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Recap: Wings snap losing streak, hand Panthers first regulation loss in 4-1 Win

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Smith shines brightest in a luminous game.

Detroit Red Wings v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Fun factoid learned just before the game was that Mantha would not be playing this afternoon because he was scratched (and nothing else was illuminated on that topic so have fun in the comments.) Even though Detroit was without Mantha and Bertuzzi, this was a great game to watch. Full details below:

First Period

Man, the Wings really came out with their legs moving. Stecher is particular had a number of good passes in the early going and was able to find openings on the ice to set up a number of plays. Florida hardly held the puck until a scary moment about 5 minutes in where the Wings needed the crossbar to save them from an Anthony Duclair goal after getting caught with too many men below the goal line.

Florida gradually took control of the game from there. Their forecheck got more aggressive and began cutting off Detroit’s passing lanes into the neutral zone. Robby Rabbri did have a great opportunity on Dreidger’s doorstep, though. But it’s the sort of adjustment we’ve seen often this season.

Greiss had to make several great saves shortly after as a tired 2nd line and 3rd pairing got hemmed into their own zone. Florida looked like they were on the man advantage at times during the sequence and as Greiss made one sprawling save in particular I really started to appreciate the off-season signing.

Also, Radko Gudas threw a shoulder right into Glendening’s face. Cool, man. Everybody loves Radko Gudas. No call on the play, either. Glendening did not return for the remainder of the period.

Namestnikov also avoided getting called for a nasty checking from behind penalty after the last commercial break. Not the sort of thing you ever want to see from your team.

In the final five of the period, the Red Wings managed to counterattack and get some shots back on the Cats. Jon Merrill of all players very nearly scored in the final minute of the period off a nice slapshot. It bounced off a Panther’s skate and ended up underneath Dreidger, and he didn’t even know it was there. Really unfortunate.

Overall, that was a period where the Wings could have gone up by a goal or two thanks to efforts in the opening and closing minutes of the period, but man that middle was scary.

Score: 0-0 Tie
Shots: 12-12 Tie
Stand Outs: Greiss, Smith, Stetcher
Sit Downs: Namestnikov

Second Period

News coming into the second was that Luke Glendening would not be returning to the game.

Just under four minutes in, the most unlikely savior came to score one of those oh-so-rare goals for the Red Wings. Florida’s goalie, Dreidger, made a poor decision to play a puck up the boards. The Wings read the play and knocked the puck loose from the intended recipient, cycled the puck around the boards, shot down the middle of the zone leading to a loose puck, scooped up by Staal, stretching stick against a sprawling Dreidger, and score! 1-0 Red Wings!

Little secret inside my brain about these recaps, I’m always really disappointed if Ken and Mick make an observation about the flow of play before I have it written down. The Wings really started to control this period because the Wings started to clog up the neutral zone and denied the Panthers anything easy concerning zone entries. Excellent adjustment between periods. And Ken and Mick commented on it first before I wrote, so you guys win this one, but know that ol’ Mike is going to even things up.

Ryan and Fabbri nearly combined to make the game 2-0, but Ryan fanned on the puck. What a shame. And this was shortly after we got to watch Fabbri swear on the bench for blocking a shot with his ankle, no less.

I like those two guys on a line together because there is just something about the tenacity of the two of them that seems to resonate between the two.

While the Cats pushed back and racked up shots, the fans were treated to Ken Daniels talking about Farenheit 4-5-1, to which Mick said that it was a great movie. /facepalm.

BUT WE’RE NOT BURNING BOOKS IN FLORIDA, WE’RE JUST BURNING DOWN THE SCOREBOARD! GIVANI SMITH SCORES HIS FIRST OF THE SEASON ON THE DOORSTEP VIA A NICE FEED FROM RYAN, 2-0 RED WINGS!

