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Knock Knock. Who’s There? Nuck-les (Red Wings 3-2 Canucks)

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Tatar and the Red Wings deny overtime in Vancouver with a late goal to seal the W.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit entered the late-night tilt in Vancouver on a Monday in what must be the least watched game of the season. It ended up being a heck of a game and a good win for Detroit; even though they let Vancouver back into the game late, they slammed the door on the Canucks’ rally with a minute left in the game. That’s some tenacity that I don’t think we would have seen from the Red Wings this time a year ago. If Pete was here he’d take that Kung Fury title to town and theme the whole recap with gifs and snazzy things, but you’re stuck with me and we’re all tired so lets get this thing taken care of and get to bed.

First Period

Play opened with the ice tilting in the Red Wings’ favor early thanks to the tempo set by Larkin’s line. Vancouver managed to get a lick in with a really good look by Sven Baertschi, but Howard was more than up to the task and stonewalled the Canuck at the front door.

Four minutes into the period, the Wings’ energy line of Nielsen, Helm, and Abdelkader crashed the Canucks net off the rush and made the puck get sloppy. Both Abdelkader and Nielsen got touches on the puck in front of Markström, but neither handled it cleanly. However, they managed to disrupt the defenders enough to allow Helm to circle around and cash in a loose rebound past Markström to make the game 1-0 in Detroit’s favor. It was exactly the type of goal you’d hope for from the Nielsen line.

Larkin’s line continued to pressure as the period marched on, with Mantha getting a good look at Markström as well. Every line got their licks in during the first half of the period, made possible by two things the Wings did really well against both Edmonton on Sunday and Vancouver tonight: the forecheck has been more aggressive, and the transition through the neutral zone has been fast. And yes, those transitions were possible because the defense has been cycling the puck better between partners and the transition passes up ice have been finding their marks more crisply than in the past.

The Canucks’ game plan, on the other hand, revolved around getting the buck behind the Red Wings’ net to create offensive options. The best chance in the period came a little after the halfway mark when Henrik Sedin from behind the net centered a pass on Howard’s doorstep to Jake Virtanen, but again Howard stood tall. He wasn’t challenged regularly, but when the Canucks did get dangerous around the Wings’ net, Howard was up to the task.

Larkin, Tatar, and Abdelkader nearly made it 2-0 as each got a whack at a puck in front of Markstrom with seven minutes remaining in the period, but Markstrom splayed well to cover any daylight.

The first penalty of the game came from an Abdelkader interference against Bo Horvat at the Canucks’ blue line at 3:40. Bo Horvat should have gone off for embellishment, but no call so what are you gonna do?

The Canucks power play looked dangerous and got around the net with a good look from our old flame, Thomas Vanek, but Howard and the penalty killers stonewalled Vancouver and retired their power play without consequence.

The period closed out with the Wings retaining a 1-0 lead on Helm’s early goal and strong play from just about everybody. Except no, scratch that because with two seconds left Mike Green lobbed an errant puck up and out of play for a delay of game penalty.

Second Period

The Red Wings opened the second with a fairly clean kill of the Green Delay-of-Game penalty. Vancouver only had one real good look, but Howard was again up to the task.

Three minutes into the period, Abdelkader intercepted a puck in the neutral zone to create a 2-on-1 for himself and Athanasiou, but the two couldn’t create enough space to generate a real threat off the turnover. It really goes to show, though, that the Canucks had a hard time all night of handling the Red Wings’ speedy forwards.

The puck was misplayed by (sigh) Ericsson (he was having a good game, too) seven minutes into the period gave Virtanen and Henrik Sedin a two-on-none in the Wings’ zone, but Henrik just couldn’t find a way to bury it past Howard. Huge play by Howard to keep the Wings’ lead secure.

Vanek had a great opportunity as well, and as the second period carried on the Canucks began finding ways to exploit the Red Wings’ neutral zone defense. The fourth line took a lot of the momentum back, but again the Canucks got a two-on-one against Howard that was broken up by some impressive back-checking from Trevor Daley.

With six minutes remaining, Boeser tripped up Darren Helm and its the kids that are trusted to start the powerplay, which is really great to see. With an opportunity to really take control of the game on the line, Zetterberg gains control of the puck in the Canucks’ zone, throws it back to Frk at the top of the slot, who fired a slapshot on Markström. Markström made the initial stop, and Tanev gathered the puck but Mantha decided Frk deserved the goal anyway, so he shoved Tanev’s stick with the puck into the net. The Canucks challenged the goal based on a Zetterberg goalie-interference claim, but the refs allowed the goal to stand. 2-0 Red Wings.

In the waning seconds of the period Vanek rattled a shot off the post, but the former Red Wing just can’t get one past Howard. Green and Gagne get into a bit of a mess twice at the end of the period, but Vanek gives Green a hug and everything is better. The period ends with the Wings still on top, 2-0, and still in control of play.

Third Period

Mostly the same story to start the third: the red Wings controlled the play, but that control was perforated by some really strong Canucks chances. It seemed like every other opportunity was Vanek’s too. You could tell he really wanted to put one past his former team, doubly so with his team down by 2.

It is worth noting that the Nyquist-Zetterberg chemistry was on full display in the third. I think a lot of Nyquist’s growth really stems from so much play time with Zetterberg.

Burmistrov crosschecked Nielsen from behind a few feet away from the boards. Really dangerous, but Frans seemed no worse for wear, so the Red Wings went to another power play. Despite some initial good looks, nothing came out of the power play.

Vancouver finally got on the board off a shot from the slot that was denied by Howard, but as it drifted back toward the high slot the Red Wings defense followed. Unfortunately for Detroit, Vancouver gathered up the puck and slid it over to Daniel Sedin, who was planted behind the Detroit defensive core. He launched the puck past Howard to make it 2-1. The goal wasn’t really on Howard because of the way the Red Wings’ skaters became mesmerized by the puck, but it suddenly made the game much tighter, it got the crowd back into the game, and the intensity skyrocketed.

After a scrum in the Detroit crease, Glendening and Dorsett went off the ice for matching roughing penalties. In the ensuing 4-on-4 Daley lost his man and screened Howard, and Del Zotto marched in on Howard and fired the wrister into the Red Wings’ net to knot the game up, 2-2.

With around 5 minutes left, Abdelkader got a great opportunity all alone on a loose puck, but the puck couldn’t sit still on his stick, allowing Markström to easily deny the dagger. Nielsen got a similar chance with less than 2 minutes remaining, but Markström is just so damn big that lateral movement is essential to getting pucks past big guys like him.

But the Wings won the ensuing faceoff and did exactly that as Larkin shuffled the puck back to Tatar and some good lateral work makes some space for Tatar at a good angle to snipe the puck high past Markström for the heartbreaker, Wings 3-2 Canucks.

The Wings were under siege for the remaining minute of the game as the Canucks pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, but Detroit held on for the win to put them at 2-1 on their Western Canada + Ottawa road trip.

Closing Thoughts

That was a fun game against a team that’s had a good start to the season. It was painfully familiar watching the Wings letting a team back into the game in the third period, but they weren’t going to let the Canucks spoil the victory. Howard is my player of the game.