The Wings began January very much on the wrong foot, losing 4-2 in un-inspiring fashion to Minnesota in front of their home fans. Detroit looked flat for the majority of the night and were out-hustled and out-worked by the Wild all night, despite finishing the game with a season-high 45 shots.
Chris Osgood again made the start for the Wings and played well, though two of the three goals he allowed were fairly weak. He had little chance on the first, however, which came from the slot off a quick centering pass from behind the net. Andrei Zyuzin was left all along out front and was handed an easy one-timer goal by the Red Wing defense at 5:55 of the first period.
The Wild scored again a little over a minute later, this time from Filip Kuba, who took a shot from the point. The goal came soon after a defensive-zone faceoff for the Wings and immediately after a television break so it's not like they didn't have time to prepare.
The Wings were especially flat for the first half of the opening period, though they awakened some in the second half. The teams traded power plays around mid-period but accomplished little. As Detroit started to come on a little, the Wild gave up their offensive posture and assumed a defensive one, sitting back and absorbing the Red Wing attack.
Detroit got a third power play at 16:40 but lost the chance when Jason Williams was called for interference ten seconds later. This led to a relatively uneventful period of 4-on-4 hockey as the period wound down.
The Wings went on the power play early in the second but failed to convert. The Wild were aggressive, winning battles for the puck and generally looking like they wanted a win. The Wings, on the other hand, floated and looked like they expected cute passing and skill to win the day all by themselves.
Detroit finally got a break, however undeserved, when Willie Mitchell accidentally high-sticked Brendan Shanahan. Mitchell initially got two minutes but when Shanahan showed the ref he was bleeding, two more minutes were tacked on, giving the Wings four minutes to work with starting at 5:33.
The Wings made good use of it, scoring at 6:14. Nicklas Lidstrom took a shot from the point and it was deflected out front by Tomas Holmstrom. The puck went in and cut the Wild lead in half.
The second minor penalty was killed off by the Wild fairly easily, though the Wings were able to set up and get a little sustained pressure.
As the teams headed to mid-period, the Wings, led by Holmstrom, began to win a few battles and generate a few quality chances. In each case, however, Roloson was there to make the save and the Wings' comeback attempts were foiled.
The Wild handed the Wings another power play before the period ended but they did a very good job killing it off and the Wings began to float again as time ran out in the second. In the final seconds of the period, the Wings gave up a very good chance but the puck fortunately went wide as the Wild attempted to capitalize.
Detroit began the third period fairly well, with a good shift by Shanahan, Datsyuk and Woolley in the early going. Dan Cleary had a couple point-blank shots off a flurry early on as well but he was unable to convert.
The Wings gave up a 2-on-1 a little over five minutes in and it resulted in a Wild power play, though fortunately not in a goal. Henrik Zetterberg had a nice chance shorthanded, going into the Wild zone all alone and weaving through the defense but he did not score. At this point, the OLN signal blanked out for a moment, leaving the words "poor quality signal." Nothing new for Wings fans, who have to deal with about one such blackout per game when FSN is doing the broadcast. At least OLN is prepared for it and lets the viewer know what's going on. FSN sure doesn't! As for the Wild power play, it was well-orchestrated, and forced Osgood to make a couple good saves.
The Wild took a two-goal lead at 8:04 when Jason Woolley made an ill-advised and badly planned pass in his own zone along the boards. Brian Rolston intercepted it and ripped a shot from the circle past Osgood, who apparently wasn't quite set on the play. I didn't think it was a good goal for Osgood to give up, despite the awful play by Woolley.
Robert Lang, who was alternately flat and sharp tonight, had a good shift playing with Samuelsson and Zetterberg after the Wild goal but they were unable to get the puck past Roloson.
Zetterberg and Samuelsson were involved in a flurry a few minutes later and came very close to scoring but again, Roloson made the necessary stops. The Wings were getting some good chances but had a distinct inability to finish that made it frustrating to watch. A prime example of this came at 13:53, when Shanahan found himself with the puck all alone out front. It was as glorious a chance as they come but he sent the puck over the net and missed an opportunity to cut into the Wild lead.
Around this time, the OLN crew started talking about Detroit "desperation" but if the Wings were desperate, they didn't really show it. They certainly didn't look as concerned as they did during the Atlanta game
last month or even against Chicago
a couple weeks ago. Anyway, they did score again, at 17:58. Apparently, it was Holmstrom again, though I swear Datsyuk got a stick on it first and at least deserves an assist. Regardless of what I think, the official stance is that Holmstrom deflected Woolley's shot and made it 3-2.
Babcock pulled Osgood for the extra skater with a minute and a half or so left (a little early for my taste) but I didn't realize it until Gaborik and Daigle were sprung on a 2-on-1 with Lidstrom playing defense. Daigle ended up with the puck and shot it into the empty net, crushing any hopes Wings fans may have had for a comeback at 18:39. Babcock is lucky the Wings didn't score again because I'd have not been happy had his decision to pull Osgood so early resulted in a loss despite a comeback. As it was, the loss left a bad taste in my mouth.
The OLN crew did mention Jiri Fischer and reported that he has apparently never felt better. He is taking the advice of a friend and living one day at a time, while making preparations for tomorrow. They said he is very positive and apparently "symptom free," though doctors continue to monitor him. So, good news on that front.
Even though the Wings' loss was more due to the skaters than Osgood, I think we'll see Manny Legace back in net Thursday against the Blues. I'll be at that game, with my sister, who'll have her camera and experience as a photography major to go with it.