Red Wings Win Like We Knew/Hoped They Would
The Red Wings welcomed the Winnipeg Jets to the Joe for the second straight game in which the Wings faced a must-win situation against a non-playoff opponent. After a very slow start, the Wings righted the ship and forged a strong comeback against the Jets, earning a critical 2 points.
The new lines were interesting to watch, if only because they were better than watching the old lines just fumble their way up and down the ice. The Wings got to work early, spending time in the Jets' zone more than their own, and their pressure paid off when Blake Wheeler was penalized for cross-checking Danny DeKeyser in the neutral zone. The Wings had a couple of good looks but didn't score. The Wings got their second power play a few minutes later when Mark Scheifele was called for holding. Again, the Wings didn't get anything accomplished. The Jets got their first power play of the night not long after when Jonathan Ericsson did Jonathan Ericsson things and hooked the Jets player. Drew Stafford got in all alone on Petr Mrazek, but Mrazek made the save and the Wings killed it off. However, right after the penalty expired, Marko Dano was left all alone and roofed a puck past Mrazek to give the Jets the lead. Tomas Tatar had a great chance but was stopped by Michael Hutchinson. The Jets increased their lead when Tyler Myers made a move that caused Henrik Zetterberg to get negative Selke votes and scored. The period mercifully ended with no further damage.
Score: 2-0 Jets
Shots: 12-10 Red Wings
Strong Period: Pavel Datsyuk
Tough Period: Jonathan Ericsson, Henrik Zetterberg
The Wings came out with some energy in the period, taking the play to the Jets and getting the first 7 shots on goal. Their persistence paid off when Dylan Larkin finally got off the schneid and scored his 20th goal of the season after a great pass from Justin Abdelkader, cutting the Jets' lead to 1. The teams went back to some 4-on-4 action when Chris Thorburn and Justin Abdelkader were called for matching roughing penalties. The teams traded some quality chances but neither team could score. The Red Wings got it back to even when Jonathan Ericsson......wait, really? (Checks boxscore). Yes, Jonathan Ericsson scored off a lucky bounce to tie the game. The Wings spent about 3 minutes of real time in the Jets' zone, but despite a flurry of activity they were unable to score and take the lead. The period ended with the Jets having a decent chance, but the Wings had tilted the ice back in their favor.
Strong Period: Dylan Larkin
Tough Period: No one, because it was a good period for everyone
The third period began with the Jets regaining a little bit of the momentum they had in the first period, but the Wings held on and didn't allow any really good scoring chances. Both teams seemed to settle down and be content to just go up and down the ice, although Mark Scheifele had a great chance to score but his shot went through Mrazek's legs and missed the net. Niklas Kronwall was called for tripping on a questionable call, but the Wings killed off the penalty without incident. The Wings got a power play of their own when Chris Thorburn took his 3rd penalty of the night. If ever there was a time for the power play to get something going, this was the time, but instead, it was more of the same. Tyler Myers made up for his gorgeous play by passing the puck right to Tomas Tatar behind the Winnipeg net. Tatar fed Justin Abdelkader in front, and he made no mistake and gave the Wings their first lead of the game. The Jets poured on the pressure after that, but Petr Mrazek made a few great saves to preserve the lead. Abdelkader laid the boom on Scott Komaschuk and then was challenged to a fight by Adam Lowry and Thorburn, but had none of that. Zetterberg took an unnecessary slashing penalty with less than 2 minutes left in the period, but the Wings killed it despite a very close call when the Jets hit the crossbar.
Score: 3-2 Red Wings
Shots: 35-24 Red Wings
Strong Period: Justin Abdelkader (Player of the Game)
Tough Period: Niklas Kronwall
Points of Observation
First and foremost, congratulations to Dylan Larkin on his 20th goal of the season, the first Red Wing rookie to hit that mark since Henrik Zetterberg in 2002-03. Larkin had been in a terrible slump the last couple of weeks, part of which could be explained by his having been sick. However, the goal he scored was the type of goal that will hopefully get him going. It was a bang-bang play where he was in traffic in front of the net and had to get a shot off quickly.
We'd also like to welcome Henrik Zetterberg back to the land of the scorers, as he assisted on Larkin's goal. It was not all good for Hank, however, as he was absolutely humiliated by Tyler Myers on the Jets' second goal and took a bad penalty at the end of the game, but he got an assist so who cares about the rest.
For the second straight game, the Wings came out with what can only be described as a subpar effort in the first period. Despite getting two power plays early, the Wings found themselves down by 2 goals after 20 minutes, although the first part of that sentence is probably a good reason why they couldn't maintain any momentum.
It's hard to quibble with too many things from the second period on, but deployment was once again an issue. Andreas Athanasiou started the game on the top line, but he only had 2 shifts in the third period. Teemu Pulkkinen also only had 2 shifts in the third, and one of them was on the power play. No other forward had less than 4 shifts in the third. I don't know why AA and Pulkkinen were attached to the bench, and the Wings did play well in that time, but I can't help but wonder whether AA getting more ice time couldn't have resulted in the Wings getting an insurance goal.
Petr Mrazek posted an in-game SV% north of .900 for the first time in a long time, and while you couldn't really fault him on either goal, it was important for him to bounce back after struggling over the last few weeks. He was particularly strong during a sequence in the third after the Wings took the lead, and helped preserve the win. If the Wings can get the kind of goaltending down the stretch they got at the beginning of the season, they might just be able to remain in a playoff spot.
The scoreboard and first period may not reflect it, but the Wings really did outplay the Jets for the majority of the game. The only Red Wing skater who posted a sub-50 CF% at 5v5 was Gustav Nyquist, and the Wings out-attempted the Jets 49-25 at 5v5. It was the type of performance that was necessary after they shit the bed against a bad Blue Jackets team.
The win allowed the Wings to pull 4 points ahead of the Flyers heading into the weekend, where the Wings will play the Rangers and Maple Leafs in back-to-back games before facing Philadelphia next week. The Hurricanes are also charging after their OT win against the Bruins, who moved in to first place in the Atlantic with their loser point. Every point from here on out is incredibly important, and efforts like what the Wings put forth in the second and third period should hopefully lead to better results.