces tonight. The game closed out to increase the Wings’ losing streak to six. A lot of simple defensive mistakes reared their heads as the Wings became too mesmerized by the puck too many times, leaving Canadiens open. Other times it was simply being out-played and out-maneuvered, and then there was a little bad luck involved, too. Factor in the Wings’ inability to get to the center of the ice after the first period and Price’s excellence between the pipes, and there were just too many factors for the Wings to overcome. Hopefully, the upcoming road trip is a catalyst for change. The Red Wings will get another crack at the Habs on Saturday before facing the Western beasts, Winnipeg and St. Louis (yeah, it’s been a weird season in the West.)

Oh, and the player of the game was the Mite skater who scored a shoot-out goal between the first a second period on the jumbrotron behind John Keating and Ozzie. At least he could score on a freakin’ breakaway.

Score: 6-3 Canadiens

Shots: 31-25 Red Wings