The big news in this one was the return of Mike Green to the Detroit lineup. The evidence is staggering for the team’s performance with and without Green. The Wings are hoping the numbers prove true and they can get some improved results with Green back on the ice.
The Wings were going to need Green and everybody else on top of their game in this one as they faced off against one of the leagues top contenders in the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets entered the contest 2 points back of Nashville for top spot in the Central division, albeit with 3 games in hand.
The goaltending battle featured the backups for both teams with Bernier getting the nod attempting to right the season for himself which has been sub-par by his standards. For the Jets, Brossoit got the call sporting an impressive 8-1-1 record, .939 SV%, and 2.11 GAA. Not bad numbers at all for the goaltender considered the backup.
The Jets came in sporting a few injuries of their own, something the Wings can attest to. Among the walking wounded for the Jets were Dustin Byfuglien. One player to watch was Patrik Laine who the Wings hoped could stay on his cold streak for at least one more game. For the Wings, could Athanasiou stay on his recent tear of the scoring sheet?
The Wings picked up where they left off Tuesday with slow starts to periods. A turnover down low by Ericsson and company led to a quick strike by the Jets off the stick of Tanev who after receiving the pass out front to Bernier’s right quickly put the puck over Bernier’s left shoulder, 1-0 Jets. Hronek lost coverage on Tanev on the sudden turnover play.
So 13 seconds in the Wings already a hole to dig out of. The Jets continued to pressure the Wings following the goal with Bernier making a nice save on a redirection by Wheeler. The next save came on a partial break for Roslovic when the defense parted the seas for him up the middle.
The next notable play was an injury to Perreault on a hit from Helm. The Winnipeg faithful were not pleased with the hit from behind, but Helm had him lined up shoulder to shoulder until Perreault pivoted at the last moment before contact. The referees felt the same way as there was no call on the play. The best chance early for the Wings came about halfway into the period when on a slow developing breakout Larkin found Nyquist in the high slot as they crisscrossed across the top of the zone. However Nyquist couldn’t find the target and missed wide.
The Wings became a bit more involved in this one after that, losing the possession battle seemingly, but keeping the Jets to the outside mostly. The next Wings chance came off a Larkin drive over the top of the zone before leaning into a middle lane and stumbling to the corner. Larkin threw a puck to the front where it ricocheted out to a crashing Green who wound up for one but Brossoit made a good pad save towards the far side post. Shortly after, a turnover by the Jets at their own blue line led to a Vanek and Mantha 2 on 0. Vanek wound up for a fake shot before slap passing through the crease area looking for a redirect from Mantha but Mantha short-armed the deflection attempt a bit and the puck slid wide.
The Wings definitely tilted the ice in their favour in the latter parts of the period with some pucks sliding through the crease area that couldn’t quite end up on a Wings stick. But with the clock ticking down late, Winnipeg got some sustained pressure in the Wings zone. Wheeler pivoted back towards the Wings net at the top of the circle, then attempted to send a pass through the slot. Vanek reached out to deflect the pass away. Unfortunately the deflection happened to redirect the puck towards the short side of the net with Bernier already committed to sliding across. The kicker on this is there was less than a second left in the period as the puck crossed the line. Tough break, 2-0 Jets.
The Wings picked up their play late in the period and were just on the bad end of a fluky bounce. However Bernier made some saves in the early parts of the period to keep the score 1-0. The Wings went into the break down 10-9 in shots which was maybe a little kinder than the play indicated. No real standouts for the Wings in the opening period, save for perhaps Mike Green looking right back in fine form from his injury and the Larkin line.
The Larkin line with Bertuzzi and Nyquist continued to drive the bus offensively for the Wings in this one. The Wings came out with some early jump almost assuredly focused on not letting another period start slowly. Jensen got a nice opportunity with a terrific puck drag across the top of the circle before putting a shot on net that Brossoit got enough of despite not appearing to see the shot. But the momentum was halted when De la Rose picked up a penalty for holding. Luckily for the Wings it only took 20 seconds for Winnipeg to return the favour on a Trouba interference call for taking down Helm at the offensive blue line. Some extensive 4 on 4 action followed. But it was the Jets who capitalised on the open space on another fluky goal. Bryan Little let a snap shot go from the left circle, the puck redirected off Green’s stick and again bounced in short side with Bernier committing to the shot to the far side as was initially intended by Little, 3-0 Jets.
