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Wings’ Special Teams Douse Devils, 4-3

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5-on-5 could’ve scored more, but don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Devils rolled into town the day after Halloween and looked like they had a candy hang-over to start the game, and the Wings took full advantage. Detroit must have only had pixie sticks, because the kids were on a sugar rush tonight, consistently out-pacing the Devils. Here’s the rundown.

First Period

You would think that the Devils, having come off a 8-3 blasting by the Bolts, would come out mad against the Wings, but it didn’t really happen. No, the Wings controlled play and charged hard with speed. Larkin and the guys came out hungry, and we should get used to calling the Wings ‘Larkin and the guys’ because right now every game is another statement that this is Larkin’s team and that he is going to lay down on the wire for the Winged Wheel. Sometimes, laying down on the wire could be construed as doing a little too much.

About 4 minutes into the game Ericsson was called from a tripping penalty, which the Wings killed off. Normally this sort of penalty would be the type that, in years past, would have people flip their shit for it, but honestly, sometimes I catch myself saying “Ericsson is a stabilizing force on this blue line.” Not all the time, but sometimes.

The Red Wings were given a power play back, though. They continued to do what Peter mentioned in today’s podcast: get the puck behind the net, pivot, send the puck either into the slot or up to the defensemen. Peter mentioned this specifically in reference to Vanek, but both units have been using it to greater or lesser degree. The puck made its way from the back of the net to the half-board on Larkin’s stick, then back up high to Green, then back over to Frk, who fired the one-timer in the right circle to give the Red Wings 1-0 lead.

The Wings continued to fly around the zone and dominate the ice, continuing to tilt it their way. It involved another drawn penalty, this time from Brian Boyle holding Rasmussen’s stick, but the Devils were better prepared this time and made the Wings look pretty bad. Still, the Wings continued to pressure the Devils and rack up shots and just generally make the Devils dizzy (wasn’t one of the Tiny Toons named Dizzy Devil?) all the way to end of the period.

Second Period

How refreshing! The Wings opened up the second period off to the same good foot that they ended with on the first. So often this season after a strong opening period the Detroit club has come out flat-footed, so it has been really something to see the Wings push the pedal to the medal. Larkin was chief among the team to be flying out there, but all the guys did their part to add some urgency to the game, and it frustrated a Devils team squeezing their sticks too tight a few nights removed from a bad loss.

Half way through the period the Wings speed was still giving Jersey fits, but the Devils adjusted to force the Wings to the outside, so most of their shots throughout the period came from the peripheral. But while we are talking about the outside, the Wings did a good job winning the board battles with those #BigGuys and those who #PlayBig (I am terrible at hastags sorry everybody am I doing this right???)

Also, Pat Ferschweiller took a puck to the mouth at some point when I was in the bathroom. It was nice because the cut gave him a distinguishing feature from the rest of the coaching staff [Editor’s note: Ferschweiler took the puck to the face in the Columbus game].

I was just about to comment on how the Cholowski-Green pairing was really feast-or-famine, which I didn’t mind because they were fun to watch. Then the Devils scored. Cholowski got battered behind the net by a veteran Zajac, and the puck coughed out to the half-boards. The Devils gained possession, cycled the puck back behind the net to Zajac once again, who tee’d the puck up in front of Howard to Blake Coleman, who had a clean shot in the slot. 1-1 Tie.

Dylan Larkin decided then to teach his own team a lesson and rough up Kyle Palmieri. The Wings killed off the penalty without consequence, but the Devils continued to carry play afterwards, getting a couple good shots on Howard.

But the Wings picked things, got the puck deep and Cory Schneider coughed up a few juicy rebounds. In the ensuing chaos around the net, Mirco Mueller took exception to Luke Glendening setting up camp in the crease and the two dropped gloves. Mueller took a few home run swings and struck out and Glendening hammered Mueller in the back of the head, which is where you never want to see someone get hit.

Then with 15 seconds left the Wings tried to go behind the net again and Damon Severson grabbed onto Mantha’s jersey because he was, in fact, moving his feet. Wings back on the power play, but the handful of seconds weren’t enough time for them to make hay, so they went into the locker room to prep for a 1:45 power play to start the third.

Third Period

The opening power play started with some good looks, and I was really appreciating the way the Wings were using the drop pass once they already established their presence in the zone to activate the blue liners. I imagine this is closer to Blashill’s vision when he first became coach in Detroit.

But with a handful of seconds left in the powerplay, Dylan Larkin would land himself in the sin bin for interference and Sami Vatanen would make them pay, 2-1 Devils.

The Wings would come right back though when they got a make-up call, an interference against Larkin. The Wings established zone control, and did just what I wrote about earlier by getting the puck low then dropping back towards the blue line. The puck ended up on Nyquist’s stick high in the right circle and he fired off a wicked shot. It rebounded hard to a waiting Michael Rasmussen, who lifted the rebound over Schneider’s shoulder to make it a 2-2 Tie! The Kid is doing it!

The game had some good back-and-forth afterward, and it was exciting and fun and I can’t believe it, I’m recapping a fun game! It’s happening! It’s a fairly evenly matched game, but the Red Wings are getting the better of their opponent!

But the Wings seemed committed to giving over the initiative as they landed themselves in the box again, this time on a Kronwall holding penalty. Luke Glendening deflected a Devil shot, scooped it up, and made his way down ice on what was basically a 2-on-1 with Abdelkader in tow. Glendening did the selfless play, which in this case is to say he actually took the shot, which rebounded out to Abdelkader, who shoveled the puck into the net to make it 3-2 Wings with just over seven minutes remaining!

The Devils pulled Schneider with 2 minutes remaining and consistently put serious pressure on the Wings with their extra attacker, getting lots of traffic in the crease and eventually drawing an Ericsson cross-checking penalty. However, Larkin won the initial draw on the penalty kill, the puck made its way back to Daley, and Daley bounced the puck off the half-boards. It kind of took a weird bounce that was maybe totally intentional, and it careened right into the empty net to salt the game away 4-2 Wings! Except then Nico Hirschier sat his butt in front of Howard and the Devils scored on a cross-ice pass with seven seconds left to actually salt the game away 4-3 Wings! (Which sucks but we will take the wins when we can get them.)

Conclusion

The Wings thoroughly controlled play throughout this one for a fun match up. At 5-on-5 the Wings were pushed to the outside often, limiting their quality chances, but their special teams were top notch. Two power play goals, a shorty, and an empty-netter made for Detroit’s four goals. In the future, they will need to score more at 5-on-5, but for now, let’s celebrate!