It’s the first game of the rest of the season for the Detroit Red Wings on a Sunday night in late February. On Friday night, the Wings were eliminated from playoff contention by the Islanders, so the only thing left to play for in the next six weeks is pride and growth and other intangibles. Let that be the fat you chew on as you read about yet another loss! It will get you through the long dark of this winter yet!
First scoring opportunity came just under two minutes in, this one for the Flames. Mickey had just gotten done talking about how great Bernier has been despite the Red Wings scoring fewer than two goals per game when he is in net. Bernier was up to the early challenge and turned the puck away, but an area of growth over the season was how quickly the Wings got back and transitioned to defense faster than Calgary transitioned to offense. This was the top unit, too, so good on them for growth! Because growth is what we get to talk about now! Just as a reminder, we are talking about this on February 23rd! Growth, not playoffs! Am trying to provoke a reaction out of our readers to deal with my own frustrations at this lost season? You bet I am!
The Wings’ positioning in the zone continued to be solid throughout the first five minutes, which was good, because we got to see a lot of it thanks to Calgary controlling the game. But nothing gold can stay, and let’s be honest, for most of this season a tie score has been pretty golden for the Red Wings. Gaudreau fired a hard shot from the top of the right circle to crack open the scoring, 1-0 Flames. Helper from Noah Hanifin.
Johnny's snipe is worth a few looks pic.twitter.com/ZSwOV6yO9J— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) February 24, 2020
While I was typing just that bitty paragraph, Monahan scored a goal, too. Fortunately, the rewind feature tells me that Monahan drove the net and got a lucky bounce that also took an unfortunate redirection off Bernier’s stick on a desperation save. 2-0 Flames. Story of the game eight minutes in is that they have gotten second chances on their shots. Detroit has not.
Detroit did begin to get traction late in the period, but then Perlini fired a slapshot that hit Bertuzzi on the forearm. Bert went straight to the dressing room and there’s no way he doesn’t develop a vicious bruise at the very least. Hopefully nothing broke. I’d be a little surprised; those bones are hard as hell compared to some other areas of the body, but it was a hard shot.
The next face off was in Detroit’s end. Larkin won the draw and chipped the puck back to Nemeth, who battled it forward to Perlini. Perlini sprang Larkin in the neutral zone. Larkin protected the puck brilliantly and chipped it past David Rittich to cut the lead by one!
The period came to a fairly quiet close with Calgary doubled up on shots and goals, but Detroit scored a big goal late to keep it close, so after twenty minutes the Wings were still very much in this game.
Score: 2-1 Calgary
Shots: 12-6 Calgary
Stand Outs: People who hate commercials, because this game went over nineteen beautiful minutes without a commercial.
The Wings came out to carry play in the second, and more importantly, Bertuzzi was back on the ice. The Wings nearly caught up in shots by the time the commercial break rolled around, which came in at just seven minutes into the period. Boo!
Honestly, not a whole lot to say about the opening half of the second period. Bernier didn’t have to make a great stop until nearly half way through the period. He had to make about three of them, though, as Calgary got their best looks in around twenty minutes of play. Perlini and Bertuzzi rushed right back with a two-on-one for Detroit’s best opportunity thus far in the period, but Rittich blocked Perlini’s high shot to keep Detroit trailing.
First penalty of the game finally came against Val Filppula who hooked Calgary’s Mangiapane. After Filppula fell off, Perlini actually did a pretty solid job getting back to harass Mangiapane and stop any true quality chance. (He might’ve been called for a penalty had Filppula not already been called, but still, good on Perlini for recognizing the situation and playing appropriately.)
The Wings’ PK did a pretty bang up job, though, keeping Calgary shot-less on the man-advantage. The Wings followed up by applying good pressure in Calgary’s zone. Really great to see some good-old puck possession cycling for a change.
Mantha got a good opportunity being a big old power forward, too. Despite the good pressure late in the period, this was one of the few shots Detroit managed to get off.
To take the wind out of the sails, though, Calgary got a lucky goal with just eleven seconds left in the period. Noah Hanifin fired a shot that took a weird bounce off Andrew Mangiapane’s shin and into the net. 3-1 Calgary.
With one second left the refs tried to give the Wings a little boost by calling a cross checking penalty against Michael Stone, so the Red Wings will have the opportunity going into the third to pull off the same stunt as the last time the played a team from Canada: a comeback.
Score: 3-1 Calgary
Shots: 24-15 Calgary
Stand Outs: Mantha and maybe Perlini?
Well, Mantha got a decent shot on that power play? But nothing else came of that one, so the comeback train is still sitting in the station for now.
Detroit began pushing the tempo, which at least made for an exciting start to the period. The checking line even had a great chance with Abdelkader nearly scooping up a second chance and turning it into a goal. The Wings actually managed to just roll four lines and build steam, nearly catching up in shots if not on the scoreboard.
After a whistle in the middle of the period, Bowey and Bennett got a little punchy in front of Bernier. Bowey gave a stupid tap to Bennett’s stupid face, but he didn’t let go of his stick and Bennett dropped a lot harder to the ice than you’d think.
The PK managed to kill off the man-advantage while racking up two shots of their own and none for Calgary. Larkin’s development in the face-off circle over the past few years has helped a ton in this regard. By putting out him and Glendening, the Wings have a fighting chance on every puck drop on the PK of getting control of the puck.
The Red Wings got what might’ve been a make up call, but unfortunately the Red Wings didn’t look a whole heck of a lot better than the Flames on the man-advantage. There was even the sound of iron on one of the shots immediately after the power play. If the Wings had half the puck-luck of Calgary in this one they’d be right in it, but instead they still trailed by two late in the third.
The Wings pulled Bernier with 3:44 left. Larkin got several good opportunities on the 6-on-5, including missing a great opportunity via a ricochet pass around the net, but he did finally strike oil. Larkin picked up the puck from a harried Mantha along the half-boards, floated out to the blue line, and threw an innocent-looking shot at the net, but with Bertuzzi in front of Rittich he didn’t see it in time to make it 3-2 Calgary, with the Wings charging hard back. Fun fact: the Wings are tied for second in the league in goals with the goalie pulled, which is only a stat that you can lead when you are down late in the game nearly every night. Statistics are fun!
Calgary iced the puck with 19 seconds left and Detroit called the time out, but they lost the draw and Andrew Mangiapane scored the empty netter to make it 4-2 Calgary for our final count.
This was the type of loss you wouldn’t really mind if there weren’t so many ugly ones earlier in the season. Pretty fun game overall, despite the result. The Wings will be back in action on Tuesday at home against the Devils, then again at home on Thursday against the Wild. Until then, stay happy!
Score: 4-2 Calgary
Shots: 31-29 Calgary
Stand Outs: Larkin, Mantha