The Wings finished out their West Coast road trip with another win, beating the Kings 5-2 last night in LA. They played a very solid game defensively and were strong offensively, putting a nice cap on the trip and helping us forget their disastrous trip to Western Canada earlier in the month.
Jimmy Howard was strong in his debut and showed us that the hype surrounding him is well founded.
Jason Woolley made his return from his groin injury but the Wings traded him for Robert Lang, who went down in the second period with a groin injury of his own.
It worked out well in the end, however, as Steve Yzerman had one of his best outings of the season after taking some of Lang's ice time in his absence.
Overall, a very entertaining game to watch, though I had a hard time concentrating on it since just about all of my friends chose last night to have a pizza/homework party in the lounge around the TV. They are very distracting. So, this summary will be more impressions than details.
The Wings came out of the gates with a fair amount of jump. They had a number of good chances pretty early on but didn't finish on any of them. For example, Yzerman flubbed a shot down low after taking a pass from Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk hit the post after taking a pass from Henrik Zetterberg just a few minutes later.
The Kings weren't just sitting back themselves. They played a physical game and skated hard. Dustin Brown welcomed Woolley back with a big hit in the corner about five minutes in, reminding us that the Wings don't have anyone quite capable of laying on a big hit, with Jiri Fischer out. When the Kings generated pressure of their own, Howard was very steady and looked nothing like the rookie he is. I quickly gained confidence in him and forgot it was his first NHL start.
The Kings "scored" a goal before the half-way point of the period but it was quickly disallowed after replay showed the puck had gone in under the side of the net. Howard had the post covered and knew it wasn't a goal and so did Datsyuk, who immediately went to the ref. The net was raised a bit off the ice but they fixed it at that point and the game continued.
The Wings' PK unit was solid in the first and their power play got a couple of good chances on the one man-advantage they had.
Shots for the period were 12-9 Wings.
The Wings got a power play early on in the period but it only lasted 6 seconds before Zetterberg got a penalty and made it 4-on-4. The teams traded good chances, with Lang getting a flurry down low in front of the net and Eric Belanger getting a full-blown breakaway. In both instances, the goalies made the necessary saves. For Howard, it was a real baptism by fire, facing his first NHL breakaway in his first start.
The game continued to have a fast pace, with the Wings getting the majority of the chances.
Chris Chelios finally opened the scoring at 4:03, stepping up and taking a blast from the blue line that beat LaBarbera "clean" (as color-commentator Pat Verbeek kept repeating). He was using one of Kirk Maltby's sticks, which he said caused him to break three panes of glass at the Staples Center during practice. Apparently, his shot was up to 105 mph so he switched. It paid off pretty well, ending a 57 game scoring drought. 1-0 Wings.
Lang was sent to the box for hooking at 5:37 and though the Kings didn't score on that power play, they did score as a direct result of events during that time. Kirk Maltby, trying to kill off the penalty, ended up on his stomach and swinging his stick out as a Kings player jumped over him. The stick, knocked out of Maltby's hands by the skates of Joseph Corvo, went flying and the ref called Maltby for throwing his stick in the offensive zone. Pretty BS call, in my opinion. Anyway, as per NHL rules, Corvo was awarded a penalty shot. He ended up scoring after freezing Howard and creating a small gap at the post. Howard certainly got both barrels, with an out-right breakaway and a penalty shot in the same night. 1-1 tie.
The Wings regained the lead just under two minutes later when Mathieu Schneider scored once again. Tomas Holmstrom was out front and doing his usual good job of screening the goalie, who may have never seen it. 2-1 Wings.
Brendan Shanahan laid a borderline dirty hit on Sean Avery around 11:16 and was immediately attacked by Tim Gleason. Both players got fighting majors, though Shanahan was just defending himself. The refs also tacked on an extra two minutes for the initial hit. Dan Cleary had a nice breakaway chance while shorthanded and drew a penalty on the play. After a period 4-on-4 play, the Wings went to the power play. Steve Yzerman made it 3-1 when he tipped in a shot from Jason Williams at 13:43. That ended the power play they were on but because the Kings had been called for another penalty on the play, the Wings continued with the man advantage. They got some good sustained pressure going but didn't get the puck in the net however.
The Wings had LA on their heels at this point and were really dominating play.
Shots were 12-8 Wings.
The Kings rebounded a bit in the third and made a good effort at coming back for the first half of the period or so.
The game settled down a bit after that, however, and the Wings had it pretty well in hand.
Zetterberg scored at 15:19 to make it 4-1 after taking a nice pass from Samuelsson. He was stopped on his initial shot but scored on the rebound.
The Kings pulled their goalie with about 3:00 left and the Wings scored without a whole lot of effort. Lidstrom lobbed a bomb from his own blueline and made it 5-1 at 18:17.
The Kings made the score somewhat more respectable at 18:59 when Sean Avery scored on a tip in off a shot from the point. The puck beat Howard high and wasn't really his fault.
Shots were 5-7 Kings and 29-24 Wings for the game.
Sorry for the lateness in getting this posted. It was too late last night and I had classes all day today. And now I have to go to work. May append this later.