The last game before the Wings' Christmas break proved to be a wild one, with two late Wings goals tying it to send it to overtime, and a Pavel Datsyuk buzzer-beater as time expired in the extra session. It made for the Wings' third straight win, and sixth win in their last ten. It also secured their place at the top of the Central Division, with the Predators threatening a share of the top spot with a win earlier tonight. It's now 51-49 Wings in the Central Division points race - the Predators with three games in hand. The Wings lead the season series against Chicago 4-0, and are 10-1-0 in the Central Division. Pathetic. It's easily the worst division in hockey today.
The first period opened with the Blackhawks carrying most of the energy, and the Wings hanging on until their two first period power play chances. The Wings' best chance of the period came at 14:55 when Shanahan carried the puck from behind Khabibulin and beat him far side with a wrister - only to hit the post.
Chicago scored the only first period goal at 19:20, on a follow-up goal from Arnason. On the play, Jason Williams muffed the puck around center ice left boards, and Mark Bell stole it and crashed the net. The rebound came out to a trailing Arnason, who easily beat a sprawling Ozzie. 1-0 Chicago. Apparently Arnason was benched in the Blackhawks' last game, the team struggling and desperate to get its players going. So it was nice to see the guy get a goal, though not at the Wings' expense. And not at Williams' expense. It was a terrible giveaway as he tried to pass the puck to himself along the boards, and just got beat by a hustling Bell. Shots 11-8 Chicago in the first.
The second period was much like the first for the Wings. They were outhustled and beat in the corners by the home team. It really was a boring period, with the Wings on their heels most of the time. The best chance came off of a Kris Draper shot around the 12 minute mark but it hit the post. Chicago scored the only goal of the period on another bad Wings giveaway. This time four Wings players were caught in the offensive zone after the puck was coughed up, and former Wing Martin Lapointe (now #22) carried the puck into the Wings zone with a 3-on-1. It was a give-and-go, Lapointe passing to Barnaby at center, before getting the puck back on the right side and tapping it in behind Ozzie. 2-0 Chicago.
It was also an interesting goal by Lapointe, because he had recently blasted his teammates' effort in the last few games. Words backed up. But I didn't appreciate his goal as much Arnason's. Lapointe left Detroit to cash in on his one good season in 2000-2001. He missed the Wings' Cup run in 2002, and hasn't done anything since his breakout 27 G, 30 A last season with the Wings. Ten seasons with the Wings - the team that drafted him in '91 and had him pegged as the next captain. What a loser. Shots 13-9 Chicago in the second.
The third period was much better for the Wings. They had probably triple the quality chances from the previous 40 minutes. Henrik Zetterberg and Brendan Shanahan had the most chances, and the night was summed up on one play. As Holmstrom found himself open in front of Khabibulin, certain to score, his stick broke as he attempted a shot. It was a frustrating moment for all Wings fans, but I couldn't help but feel especially bad for those fans who had made the trip from Detroit for this game. The Chicago-Detroit game is always a special one in the United Center, but the Wings were really flat for much of this game.
A few minutes after I was feeling sorry for the Wings fans in the United Center, Ozzie was pulled and a comeback was staged. At 19:21, Kris Draper scored on a redirection of a Jason Woolley point shot. It wasn't the normal redirection that you'd imagine, but more of a shot by Draper, between the circles, that snuck in under the top corner. 2-1 Chicago. After the faceoff at center, the Wings were called for offsides at 19:28. Datsyuk won the neutral zone faceoff, and the Wings gained the Chicago zone. With time about to expire, the Wings scored on a point shot from Lidstrom at 19:53. It was a controversial goal, as Khabibulin was knocked into by Lang I think it was, and he started arguing the call as he was getting beat by the Lidstrom shot. It fell on deaf ears though. 2-2 tie. Assists from Lang and Datsyuk. Shots in the period were 17-5 Wings.
The overtime was pretty uneventful, and it looked like a shootout was all but certain. Babcock was ready with his Williams-Datsyuk-Zetterberg shootout picks, but twas not to be. In the same style as their last second tying of the game, the Wings got a late goal from Datsyuk at 4:59 to make it a 3-2 win. It was a power play goal, as Duncan Keith was called for tripping at 1:52.
On the play, Datsyuk took a shot from the right circle, and, as the puck crossed the line, the green light went on instead of the red light. Everyone in the United Center thought the game was headed to a shootout, but it turns out the goal judge didn't have time to react to the puck crossing the line before the green light went on: the red light can't go on after the green one is triggered. The refs initially waved it no-goal, but went upstairs to review the play. All the viewers on FSN were left in suspense, as the station didn't have a replay of the play showing time remaining in the same frame. Definitely something NFL or NBA coverage would surely have with their billion dollar TV deals, but such is the price of local coverage of the Wings. Hopefully they get that fixed for the next time it happens.
The refs pointed to center ice - it was a goal! The only replay I saw was the puck crossing the line and the green light going on a few frames later, but nothing with how much time was actually left. Nothing scientific, and I wonder if anyone upstairs had the time remaining to look at or if they just "eye-balled" it with comparing when the green light went on. Martin Lapointe was very mad at the refs after the goal, and received a 10 minute misconduct. Says Lapointe:
"The overtime calls hurt the game. It's a big game, a big rivalry. The refs should let us play. I guess this is the new NHL. To lose a game on a cheap penalty is not the way to play hockey."
It was a great comeback win for the Wings, to be able to score two goals in the last minute of a otherwise sloppy game to force overtime and pull off a last second overtime win. Wings fans are used to these types of comebacks, but it doesn't really make me feel better for the three hours I spent watching this game. I was really bored/frustrated until the third period, when the Wings started playing hard, and even then pucks were hitting the post or sticks were breaking at inopportune times. It just felt like one of those nights where nothing could possibly go right - which made it really weird when 15 minutes later the Wings were headed to the dressing room with a win.
Final shots were 37-31 Wings. The Wings played with only 11 forwards. Some notable lines. Opening the game was Datsyuk-Shanahan-Draper, with Datsyuk-Shanahan-Zetterberg the most used-line in the third.