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Red Wings Exorcise Devils, 5-2

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Detroit Red Wings Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Aight, I’m here to guide you through this one. You should trust everything I say; I just scored a goal on myself in a game of Slapshot: Rebound, so you know I understand the game and basically have the same hockey IQ as Dylan Larkin.

Full details are below, but this game was like the acquired taste of mid-season matchups as it slowly got better and better over time.

First Period

The first thing you noticed if you were watching was the Devils out there in their third jerseys, and since the holiday season at year’s end is a time for reflection, I have reflected upon how thankful I am that Detroit has never done an all-black third jersey, or any third jersey, really. Because of New Jersey wearing their all-black third, Detroit wore their white road jerseys.

The Devils have been bad of late, so of course Detroit didn’t put up a shot in the first five minutes. I guess it’s hard to expect to expect shots though when you pass about as well as I forgive myself for past mistakes.

Huuuge save by Greiss seven minutes in on a two-on-one, which was really about the third great save up to that point, two low in a butterfly and one high on a rising Dougie Hamilton shot.

After the mid-period commercial break, Detroit started to tilt the ice a bit in their favor. You could tell New Jersey was nervous about the players they had out of the game (including goalie Mackenzie Blackwood) but confident about just how freakin’ big their team is; their defensive scheme resembled a classic zone defense in basketball more than what you’d see in a hockey game, which is to say the center rarely moved out from the slot area.

Finally, the deadlock broke with under five minutes left in the period. Detroit took advantage of young Devils netminder Akira Schmid, who misplayed a long dump into the boards from Hronek. With Schmid out of position, Larkin gobbled up the puck and tossed it home to make it 1-0 Red Wings!

The Devils would strike back late though, with Michael McLeod snapping a rising shot from the high slot past Greiss to tie up the game, 1-1. Seemed like a bit of a defensive miscue as no Red Wing moved to challenge McLeod physically on the play.

Pius Suter got a good chance to regain the lead in the waning seconds, but he couldn’t quite get a good enough handle on the puck on Schmid’s doorstep, so the score would remain knotted as the teams headed into the locker room.

Score: 1-1 Tie
Shots: 13-9 Devils
Stand Outs: Hronek, Greiss
Sit Downs: Namestnikov, Erne

Second Period

Between period I played two more games of Slapshot: Rebound and managed to shoot the puck behind my own goal when I was sitting in front of the other team’s open-net, so continue to let me guide you through this voyage.

During the second period you began to see more players falling down on the ice at random moments. I know Ken and Mick were all about celebrating the first Pistons/Red Wings double header at the LCA tonight, but you had to imagine that the slipping was due at least in part to the rapid resurfacing.

Kevin Bahl held Namestnikov to bring on the first power play of the game, which looked pretty bad, but just under a minute left Dougie Hamilton wailed Bertuzzi in the back to give Detroit a brief 2-man advantage. The Wings couldn’t convert on it either, though. Bummer days.

Just as I was starting to get salty about Detroit struggling against a team I really wanted to see them roll, Namestnikov found the puck down low in New Jersey’s corner and centered it for a streaking Larkin, who found the back on the net for his second of the night! 2-1 Red Wings!

On the very next shift the Wings would score again off a neat play where Seider had to hold the puck at the blue line as the Red Wings tagged up. Seider re-entered the zone, drew two defensemen, and slipped a pass to Bertuzzi between the legs of the Devils’ defender. Bertuzzi fired a rising shot past Schmid, 3-1 Red Wings! Good screen by Veleno on the play.

In the minutes afterwards more players spilled all over the ice. Yeah, not a fan of the Pistons double-header.

Dylan Larkin didn’t seem to mind, though. Kyle Criscuolo grabbed up a rebound off Greiss’s pad and made a real heads-up play by floating the puck out to the neutral zone for Larkin. Larkin started motoring, beat his defender, went backhand to forehand, and sailed the puck above Schmid’s pad to make it 4-1 Red Wings! First career point for Criscuolo and first hat trick for Dylan Larkin!!!

Of course, Detroit would have to give up another stupid goal late in the period. The Wings found themselves on the power play, but the Devils gained possession of the puck and Damon Severson floated the puck to neutral ice. Dawson Mercer gathered up the puck and got in on Greiss and backhanded it into the net. Detroit’s lead cut down to 4-2.

Detroit would carry play through the end of the period but wouldn’t restore the three goal lead. Still, a much better second period than the first.

Score: 4-2 Red Wings
Shots: 22-21 Red Wings
Stand Outs: Larkin, Bertuzzi, Seider, Criscuolo
Sit Downs: Power Play

Third Period

In between periods I got mercy’d 5-0 in Slapshot: Rebound, if anyone is still keeping score. I was only responsible for two of the goals against and I know what I did wrong on one of them, so let me tell you about the remainder of this very real hockey game in Detroit.

Pius Suter had a great opportunity early on the period with Riley Barber and Kyle Criscuolo out there, but couldn’t convert; the puck slid through Schmid’s legs and out the other side of the crease, but the Devil never knew where the puck was.

The Wings went to the penalty kill for the first time all night on a Tyler Bertuzzi penalty. It was a key kill in that Detroit’s #1 responsibility for the remainder of the game was take out all air from New Jersey’s game. Fortunately, the Wings were up to the task, despite a blown tripping call that sent Marc Staal to his knees. They got a little help from the cross bar, but Detroit would retain their two-goal advantage.

With just over over five minutes remaining in the period, Detroit dumped the puck deep. Raymond created chaos even from being facedown on the ice, the puck made its way out to Larkin, and he centered it to Bertuzzi. Bert beautifully sniped the puck into the top corner to make it 5-2 Red Wings!

Greiss had to make a sprawling save against Dawson Mercer late in the game, but otherwise the game finished out undramatically. Red Wings win! Best win they’ve had in a while, and the night ends on “Don’t Stop Believin’” and the crowd goes wild. I love it.

Score: 5-2 Red Wings
Shots: 33-30 Devils
Stand Outs: Larkin, Bertuzzi, Greiss
Sit Downs: No One. Good team effort to seal the deal.



Conclusion

That got a lot better to watch as it went on. New Jersey wanted to get a lead and then bunker down to protect their rookie netminder, but Detroit did what they needed to: get pucks deep and keep it moving to drag those big New Jersey players out of position, then capitalize off the good rotation.

We will see if the Wings get the chance to take on the Wild next (remember, the Avs game is re-scheduled.) That game, if it should happen, is on the 23rd in St. Paul, so Detroit gets a little break before then.

And check out Slapshot: Rebound if you like computer games so you can understand all my references and you, too, can be terrible at the game.