Stetcher and Fabbri each nearly put another one in as the Wings began to look like, dare I say it, a good hockey team? They continued to wrack up the pressure by breaking up plays and finally late in the period Acciari blocked a shot by Detroit from the blue line. Acciari went down to the ice from a type of pain I never want to experience, and after the play was blown dead to attend to him, the extracurriculars began. A scrum developed after the whistle and we got our first penalty, offsetting minors for roughing called on Frank Vatrano and emerging Red Wings goon, Vlad Namestnikov (I kid, I kid.)

28 seconds of the 4-on-4 played out to the end of the period, and the Wings

Score: 2-0 Red Wings
Shots: 24-21 Panthers
Stand Outs: Smith, Ryan, Staal, Fabbri, Greiss, Neutral Zone play
Sit Downs: No one. An Excellent second period top to bottom.

Third Period

The Third period began with continuing 4-on-4 thanks to the offsetting penalties to Vatrano and Namestnikov. Fabbri got a great opportunity in the slot and beat Dreidger but not the post. As the penalty closed Florida held control in Detroit’s zone and Stralman found some time and space to fire a hard wrister from the blueline. Alex Wennberg had an excellent tip on it to beat Greiss and pull Florida within 1.

The Wings pushed back hard on the ensuing shift, though, a shift that was extended by Larkin breaking up a Florida zone-clear. The ensuing chaos of Panthers trying to get back led to Gagner getting some quiet ice in the low circle to Dreidger’s left, but the Florida netminder was squared away really nice to stop the shot. Of course, during this sequence Larkin got mugged in the corner by Ekblad, but hey, we can’t lose viewers by coming too close to overlapping with some football game.

Gagner actually had quite a few good opportunities on that shift that carried some momentum for the team through the middle of the period. That Red Wings forecheck we discussed earlier seemed to be getting to Florida; they began squeezing their sticks, blowing easy passes, letting pucks slide out of the Wings’ zone, and generally lacking patience to make plays.

Bad pinch by Nemeth would lead to a 3-on-1 with only Hronek back, but the Czech positioned himself to break up the pass between Panther #2 and #3 and the German netminder closed any daylight on the shot to take away a fantastic Florida opportunity.

The Wings took that momentum the other way with some tape to tape passes (still weird to type) and pulled the Panthers along the half-boards in their own zone, then cycled the puck across the blue line and into the slot via Stetcher and Smith. Smith fired a shot and Fabbri whacked home the rebound tp get back the two-goal lead, 3-1 Red Wings!

Smith laid a hard, hard hit on Weegar and Ekblad dropped gloves to protect him. Smith and Ekblad both got sent to the box for fighting. I think Mick got a late Christmas gift considering how giddy he was to see Givani Smith’s Gordie Howe Hat Trick.

Finally a non-offsetting penalty was called with just over six minutes left on Gagner for holding and a scary moment came within seconds of the penalty kill as a a hard rising shot hit Staal in the helmet.

The rest of the penalty kill just ate up the dangerous Panthers power play, keep them to the outside and not giving them anything easy.

Florida maintained pressure after the power play, though. Detroit had to ice it just to relieve the pressure. With over three minutes left and a faceoff in the Wings’ zone, the Panthers would pull their goalie without a timeout to try forcing the issue on a tired troop of Wings, but Greiss swallowed up a puck within seconds of the faceoff to give Detroit some relief.

The Panthers would continue to pin the Wings in their zone, but a mishandled pass near the blueline allowed Namestnikov to gobble up the loose puck and skate in on the empty net and slam it home with feeling to make it 4-1 Red Wings!

The two teams would skate it out to the close, sealing a fantastic and fun win for the Wings! Enjoy this one folks!

Score: 4-1 Red Wings
Shots: 36-36 Tie
Stand Outs: The Whole Team
Sit Downs: Nobody

Conclusion

Oh man, after all those grim hits, who’s excited to see what happens between these two squads when they meet again on Tuesday? That was a fun game today. Hopefully it is a sign of things to come, because while the Wings have had some ugly games this year, we all know this team is better than their record. Can’t wait for the next W!