The Red Wings kicked off a brief California road trip tonight after having two nights off following the opening night overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. On the other side the Kings came in off an overtime loss at home to San Jose on Friday night. Jonathan Bernier started tonight for the Wings facing off against his old club while Jack Campbell made his season debut for the Kings. One intriguing player to keep an eye on for the Kings was Ilya Kovalchuk to see if he still remains to be the lethal sniper he once was in the NHL.
With Kronwall and Ericsson still nursing injuries and not making the California trip, as well as Mike Green out for a while yet, the youth takeover of the blue line continued. Nick Jensen drew into the lineup after being a scratch on Thursday. Taking his place in the press box was Joe Hicketts. The forward lines were much the same as they were Thursday, but how soon until they went into the blender?
The Wings came into tonight attempting to keep the shot clock closer than the Blue Jackets game. All part of the learning curve for the suddenly young roster. The Kings had the size advantage, but the Wings had the speed advantage. Could they turn that into a win?
The Wings got into early penalty trouble, something they were looking to avoid. Tyler Bertuzzi took a careless high stick that caught Dion Phaneuf on an attempted zone entry. The resulting 4:00 powerplay led to a handful of shots from the Kings. Ehn notably received some extensive PK time. The Wings have seemed to put an emphasis on counterattacking on the penalty kill when the opportunity presents itself with a defenseman even jumping in on the rush. The Wings managed to kill the double minor and avoid any early damage on the scoreboard and limited the Kings to no dangerous scoring opportunities.
Shortly after the pace picked up a bit with the Kings getting some redirected shots across the slot but nothing going on Bernier. Bertuzzi and Phaneuf continued to show their disdain for one another with some shoving after a stoppage and a hit by Bertuzzi to follow that up. You could easily get the sense these two are going to go at it all night.
Daley went down awkwardly on a dump in at the red line where he fell forward on his follow through and ended up taking a knee from the Kings Anderson-Dolan to his head. Hopefully nothing too serious, and certainly nothing malicious from the Kings player involved in the collision.
Nyquist had the first shot with any real chance for the Wings after nearly forcing a turnover in the Kings zone. The puck ended up on Mantha’s stick in the neutral zone and he fed it back to Nyquist for a partial break but Campbell came up with the save. The Nyquist-Larkin-Mantha line followed that chance up with a good shift creating a bit of buzz in the Kings zone.
The Wings came on with a flurry shortly past the halfway point in the period most notably a chance by Athanasiou. The chance was created on a patient play by Vanek coming through the high slot and slid it down to AA who put it over the net while trying to out wait a sprawled Campbell.
The pressure eventually led to a powerplay for the Wings after a high stick by the Kings down low in their own zone. The powerplay was a bit chaotic but generated plenty of shots through traffic. Unfortunately none of those shots found the back of the net. The pace continued to increase as the period wore on. Late in the period Larkin made a subtle play to create an opening for himself. With Nyquist driving down the left boards Larkin drove toward the net and as the defender turned his head to note Nyquist’s position, Larkin slammed the brakes and pulled up in the high slot to create an opening that Nyquist quickly fed to him but didn’t quite connect.
The Wings closed the period with a 12-10 shot advantage and appeared to be the better team in the early going. One of the things that stuck out in this period was the young defense’s propensity for jumping in offensively. This is an item that was noted frequently last season and it’s good to see this may be gradually changing for the better. It’s been said but Sulak is such a fluid skater. I can certainly see him being one of the young defenseman that stays when the injured vets return.
Daley did not appear on the bench to open the 2nd, making his return doubtful. The Wings opened the period with the same surge they finished the 1st, with the early pressure on the Kings. Following a decent chance by Abdelkader, Kovalchuk took the puck into the Wings zone and pulled up after entering the zone and hit Kopitar with a pass who was coming up the middle of the ice with speed. Kopitar caught the Wings flat-footed and made a move to the backhand flipping the puck past an outstretched Bernier to open the scoring, Kings 1-0. All three Wings in position on the play, in particular Larkin and Sulak got caught puck watching a bit and paid the price.
Trying to recapture momentum, Bertuzzi was on the losing end of a collision in the Kings corner that led to Jensen jumping in and dropping the gloves with the larger Muzzin. Jensen certainly held his own throwing a late flurry of shots in the bout to close it out.
The Wings continued to generate some pressure following the fight. Cholowski drew a penalty as the middle of the period approached. The Wings finally broke through on the powerplay with Mantha stepping in from the half wall. On what was an attempted pass through the slot was deflected by Kopitar and fooled Campbell to the far post. The Wings tied it 1-1.
