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Bell Centre a happy habitat for the Wings: Detroit beats Montreal 2-1

Detroit is unstoppable of late and looking to roll over another downtrodden Canadian franchise on their irrepressible winning streak.

First Period

I forgot about how Montreal does pregames, so I’ll let you know when the game actually starts…

Ok here we go: 12 seconds in and Bernier has to make his first save of the night off a play that came through the stick of the recently-revived Anthony Mantha. We all forgive him for not being perfect. Also the entire team is kind of disjointed in the early-going. The Wings’ first shot on goal comes nearly three minutes into the match (of course this evens the shot clock, so it’s not all-terrible).

I’m still typing up the last sentence when the Wings make it 1-0 on a goal by Tyler Bertuzzi.  Dylan Larkin steals from Shea Weber behind the net and feeds it out front for the easy put-away.

This goal seems to shake both teams out of the early jitters and the game flow improves immediately, both teams actually completing passes. The next shift by Larkin’s line creates another chance, but the follow-on whistle happens in the Wings’ end on a penalty. Brendan Gallagher cross-checks Mike Green dangerously into the boards. Larkin, who had just finished blocking a shot on a good chance created by Tomas Tatar comes in immediately to take exception.

The Wings’ PP starts off by creating some good chances for the Habs, but get real dangerous-looking later on with the 2nd unit. Filip Zadina spends a lot of time running the puck and creates very dangerous chances that either get tipped just wide or force Carey Price to make very good saves on. Nothing doing though and we’re back to even-strength.

The Habs take momentum out of this kill and start tilting the ice in the next few minutes before AA reminds everybody that he is a fast man.  We’re thirteen minutes into the period having allowed five shots, but I’m pretty sure that four of them are quality chances that Bernier has had to stop.

The next interesting play is Tyler Bertuzzi sidestepping a guy trying to trolley-track him in the neutral zone and then winning a board battle despite having been knocked down. Unfortunately nothing came of that and I have to report Luke Glendening gives Montreal their first power play on a slashing call taken in the neutral zone.

The penalty killers are obviously stretching to minimize the danger of Shea Weber’s shot from the point and this forces Bernier to make a really good save on Jordan Weal at the dot. Later Hronek does a very good job clearing out a cross-crease pass attempt. The Wings are able to kill it off without any more danger and Glendening is interfered with taking it back into the Habs’ zone.  Period ends with no changes.

The Score: 1-0 Wings
The Shots: 12-7 Habs
Standout Players: Dylan Larkin, Filip Hronek, Filip Zadina, Tyler Bertuzzi, Jonathan Bernier
The Period All Summed Up: Quality over quantity!

Second Period

Ahhhh crap here comes a 2nd period.

Things start off with the teams trading momentum from the first minute to the second (Wings with the earlier chances). From there things settle into more of a grind before Glendening and AA do good work to get Helm set up for a chance that Price stones.  Helm tries to return the favor by setting up AA but again Carey Price is there for the stop.

Again, this has the effect of opening up play for a bit. Bernier gets run over for the 2nd time in the period and we head to the first break with no scoring.

We go back to a grind before the Habs get a real good chance. Cousins gets a pass right in front of Bernier but sees his tip-in attempt stopped with a solid slide across the crease.  This causes Ken and Ozzie to talk about how much of a point-producer Bernier is.

Just prior to the halfway point, Artturi Lehkonen takes an interference penalty preventing Biega from escaping the zone with speed.  The 2nd unit starts this one and gets a tipped shot opportunity, but nothing else. The first unit comes on halfway through and struggles to  even get set up, so Lehkonen skates free with no harm done. At the end of the PP, Mantha decides he wants to be teammates with Jeff Petry, but the two don’t throw enough punches at each other to get fighting majors (and Mantha’s hand is unbroken).

The Canadiens come out of the 2nd commercial break pouring on pressure, but a good individual effort by Fabbri springs the Wings and nearly results in a goal for Larkin, who puts it wide. On the extension of the play, Adam Erne just misses a tip-in on the back door as well. We are now officially into the third stretch of wide-open play and I’m enjoying it.

Fortunately this game flow survives the final commercial break and the last three minutes kinda fly by with neither team cracking the scoreboard.

