It's Always Fun to Break a Bad Habit: Red Wings 3 - Canadiens 2
The Red Wings came into Thursday night's game having lost 7 straight games against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Red Wings started the game with some opportunities to score, but it was the Habs who maintained consistent pressure. Darren Helm had a breakaway and put something in the net, but unfortunately it was his entire body, which while cool to watch doesn't count as a goal. The Wings earned the first power play of the night, but predictably did very little with it, and Montreal started to take over again. Helm had another partial breakaway but again didn't get a shot off, this time trying to pass to Brad Richards. Justin Abdelkader took a charging penalty after a hit on P.K. Subban, but the Wings killed it with the teams trading quality scoring chances. Mrazek had the save of the period on Tomas Fleischmann late in the period to preserve the scoreless tie.
Shots: 10-7 Detroit
The second period saw the Wings start to open things up, by which I mean they didn't worry so much about defense. Montreal got a power play when Brendan Smith was called for holding, but beyond a Subban chance the Wings held firm. A brutal giveaway led to a Charles Hudon scoring chance and sustained pressure by Montreal, but the Wings avoided any damage. The Wings opened the scoring a few minutes later when a long outlet pass got to Luke Glendening, who fed it up to Helm. Helm grabbed the puck, put it on the ice, and wristed it past Dustin Tokarski to give the Wings a 1-0 lead. The lead lasted a little over 2 minutes, when Sven Andrigetto cleaned up a Hudon shot that Mrazek should have had. The Wings got another power play shortly after the Montreal goal, but did (looks up[ synonym for "nothing") diddily. Mrazek was forced to make a big save on Tomas Plekanec shorthanded. The last 5 minutes of the period saw the Canadiens park themselves in front of Mrazek and get chance after chance. Mrazek stoned Plekanec again on a breakaway as the Wings' defense of 2014-15 reared its ugly head.
Shots 10-7 Montreal
The third started very sloppily. Lots of whistles, lots of stoppages. The fact Montreal played last night showed as they started to lose a little of their speed. However, they took their first lead of the game on a Fleischmann goal where he ripped a shot top corner past Mrazek. The Wings got their first good chance since the Helm goal nearly midway through the period when Tomas Tatar's rebound went through the crease to Mike Green, but Tokarski made a great save to preserve the lead. The Canadiens kept gifting the Wings power plays, and the Wings kept doing bupkus with them. That is, until Justin Abdelkader tied the game when a puck deflected in off his skate and in. The goal was reviewed but no distinct kicking motion was detected, and the game was knotted at 2. The Wings took their lead back a little over a minute later. Greg Pateryn gave the puck up to Pavel Datsyuk, which is a big no-no. Helm picked up the puck and waited Tokarski out. The concern then became whether the Wings would give up another third period lead, something they've been better at of late but haven't completely figured out. The Canadiens would get 3 shots over the final 5 minutes of the period, and Subban's delay of game penalty with just under 2 minutes left sealed the victory.
Score: 3-2 Detroit
Shots: 29-25 Detroit
Points of Observation
- Without question, tonight was the Darren Helm show. He was easily the Wings' best player, and was flying from the moment the puck dropped. He generated 86.5% of the Wings' scoring chances and topped out on one of his breakaways at 34 mph. He's your player of the game.
- A strong contender was Petr Mrazek, who was stellar in stopping several breakaways and high-danger scoring chances. The goal he gave up to Andrighetto was not a good one, as he should have made that stop on Hudon and not allowed the puck to get behind him like that. However, beyond that, he was spectacular. Jeff Blashill said after the game he's not sure who will start tomorrow night in New Jersey, but it's worth noting that neither goalie has started both games in a back-to-back so far this year.
- This wasn't the best game the Wings played, but they did just enough to earn a victory. It was one of those weird efforts where they played good but not great, did so against a very good team, yet found a way to earn 2 very crucial points. The passing wasn't crisp, the breakouts were easily stifled, and the offensive zone pressure was not consistent. Specifically, Brendan Smith and the Tomas Tatar/Gustav Nyquist/Riley Sheahan line all stood out as having particularly tough games.
- Per our very own Prashanth, the Wings just concluded a stretch of games against Nashville, Washington and Montreal by taking 5 out of 6 points and posting a score-adjusted CF% of 53.8%. For the record, those 3 teams were all top-10 in the NHL in score-adjusted CF% prior to December 5th. Tonight, the Wings had a 54.2% CF% at score-adjusted 5v5. Granted, Montreal was playing the second half of a back-to-back, so it's nice to return to the favor after the Montreal took advantage of a tired Wing team in October.
- For those keeping track, that's now 12 straight games with at least a point, with Detroit sporting an 8-0-4 record in that span. Don't look now but the Wings are now only 4 points behind the Canadiens for first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with a game in hand. It's early to be talking about playoff positioning, but the Wings are definitely taking advantage of the softer part of their schedule.