Following the goal, the Kings immediately got a chance on a bobbled puck by Hronek on the centre ice faceoff. Bernier came up with the save and a few more as the Kings began to press after the game was all square. The Wings got caught with a penalty as the game entered the later stages of the period. Hronek pinched down the boards in the offensive zone and while tied up with the Kings defender held his stick to allow his teammate to make a play. Unfortunately the referee noticed, but on the positive side he also noticed Carter of the Kings high sticking DeKeyser 7 seconds later. The game went to 4 on 4 for almost two full minutes. The pace certainly peaked for this segment with Athanasiou getting a clean breakaway on a Doughty turnover, but he lost control of the puck while trying to make a move on Campbell and the puck slid to the corner. The teams exchanged high speed chances but ultimately nothing changing the scoreboard.
After the 4 on 4 the Kings managed some pressure with Toffoli feeding LaDue who then drove down low to the corner and slid a shot to the net from a very tight angle but managed to find its way through Bernier. It was certainly a goal Bernier would’ve very much liked to have had back, but those are the breaks, 2-1 Kings.
The Wings got a late chance on a rush by the AA-Vanek-Abdelkader line but AA couldn’t get control of a bouncing puck off a Vanek pass to put it in a largely open net.
The Wings took a 14-6 shot advantage in the period for a 26-16 lead to the 2nd intermission. Mantha appeared to have a good period, not just because of the goal but he was patient with the puck and set up several plays. Kovalchuk despite his advanced age is still just so strong on the puck.
The Wings continued to carry the play early in the final period, with an early series of shots before the Kings could generate any. Bertuzzi and Phaneuf continued their quarrel with each other with each finding their way to the box at the 5:05 mark of the 3rd period following an exchange of stick work after an offside play. On the same stoppage Hronek and LaDue took 10 minute misconducts. While a seemingly harmless exchange, this put the Wings down to 4 defensemen for most of the period.
The Kings did not generate a shot until 7:00 into the period clearly looking to shut the Wings down rather than go for the insurance goal. But soon after Toffoli got a puck on his stick at the right hash in front of Bernier; luckily Bernier was on point and made the save with no rebound. Just before the game crossed into the final 10:00, Bernier made his way behind the net to play the puck and banked it around to the Kings’ Kovalchuk that threw it quickly to the middle to Iafallo. The Wings did not have time to recover on a puck that they believed was clearly in their possession. Bernier couldn’t get back to cover the far post in time and Iafallo finished it, 3-1 Kings. Bernier made his plea regarding the net coming off its pegs but the referees ruled the net was knocked by Bernier and had no affect on the resulting goal.
The Wings continued to push following the goal and the game’s speed once again picked up with the teams exchanging some high traffic shots. The Kings took a penalty for a knee on knee shot on Sulak with about 6:00 to play. The shot wasn’t brutal but knee on knee is always a dangerous one. Sulak appeared to be fine. The Wings were cycling the puck around pretty well throughout the powerplay. Late in the powerplay Larkin received a feed from Nyquist at the left dot. He had his shot blocked but it ricocheted back to him and he stepped across the slot and made no mistake on his second attempt with Rasmussen parked out front putting it low past Campbell, 3-2 Kings.
The Wings pulled Bernier with 1:49 to play to try to generate a goal to force overtime. It took some time for them to generate much of anything with a shot through traffic by Mantha being the most dangerous one as the resulting rebound just missed Nyquist who would have an open net from a tight angle. The Kings quickly broke the puck out 2 on 1 and Iafallo bounced the puck into the empty net, sealing this one 4-2 Kings.
The Red Wings put out a strong effort in this one outshooting the Kings 38-25 on the road. With some better bounces this game could have easily gone the Wings way. However when you have a roster like Detroit’s you can’t often overcome poor puck luck.
One takeaway from this game is after Daley left due to injury, the elder statesmen on the blue line were DeKeyser and Jensen. The other three in the lineup certainly held their own throughout against a good Kings lineup. Cholowski led the team in ice time tonight nearly cracking the 25:00 mark. I don’t recall any real flashy plays but they were all steady which is good to see from a young defense.
On the flip side, I rarely noticed Rasmussen in this game other than the screen on Larkin’s goal late. This is going to be a tough adjustment for him going from the WHL to the NHL and learning how to react quicker and make plays in tighter windows with less time.
Bertuzzi was front and centre throughout this game and was a thorn in the Kings side all game long. He needs to continue to embrace this role as there currently isn’t anybody who can serve that role on this roster, although some may argue Glendening is capable at times.
Jensen in his season debut was very strong, jumping in offensively often and making clean passes to exit the zone. Expect to see him stay in the lineup moving forward.
Lastly, the 4th line of Glendening-Ehn-Helm were effective tonight all playing under 10:00, generating some decent shots of their own while limiting the opponents. I wouldn’t mind seeing this group stick together so long as their minutes don’t climb too high.
All in all lots of good things to build on from this game for the Wings, and hopefully they can carry that forward into tomorrow’s game against the Ducks.