Recap: Red Wings Burn Kings 4-0

The Red Wings blazed up and down the ice en route to four goals in a win over the LA Kings.

The World Junior Championships closed out another tournament with Canada once again taking home gold USA! USA! USA!!!! Ahem. Meanwhile, our Detroit Red Wings got underway in downtown Los Angeles. With the Red Wings coming off a roller coaster in Toronto and a sad-fest in Anaheim, there was some question in the air about which Red Wings team would show up, and how would they deal with the physical play and the neutral zone trap that the Kings employed the last time these two teams met.

And the Red Wings team that came through the doors at the Staples Center, overall, fared pretty well. Sure, the score could have been just as lopsided in the other direction, and the middle frame fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, but Detroit didn’t crumple when faced with adversity. They came back with a strong third and evened the road trip record to 1-1; a road trip that has been anointed by many to determine the Wings’ fate in the 2016-17 season.

First Period

Less than two minutes in, Frans Nielsen got the puck from Athanasiou and did a lot of great stick and skate work to shake three Kings through LA’s zone. Vanek was getting pummeled in front of the net, but made it to his feet long enough to take a backhand pass from Nielsen down low. Vanek then did his net-front thing that he does and lifted the puck and popped it in from the top of the crease. Take that, Jeff Carter! (He’s been red hot lately; always good to score when a guy like that is on the ice.)

Goal: Det 1 - LA 0 (Vanek from Nielsen and Athanasiou at 1:42)

At 12:34 Tanner Pearson was awarded a penalty shot on what looked like a phantom hooking call on Athanasiou after Athanasiou got on his horse to make up for a Detroit defenseman losing his edge at center ice. Coreau easily stopped the shot with a pad save when Pearson tried to go five-hole. It was Coreau’s first penalty shot of his NHL career, and a great save to allow the Wings to maintain the wind in their sails.

Following the Pearson penalty shot, the tempo of the game really picked up, with each line picking up the tempo. With a nifty feed to center ice from Mantha, Athanasiou decided to let everyone in the Staples Center know that he was the fastest guy in the room. He slipped past four Kings standing up in the neutral zone and went in all alone on Zatkoff, burying the shot high.

Goal: Det 2- LA 0 (Athanasiou from Mantha at 10:12)

Drew Doughty held Nyquist like two high school buddies running into each other at a bar ten years later, and the Red Wings found themselves on the power play (Oh boy.) Nyquist nearly got vengeance, but in the end the Wings came up empty handed on the man advantage. Yeah, I’m as surprised as you.

LA took control of the play after the Wings second goal, but to the Wings’ credit, they dug in their heels and came back swinging. Then, Ericsson connected to Vanek with speed, and then the puck got shoveled up to Athanasiou, who was also moving forward with speed. Athanasiou lugged it into the zone and dropped the puck back to Vanek. With another quick snap of his stick, Vanek put Detroit up by three on his second goal of the night. Also, good on Ericsson for helping create traffic in front of the net on that one.

Goal: Det 3- LA 0 (Vanek from Athanasiou and Ericsson at 18:17)

Overall, first period was a really even affair, and the Kings certainly got their licks in. From my couch and my Red Wings shaped sunglasses the play seemed to lean ever so slightly in Detroit’s favor, but it could have easily been a much closer game as the Kings got Coreau sprawling on a few occasions.

Score: Det- 3, LA- 0

Shots: Det- 14 , LA- 12

Penalties: Det - (Andreas Athanasiou for Hooking, 7:26), LA- (Drew Doughty for Holding, 12:36)

Second Period

The Kings came out like a bat out of hell (great album, by the way) pretty much as expected, because they’re a good team and that’s what good teams do. The Kings got in a couple of great opportunities by getting the puck down on the Detroit red line and muscling their way toward the Coreau, but the team stood tall against the challenge.

The period mostly trudged on, punctuated with brief periods of excitement in Detroit’s end, but Setoguchi got a great break away on Coreau. Ott made a diving poke check that didn’t seem to actually touch the puck, but Setoguchi had to dangle it out of the way and compromise his shot, so good on Ott. Credit where credit is due.

Minutes later there was an 11 car pile-up in front of Detroit’s crease that almost resulted in a goal, and with just under 5 minutes remaining in the period Detroit had two shots on the middle frame. It didn’t look good. The main difference between the first and second periods seemed to be LA congesting the Wings’ defensemen’s passing lanes and forechecking harder, which nullified the speed of Detroit’s wingers since they spent so much of the period fishing stray pucks.

Late in the period Jeff Carter took a high sticking penalty at 16: 15, but the Wings looked utterly toothless out there and failed to even register a shot. Back to the drawing board? Blashill’s staff must have gone through so many drawing boards by now in the season.

In the waning periods of the second Coreau put up a big, big (super big) stop on Drew Doughty. Doughty must have been shaking his head after that one. And speaking of shaky, while Coreau was shaky at some points in the period, he repeatedly stepped up big on those high pressure shots. Because of that, the Wings entered the locker room after the second the same way they did following the first: up 3-0, much to their good fortunes. The Kings could have easily knotted it up in the second, or worse.

Score: Det- 3, LA- 0

Shots: Det- 16, LA- 25

Penalties: Det - None, LA - (Jeff Carter for High Sticking at 16:15)

Third Period

The third opened the way the second closed, which wasn’t at all good for the Wings. Zetterberg had a great shift behind the net in part because of some great forechecking by Tatar. No score from it, but at this point in his career you gotta appreciate whenever he takes over a shift.

As the period wore on the Wings started to solve LA’s forecheck, which let them utilize their speed again. Eventually this speed, along with Tatar’s forecheck, created an opportunity for Mantha to find a quiet area of the ice and slam home a pass, once again up high. Beautiful shot and goal off a great sequence by the Wings.

Goal: Det- 4, LA- 0 (Mantha from Tatar and Jensen at 7:33)

Detroit and LA swapped carrying play back and forth, with Athanasiou getting the best opportunity from a Jensen pass, but Zatkoff poked the puck away to deny Athanasiou a high quality opportunity.

The Kings sort of seemed to phone it in with about five minutes left and the Wings actually cruised to the victory. Coreau had to make more stops than Zatkoff, but the Wings had the better chances, and that showed up on the scoreboard at the end. First career shut out for Coreau, and a great win for the Wings coming off that downer in Anaheim.

Score: Det -4, LA -0

Shots: Det - 22, LA - 33

Penalties: Det - (None), LA - (None)

Random Thoughts From the Game

Props to Coreau making some very pretty saves (and some ugly ones) en route to his first career shutout. There can’t be too many goaltenders that had to stop a penalty shot in their first career shutout.

The defense did a good job tonight making the bigger, stronger Kings battle for position in Detroit’s end, as well as connecting their passes crisply to the forwards. Jensen In particular played well tonight, and I liked the image of him slapping a beaver tail up and down on the ice (or something to that affect, according to Ken Daniels.)

The Vanek-Nielsen-Athanasiou line was stellar tonight, and Zetterberg’s line really came alive in the last period. Athanasiou seemed pretty pissed about his benching and took out his frustrations by having a monster game, so it’s good to see he has positive coping mechanisms.

LA’s best work came in the second, but also in neutralizing Larkin’s line throughout the game. Detroit’s fourth line had some strong moments and got in on breaking through the Kings’ defense with speed as well.

Overall the Wings looked pretty good and won a game that a lot of folks expected them to lose. They will be back in action on Saturday at 10:30 PM EST against the Sharks to round out the California stretch of this road trip.