The Wings staved off a homestand sweep tonight, beating their old rivals for NHL supremacy, the New Jersey Devils, 5-2 downtown. It was the 1,000th game at Joe Louis Arena, which opened December 22, 1979. Fox Sports Net made a big deal of it before the game, playing clips of the various milestones, fights and some of the more memorable goals the arena has seen over the years.
Chris Osgood made his first start since surrendering 6 goals to San Jose over a week ago. He didn't inspire a lot of confidence at first but by the end of the game, he was very sharp when needed.
It was a good game for the oldies on the team: Steve Yzerman scored a goal that evoked memories of a younger career and Chris Chelios was very solid on defense. Even Brendan Shanahan brought back memories, with two of his trademark goals.
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Jason Williams, Henrik Zetterberg and Mikael Samuelsson started the game with Mathieu Schneider and Chelios on defense. Much of the first few minutes of play was played at center ice, with neither team really clicking offensively. The Wings had trouble gaining the New Jersey zone, being deflected on their sloppy attempts by a Devils defense that isn't entirely depleted. The most noticeably out-of-sync player was Pavel Datsyuk, who was taking too long to accomplish anything with the puck and getting very little done at this stage in the game.
Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby had a good shift about three and a half minutes in, generating some good pressure but they did not score.
The Devils opened the scoring at 4:04, when Viktor Kozlov beat Osgood
on the far side after a point shot from Sean Brown hit a crowd out front. It was a backhand shot that banked off Ozzie's pads, making it 1-0 Devils. It was New Jersey's first real "chance" though it wasn't even that much of one!
Following the goal, Nicklas Lidstrom had a great shift, becoming the catalyst for some good Wings pressure in the Devils' zone after carrying the puck through center and over the line. Lidstrom got in on the action down low and helped get Shanahan some great chances around the net in the fifth minute of the period. No goals resulted, however. Zetterberg's line had similar pressure a couple minutes later, with the same results.
The Devils generated some solid pressure of their own around 12:30 but it didn't pay off for them and ended up resulting in the first Red Wings goal of the night. Shanahan took the pass from Woolley along the boards and stepped up with the puck, releasing it after a little hesitation from just inside the left circle. He beat the New Jersey goaltender
, Scott Clemmensen, who may have been screened a little by Datsyuk, glove-side, in the top right corner. Beautiful shot and a typical Shanahan goal, scored at 13:00. 1-1.
Yzerman had a good chance on net about a minute later but was hooked on the play and was unable to finish. He did draw a penalty, however, and the Wings went to their first power play. It wasn't all that impressive, with the Devils clearing the puck immediately each time Detroit gained the zone.
The Wings finally got some minor chances on their third attempt at setting up but it was cleared with about 42 seconds left in the man-advantage and nothing further developed.
At 16:48, Draper had a glorious chance at the left post after Clemmensen bobbled the puck but he sent it through the crease to the opposite post and out.
Less than 20 seconds later, he had another great chance. This time, he was wide open out front and had all day to shoot. He sent it right into the New Jersey Devils logo on Clemmensen's jersey. Draper still can't buy a goal. That's the Drapes we know and love, I suppose.
Just after Draper's failed opportunities, Jiri Hudler got his name included in the boxscore but not in a way you want to see. He ran into Clemmensen in the crease and was called for goalie interference. Fortunately for him, the Devils' power play is completely inept. Or the Wings' penalty kill was just awesome. I think I'll go with that one: Detroit controlled the puck for much of the penalty and killed it off with little apparent effort. Nice job, guys.
Hudler followed his time in the sin bin with a very nice shift in which he exhibited a lot of jump. He got two shots off in the final minute, with only one going on net, and gave the Wings a chance to go up by one in the waning seconds of the first. It was a nice finish to Jiri's first period back to NHL action, after remaining relatively unnoticed until his penalty.
Shots were 17-4 Wings.
The Devils came out of the gates in the second controlling the play. The Wings wrestled control away for some of the second minute but this ended with a New Jersey 2-on-1. Jamie Langenbrunner, one of Osgood's old nemeses (think 98 playoffs, Dallas Stars), ended up with the puck but he waited too long and didn't have much of anywhere to shoot it so the save was made.
The Devils kept the puck in the zone though and in the resulting play, the Wings got a penalty, with Datsyuk going to the box for interference.
Draper and Maltby kept the Devils on their toes while short-handed, with Draper coming pretty close to scoring off a pass from Maltby. With just 31 seconds remaining on Datsyuk's penalty, Schneider went to the box for hooking, handing the Devils a 5-on-3.
Fortunately for the Wings, though, they had touched up the puck near their own blue line and when they won the ensuing faceoff, they were able to clear it immediately and basically negate the 2-man advantage. Schneider's penalty was killed off as well.
