I let out a mighty groan when I saw that tonight’s game was on NBCSN, but fortunately the game was called by Ken Daniels and Ray Ferraro, which was actually really nice. I always like seeing Ken on NBCSN working with people we don’t usually see.
However, when the dust settled, it was the Oilers that were left groaning and the Wings were cheering. Here’s how it went down:
Here’s what I’ve got to say about the first ten minutes of this game: when two good teams open a period the way the Wings and Oilers did, you call it a “fine wine” and rest assured that you are watching some fine defensive hockey. But when it’s the Wings and Oilers it’s called.... something else. Not a fine wine, that’s for sure. You guys can figure it out in the comments.
The most notable opportunities came for the Wings, courtesy of Ehn and Nyquist. Then Leon Draisaitl hooked Nyquist and insanity ensued. The Red Wings’ power play looked a lot (I mean a lot) better for the Oilers than Detroit. They had several good opportunities, and the post even came to the rescue against a wicked McDavid shot. AA got a nice opportunity too, trying to deke in front of Koskinen and lift the puck over the glove, but no dice.
Shortly thereafter, Nielsen tripped Darnell Nurse, but the penalty kill only lasted half its measure as the Oilers got called for too many men on a change. The four on four was kind of boring, but the minute of power play time this time around looked at least moderately better. The Oil wasn’t bearing down on Howard, at least.
Detroit’s best scoring opportunity actually came with about 5 seconds left in the period as Larkin tried for the wrap around while Koskinen was on vacation in the Cayman Islands or somewhere similarly far away, but Draisaitl played goalie to send the squads scoreless into the intermission
Shots: 11-7 DET
Score: 0-0 Tie
Stand Ups: Nyquist, Howard
The second period started much the way the first did: it was the type of period where the color commentator really earns his paycheck.
That is, until Larkin rips a big fat wrister past Koskinen about five minutes! 1-0 Red Wings!! And Koskinen nearly had his glove on it! Assists from Nyquist and Bertuzzi! And it came just in time! I was just about to start typing about Ehn having a good-but-not-great game!
Adam Larsson (who looks a helluva lot like Alan Tudyk) then got mad about it and shoved his knee into the back of Larkin’s to earn a trip to the box. It was a pretty good power play, one of those classic “They’ve lost two sticks and a glove!!! How did you not score!!!” sort of power plays you see all the time these days.
The game went back to more of the same drift-less, safe hockey, and it was in this milquetoast mess that an offensive zone turnover for the Oilers turned into a a goal in the other end for the Red Wings. The puck was knocked off an Oiler’s stick at the top of the right circle in the Wings’ zone and squirted out to neutral ice, where it was picked up by Helm. Helm got on his horse and threaded a puck neatly through multiple defenders in the Oilers’ end to none other than Backhand Luke! 2-0 Red Wings!! (Assists come courtesy of Helm and Athanasiou.)
The Oilers mounted high pressure to try and take the lead back, leading to a DeKeyser Tripping Penalty. The Wings rather ably killed it off though, without Edmonton getting any real high danger chances.
The period closed out with two blown tripping calls against the Oilers by the refs, one against Larkin and a second against Athanasiou. I rarely complain about refs, but it was a bad sequence for the zebras. At any rate, the Wings would start the third frame in Edmonton at even strength.
Shots: 23-17 DET
Score: 2-0 DET
Stand Ups: Larkin, Helm, Kronwall
The scoring effects came back hard in the third period as the Oilers profited from a weird bounce and knocked one past both Ericsson and Howard after it rolled off an orange sweater in the crease to make it 2-1. Credit goes to Draisaitl from Chiasson and Nurse.
But Luke-Wars 2: Revenge of the Backhand came to theaters in Edmonton 90 seconds later on a fast break to re-establish the two-goal lead, 3-1!! It came on a weird angle, and after watching the replay a couple of times I’m still not sure how it squeezed past Koskinen, or how none of the Oilers got their legs moving to make any significant back-checking effort on LGD, but hey, us Wings fans will take it. (Upon further review, the goal was actually scored on the forehand, but I’m going to pretend otherwise for the sake of the narrative. Consider it the effect watching NBCSN is having on me.)
The Oilers took some time to get their legs back under them, and just generally started gooning it up, particularly Darnell Nurse. With just under seven minutes remaining Green got called for crosschecking none other than Darnell-freaking-Nurse. The Wings’ PK was up to the task once again, though, and de-fanged the Oilers on the man-advantage.
Edmonton then made an aggressive move; off a Detroit icing, they decided to pull their goalie with three-and-a-half minutes left. Patrick Roy would be proud. The Wings nearly scored the empty netter, but eventually the Oilers won a face-off, caused a lot of havoc in the crease, cycled the puck up to the point, and scored on the slaps shot. The play went under review, but was upheld, so with 2:26 left it became a one-goal game, 3-2.
Edmonton pulled their goalie again once they established zone-control in Detroit’s end. Multiple Wings got their opportunity at a 200 foot goal and just kept coming up short.
Nobody even netted a goalie-less goal, but the Wings did manage to hang on for the 3-2 win!
Shots: 34-26 EDM
Score: 3-2 DET
Stand Ups: Glendening, Howard
I really don’t believe in one team ever “wanting it more” than another team; I think that is a lazy analysis made by folks who don’t understand high-level competition. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t just watch the Wings out-work the Oilers on their way to a victory. It wasn’t the flashiest sort of match, but they held onto the puck a lot and minimized Edmonton’s chances. Meanwhile, the Oilers seemed to just be missing a step the whole night, but one could understand their players being a bit demoralized.
Tonight is a reminder that winning always feels better than losing, even when the win isn’t the sort of razzle-dazzle that got you watching the Wings in the first place.