As the game approached the midway point the Wings found themselves shorthanded again, this time on a Jensen delay of game for puck over glass. This time the Jets were able to keep their powerplay rather than evening it up. But save for a redirect from the high slot, the Jets did not generate much on the powerplay. As the penalty came close to expiring, Helm forced a turnover at the Detroit blue line and the Wings were off on a 3 on 1 rush with Hronek and Glendening jumping in. Helm chipped the puck over to Hronek at the Jets blue line which opened up a 2 on 0 for Hronek and Glendening. Hronek faked the shot to get Brossoit to go down then slid the pass across to Glendening who deflected it up and over the goaltender’s sprawling pad and into the back of the net, 3-1, and the Wings had life.
Not long after getting on the scoreboard, the Wings caught a goal post with a point shot coming close to quickly getting this game within one. The Nielsen, Vanek, Mantha line managed to have a shift with some good pressure, but no good chances resulted. The next chance came for the Wings on a nifty breakout play with Bertuzzi redirecting the puck through his legs to Nyquist from the half boards. Nyquist head-manned the puck to Larkin who gained the zone before flipping a pass back to Nyquist that he couldn’t quite haul in. When he eventually did near the goal line he quickly put a shot on net that gave the goaltender trouble and he fumbled a rebound into the crease area. Bertuzzi came in quickly and took about 3 whacks at the puck but couldn’t push it through.
Late in the period Hronek drew a tripping call from Little while chasing a puck back to his own corner. However the Wings never generated much on the powerplay and the advantage carried over into the final period. The good news is the Wings seemed to be the better team in the middle period, outshooting the Jets 15-9 to carry a 24-19 advantage overall.
The final period got off to a slow start, which the leading Jets would likely have had no problem with. The first good look came on a Vanek pass back against the grain from behind the net to De la Rose on the far side of the net, but Brossoit was quick to get his pad across. For all of Vanek’s mistakes at times and the fact that he is clearly a long ways behind most of his counterparts in skating, he does still have the ability to make these creative type plays that others likely don’t even consider.
Just past the 5:00 mark, the aforementioned Vanek carried the puck into the Jets zone, and sent a soft flop pass about 5 ft back to Mantha who took an open lane to the net. Mantha put a wrist shot on goal but it didn’t appear to test Brossoit much as he absorbed it in his chest. That might be one Mantha would like another attempt at. Shortly after that shot Chariot of the Jets picked up a holding the stick penalty on Helm low in his own zone. The Wings likely needed to take advantage of this one to still have a chance to force the comeback. That’s just what they did not long into the powerplay. A smooth slap pass across from Kronwall to Cholowski, at first caught Cholowski off guard. After fumbling briefly to get the puck on his stick, Cholowski made a concentrated effort to take a shot from the right faceoff dot attempting to beat the sliding goaltender. Brossoit caught a good piece of the shot but not enough as Cholowski’s shot found the back of the net, 3-2.
The Wings continued to amp up the pressure following the goal with the best chance coming off a forced turnover by Athanasiou who raced off on a breakaway. He tried to pick a corner low to the goalie’s glove side but he was able to get a pad on it and steer the shot away.
With 8:22 to play, Winnipeg put the puck over the glass in their own end leading to another Detroit powerplay. Larkin had a good chance on a quick bang bang passing play that crossed the centre of the ice twice with the second pass being a one touch by Vanek into the slot for Larkin. Larkin misfired on the one timer attempt and it fluttered wide. Next up was a goal mouth scramble featuring Bertuzzi and Athansiou but they couldn’t get a stick on the puck. The powerplay had several good looks but none could find the back of the net.
Not long after the powerplay expired, the Wings took a penalty of their own on a Kronwall holding call, which was bound to happen given the way the calls had gone in their favour thus far in the period. The Wings successfully killed the penalty against a conservative Jets powerplay but were left with just 2:30 remaining to tie the game. The Wings pulled Bernier with 2:00 to play but got hemmed in their own zone for the first 30 seconds. After that they never could get much setup and eventually with 1:00 to play Kyle Connor got ahold of the puck at the Wings blue line and floated one into the empty net, more or less sealing this one, 4-2 Jets.
This one sure did get interesting given how it looked early. The Wings showed good composure to battle back in the game and get this within a goal late. The Wings dominated the final period, mind you the shots were just 11-7 in the period. But for the Wings to outshoot the Jets 35-26 overall and make them look over their shoulder throughout was impressive. Unfortunately a couple bad bounces found their way to the back of the Wings net which created the initial three goal gap. The team certainly has a lot to build from this one despite the losses piling up. Mike Green was very impressive in his return from injury playing 22:12 and getting 5 shots on net, as well as some very good outlet passing throughout. The Wings need to bounce back quickly as they face Minnesota tomorrow night.
Until then, LGRW!