The Score: 1-0 Wings
The Shots: 22-12 Habs (10-5 for the period)
Standout Players: Darren Helm, Patrik Nemeth, Jonathan Bernier
The Period All Summed Up: You’re allowed to not give up goals in the 2nd?

Third Period

Two games in a row with reason to be nervous going into the third period. This is weird.

Bernier makes a stop early and Trevor Daley does mean things to a Montreal player. Two minutes later the Canadiens go nuts inside the Wings zone and get Bernier absolutely swimming in his crease, but somehow he’s able to keep it out of the net (with some help from Justin Abdelkader, Mike Green).  This livens the building somewhat among frustrated Canadiens fans.

For a quick snapshot at this time:

By the six-minute mark, Detroit is in full-shell mode, but surviving. Frustration starts to show for the Habs as well with an offensive zone slashing penalty to Riley Barber which follows yet another flurry of chances.

Of course the first scoring chance on the Wings’ PP is to Lehkonen. Fortunately it doesn’t end in a goal and allows the Wings to regain the zone on an AA rush.  Detroit sets up with the 2nd unit and the play culminates with a feed to Mike Green at the top of the zone who blasts a one-timer past the screen in front of Price and into the net to make it 2-0 Wings.

The immediate bump-up momentum is short-lived as the Green goal seemed to give Detroit a bit more life. They’re still not playing too aggressively, but the puck support and spacing between teammates is very good.

Zadina made a good play in the defensive zone and then got up ice with Athanasiou in a sequence that got Detroit a couple good looks on goal with under 8 minutes to go.

Under seven to go and a Weber slapshot hits Bernier’s pads and sits just outside the crease for Danault, who is prevented from scoring by a good cancellation by Madison Bowey, who I recently remembered is playing in this game. He skates directly at Danault’s stick and keeps him from getting a shot off.

Montreal keeps pressure up, but the Wings and Bernier hold strong. With 3:32 left, Detroit gets another power play chance as Brendan Gallagher plants Patrik Nemeth in Bernier’s crease with a cross-check.  Detroit’s PP plays this one very carefully. So carefully that Nemeth gets PP time. Hilariously, he gets the best scoring chance on a cross-ice feed from Filppula that Price has to get across to stop.

Detroit lets the Gallagher penalty expire with 1:32 left and starts the attempt to kill off the last of the game. They manage to keep Price on until the 1:15 mark. Weber gets a big shot off from the point just eight seconds later that Bernier shrugs into the netting above the glass. Montreal takes their timeout so Claude Julien can offer Tuesday payment for immediate burgering.

Play resumes on a lost faceoff and then stops again shortly on good stick-work from Green to deflect a pass. Another faceoff loss creates what appears to be a goal with 46 seconds left. The refs aren’t immediately certain, but replay clearly shows Gallagher tips the Tomas Tatar one-timer to make it 2-1 Detroit.

Wings ice on the ensuing play and the Habs get a chance to shoot, but the Wings clear and the Habs can’t get a dangerous setup in the brief time left.

Final Score: 2-1 Wings
The Shots: 43-20 Canadiens (21-8)
Standout Players: Mike Green, Jonathan Bernier, Madison Bowey, Andreas Athanasiou
The Period All Summed Up: Bernier deserved the shutout 🙁

Final Thoughts

The Habs’ aggression trying to get the body moving forward in anticipation of turning the puck over gave the Wings plenty of fits in the middle portion of the game, but I feel Detroit adjusted to it pretty well. They didn’t take dumb chances trying to force plays that Montreal was specifically positioning to defend against.

I also thought the Wings’ defense did a really good job of limiting gaps in the neutral zone.

I mentioned Patrik Nemeth as a standout player in the 2nd but didn’t mention his name at all in that period recap. That’s kind of what made him stand out. His positioning, especially making certain to drive players to the boards prior to them reaching the corner but doing so without over-committing and getting burned was on display. It’s not flashy defense, but that’s not what he was brought here for.

I still like Tomas Tatar and I still do not like Brendan Gallagher.

Somewhere between Athanasiou and Glendening is a perfect player who always makes the right choice between taking a risk to create a scoring chance and making sure the puck gets as deep as possible.

I don’t have an official count of “stolen games by Wings’ goaltenders” this season. It might be below two, but I can confidently tell you that it’s above zero.

Wings back in action tomorrow at home against the Kings.

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