Steve Yzerman, playing with Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom had a nice shift about 8 minutes into the period but nothing substantial developed.
The Devils took the lead again at 8:34. This time, Vladimir Malakhov took a shot from the point and Osgood made the save with his pads but ended up directing a juicy rebound in the direction of a Devils player. Zach Parise made good use of the chance Ozzie presented him and sent it into the net pretty emphatically
It was a bad rebound for Osgood to give up. He had a clear line of sight on Malakhov's shot and should have been able to control the puck better. At this point, I wasn't too confident in him and really thought the Wings would have to play catch-up all night.
Less than two minutes later, at 10:21, Richard Matvichuk cleared the puck over the boards in the defensive zone and cost his team a delay-of-game penalty. The Wings made good use of it, scoring again to tie it up at 11:57.
After failing on their first attempt at setting up, they gained the zone on their second try and kept it there for a bit, cycling the puck well and getting some good chances before it was cleared again.
On their third try, Shanahan scored his second of the night, again in standard #14 fashion. This time, it was a one-timer from the slot
. Mathieu Schneider, on the right point, sent the puck along the boards to Samuelsson in the corner. The Swede centered it to Shanahan whose blast tied the game at 2.
The Wings picked up their play a bit after Shanny's second goal. Henrik Zetterberg got off a nice shot as he went over the line at 13:00 and forced Clemmensen to be quick. Not long after that, Williams just missed a pass from Zetterberg that would have certainly resulted in a goal.
A little less than five minutes after Shanahan scored, Tomas Holmstrom and Dan Cleary got a 2-on-1. Homer kept the puck, using Cleary as a decoy, and moved in on the net. He made a little move and beat Clemmensen 5-hole
from 27 feet out at 16:42. Nice goal from Holmstrom, who continues to surprise me with his new goal-scoring touch (He's always had one, just not the same as he does this year. A lot more "skill" goals from Homer this season.) The Wings finally got the lead and never looked back.
With a little under two minutes left, Zetterberg had a nice chance, moving on net but was just unable to finish. Right after that (18:42), Jason Williams put the Wings ahead 4-2, scoring from much the same spot Shanahan scored from on his second of the night. It was a similar goal as well and a nice shot from Willie, who scored his personal-best 9th goal on the play
. Zetterberg got the assist, with Lidstrom, which was fitting since his stellar shift resulted directly in the goal.
At 18:42, Shanahan went to the box for hooking. The Devils got some good pressure going but were unable to convert.
Shots were 17-13 Wings.
The Devils started the period on the power play, from the carryover of the Shanahan penalty at the end of the first, but they didn't do much with it. The Wings controlled play for much of the first few minutes of the period. This was broken up by another Devils power play at 4:34 (a rare Lidstrom penalty) but New Jersey looked pretty anaemic on that one too.
Play settled down as the game headed toward mid-period but around 9:00 or so, things heated up. The Devils put some pretty serious pressure on and Chris Osgood was forced to come up big a number of times. He made another great save on Jamie Langenbrunner at 9:36 and though he didn't retain the puck, he kept it on on the ensuing flurry around the net. He was sharp on subsequent Devils chances as well.
At 10:49, Steve Yzerman scored a beauty of a goal to put an end to the scoring for the night (maybe the skeptics will give the guy a break now, eh?). Tomas Holmstrom made a great effort at the blue line to steal the puck, which ended up on Cleary's stick. He saw Yzerman streaking in all alone and centered the puck. The Captain had all kinds of space and used it well, faking to the forehand
and faking Clemmensen out, beating him on the right side of the net
. Really a great goal and the fans at the Joe thought so too: they began to chant "Stevie" and the place rocking for a few minutes afterwards.
The game wrapped up pretty neatly after that. The Wings got another power play but didn't get much going and Williams had a nice chance all alone out front but didn't finish. Other than that, it was a fairly uneventful second half to the period.
Shots were 10-10 and 44-27 for the period.
Of course Chris Osgood starts when I pick Jimmy Howard! Osgood needed a strong game to clear his name and I think he got it, for the most part. ... With all that hair, does Jiri Hudler look like he should be on the cover of Spin
or what? ... The Wings wore their white sweaters tonight, rather than their home red. Mike Babcock joked that it was because the "red weren't working" but really it was because Ken Holland and Lou Lamariello had decided on the change weeks ago. ... Long-time JLA National Anthem singer got a break tonight, with Steve Acho doing a passable job singing the nation's song in her place. Nice to finally have some variety, I say. ...
Next up, Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. I'm definitely looking forward to that game. The puck drops at 7:00 ET Friday night.