Saturday, March 20, 2004

Wings 4, Kings 2

The Wings swept the season series against the Los Angeles Kings, beating them 4-2 in the Staples Center. It was the second game of a five game road trip. Coach Dave Lewis said that "this road trip will define our season." Cujo got the start, despite some doubt with his sore ankle and Manny's great play as of late. But it was a good move by the Wings, since we might face LA in the first round. There was a buzz in the arena the whole night, and the Kings played desperation hockey as the final seconds ticked away. It was a chippy game, and both teams played hard for 60 minutes. In the first period, the Wings just couldn't buy a goal. Early in, Fischer took a long dump-in shot on Kings' goaltender Cristobal Huet. The puck was deflected 60 feet out by a Kings defenseman and hit the post. Later, Henrik Zetterberg found Brett Hull on top of the left circle, but a Hull one-timer hit iron. And with 20 seconds left in the period, Zetterberg hit the crossbar as he broke in on Huet. That's two posts and crossbar in the first. Kirk Maltby and Zetterberg went on a 2-on-1 four minutes in, and the Kings recovered after a failed attempt and got a power play goal from Alexander Frolov at 4:25, assisted by Derek Armstrong and Luc Robitaille. On the play, Frolov got a pass from Armstrong and tapped the puck in five-hole on Cujo. 1-0 Kings. At 8:58, Mark Mowers broke in on Huet, similar to his ESPN Sportscenter #1 goal March 3rd, but failed to convert. It was a pretty physical period. After Luc Robitaille gave Hull a cheapshot elbow into his gut, there was some chirping between the ex-teammates. They even had to be separated by the linesmen. Despite the Wings' three shots off the post, the Kings really had the extra jump in the first. They clogged up the neutral zone, in a style that ex-King Mathieu Schneider calls an "aggressive trap." The Kings outshot the Wings 7-4. In the second period, the game broke wide open. Yzerman gave Ray Whitney a beautiful feed up the middle, and Whitney got off a decent shot on Huet. After the puck went out into the neutral zone, the Wings' persistence paid off with a goal by Jason Williams, assisted by Steve Yzerman and Jiri Fischer, at 1:30. It was his fifth of the season, and came after Yzerman shot the puck, fought for it behind the net, and gave Williams the chance to pick the puck up and slip it under Huet's pads. 1-1 Wings. Soon after, Williams got his second of the night at 5:24, assisted by Steve Yzerman. On the play, more hard work behind the net paid off as Williams got off a flutter-ball screen shot that beat Huet upstairs and in slow motion style. 2-1 Wings. At 17:06, the Williams / Whitney / Yzerman line continued their hot streak with a tic-tac-toe play, culminating in a Whitney goal. On the play, Williams fed Yzerman, who passed it to Whitney at the mouth of the net. Whitney scored second chance on a rebound from his initial shot. 3-1 Wings. Aaron Miller got a bloody nose after the puck rode up the shaft of his stick off a Shanahan shot. It's always a dangerous move to plant your stick in front of a shot. Recently, Flyers defenseman Vladimir Malakhov suffered a fractured jaw on a similar play. Don Cherry even addressed the issue in the March 20 Coach's Corner. After a lot of chirping and jawing, we finally got a fight. It was between Armstrong and Jamie Rivers, after Armstrong ran over Cujo. It was a good bout, and I'd give Rivers the nod. Shots in the period were 12-10 Wings. In the third period, the Kings played hungry as they tried to earn at least one point. Around 12:00, Cujo made a huge save on Armstrong, as Sean Avery passed the puck across the crease to Armstrong. Yzerman can also be credited with making the save, since he got a piece of Armstrong's stick to keep him from getting good wood on the shot. It was a scary moment as Anson Carter caught a high stick from Schneider across his right eye. Carter doesn't wear a visor, and was checking the eye for a few minutes on the bench. With the score still at 3-1, Andy Murray decided to pull Huet at the 4-minute mark, giving the Kings a rare 6-on-3 opportunity. They were unable to convert, and LA pulled Huet three more times, as faceoffs forced him back in net. With the King's net empty, Luc Robitaille scored a power play goal at 17:09, assisted by Trent Klatt. On the play, there was a ton of traffic in front of Cujo, and Klatt managed to pass the puck across the crease to Luc, who found a wide open net. 3-2 Wings. Luckily, at 19:48, Nicklas Lidstrom scored his ninth of the season on an empty net goal, assisted by Darren McCarty and Henrik Zetterberg. 4-2 Wings. I was beginning to worry that this was Game 4, 2001 Playoffs all over again. In that game, the Kings tied the game up with three goals in only 5:14. Sean Avery certainly made his presence known tonight. In the first, he drew a cross-checking penalty from Jiri Fischer and embellished a tripping call from Anders Myrvold. He also mixed it up with Schneider, whom he was traded for. McCarty and Avery wanted to fight in the third, but linesman Vaughan Rody split it up. I would've loved to see a fight between those two, but the sissy linesmen had to break it up since it's just not right for two hard-nose guys to go at it anymore. Avery also jawed at the Wings' bench during line changes all night. Notables: The Kings have lost six straight to the Wings....Luc Robitaille respectfully declined a first intermission interview, possibly since he was fired up after the scrum with Hull....Ken Daniels and Pat Verbeek called the game....Ex-King Manny Legace, whom the Wings signed as a free agent on 7/16/99, had to be disappointed not to get the start....Anson Carter has 1 assist in 7 games since the deal that landed him in LA....The Kings have suffered a record 585 man games lost, including 10 regulars. They have used 42 players this season, 3rd most in the league....Sean Avery leads the league with 238 penalty minutes....Multi-point getters on the night: Robitaille (2), Yzerman (3), Williams (3)....LA has pulled their goaltender 26 times this season, with 4 tonight. Luc Robitaille tied John Bucyk at 1369 points for all time lead in points for a left winger. Luc also leads the Kings in points this season, with 50 points (22 G, 28 A). This is his third tour of duty in LA, and he has 1000+ games as a King. In the pregame segment, John Keating talked with Robert Lang. Lang talked about how it was his first road trip with the Wings and how he was trying to get to know the team better. And he practically said "you know" 100 times. I caught five in a sentence at one point. You know? The Wings are two-up on Tampa Bay with 99 pts, and had clinched the Central Division with the 1-1 tie at Phoenix Thursday. It is the 14th consecutive season that the Wings are going to the playoffs Must-See TV: Don't miss Chris Chelios' "Beyond the Glory" segment on FSN, airing Sunday 6:30 PM and 11:00 PM. (Editor: Here are the lines from the game, courtesy GWB) Shanahan-Zetterberg-McCarty Thomas-Datsyuk-Hull Whitney-Yzerman-Williams Maltby-Mowers-Holmstrom Holmstrom-Datsyuk-Hull Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Chelios Rivers-Myrvold 4 on 4- Datsyuk-Hull Zetterberg-Maltby Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Chelios PP- Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom Thomas-Datysuk-Hull Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-chelios Lidstrom-Whitney PK- Zetterberg-Maltby Shanahan-Yzerman Lidstrom-Schneider Lidstrom-Chelios Fischer-Schneider 5(6 on 3-Huet pulled) on 3PK- Yzerman Lidstrom-Chelios Net- Curtis Joseph


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