The Wings' first game on NBC in years turned out to be a success, as they beat their old rival, the New York Rangers, 4-3 downtown at the Joe. It was a well-played game by both teams and definitely an entertaining one, as the Rangers kept it interesting right to the end.
I enjoyed the NBC broadcast much more than the OLN versions, though I still prefer FSN. Bill Clement and Ray Ferraro were the studio crew, with Mark Messier joining them in the intermissions. Mike Emrick and John Davidson were in the booth but Pierre McGuire was between the benches and provided insights throughout the game. NBC kept track of the ice time of Brendan Shanahan and Jaromir Jagr, keeping a special clock under the scoreboard whenever either of the two were on the ice. I can't say I paid much attention to it, though.
The game started with both teams looking like they needed to first get their footing so it wasn't too exciting in the first few minutes. The Wings came out of it first, getting a couple of chances but finding that Henrik Lundqvist was equal to the challenge.
The Rangers got to go on the power play first, at 4:10, when Robert Lang was slapped with a boarding call. Not a very smart play by Lang, who lost an offensive zone faceoff to start the play off. Fortunately for him, the Rangers power play is miserable, as the NBC crew informed us, going just 2-for-27 in their last 29 chances. They failed to score again, this time, and the Wings got a good kill.
The Wings came close to scoring at 6:53, when Nick Lidstrom's shot went through Lundqvist and stopped about a foot from the goalline. The Rangers goalie fell back on it and kept it from being knocked in, however, and the scored remained 0-0.
Detroit was penalized again at 8:01. This time it was Mikael Samuelsson, who tied up Jagr at center and was called for holding. The Wings had some trouble controlling the puck in their own zone but they finally got it out and it led to a nice scoring chance down the right wing by Daniel Cleary. The Rangers came back and set up, forcing Manny Legace to be sharp.
Legace looked pretty good in the first, most notably when he made a great glove save on Petr Sykora with 9:01 left. Sykora was left all alone in the slot by the Red Wing defense but Manny was on his game and made the necessary save.
Not long after that, Jason Williams and Lang had what basically amounted to a 2-on-0 (each about a step behind the NY defense) but Williams' pass was a little off and the best Lang could manage was a weak backhand shot at a sharp angle, though Lundqvist did his best to make the save looked spectacular.
The first Red Wing power play, starting at 12:08, was unimpressive. The Wings were messy with passes and had trouble getting it into the zone until late. Then, they did get a couple of shots off from the point but nothing too serious.
With 3:50 or so left, Pavel Datsyuk and Brendan Shanahan skated in on a 2-on-1 but Tom Poti made a nice diving play to keep Pavel's pass from getting through to Shanny, saving his goalie's bee-hind, not to mention his defense partner's.
One thing about Lundqvist that I noted at this point is how good he is positionally. I don't remember seeing him out of position the whole first period, he was always square to the shooter.
The Rangers opened the scoring at 18:45 when Jaromir Jagr one-timed a pass from Martin Rucinsky, who was behind the net. Nick Lidstrom was just a half a step away from tying Jagr up on the play but the Czech ended up being pretty well wide open. The puck beat Manny between the legs but it came so suddenly that I don't really blame him for the goal. A rare mistake by Nick Lidstrom, though Jagr is no stooge and is tough to cover even if you are the best defenseman in the world.
Soon after the start of the second period, the Rangers took a dumb delay of game penalty when Jason Strudwick knocked the net off its moorings. The Wings had a great pressure power play but the Rangers were able to kill it off pretty impressively.
Starting at 3:59, Kris Draper's line, with Maltby and Franzen, put on a lot of good griding pressure in the New York zone for an impressive shift that resulted in a couple decent shots. Those three showed their usual good energy and kept the Rangers busy.
Chris Chelios laid a big hit on Petr Prucha along the boards and then another one on someone else at center ice during a long shift around the 5:00 mark. The NBC crew later seized on these plays as having fired the Wings up.
The Wings got another power play at 5:40 and did a pretty good job on it but weren't going anywhere until the Rangers took another penalty with 14 seconds remaining in their first. The Wings made good use of the resulting 5-on-3 and, though the 14 seconds had gone, they scored while still on the power play at 7:45. Nick Lidstrom took the initial shot from he point and Lundqvist made the save but the rebound ended up on Lang's stick to the right of the net. He put it right under the crossbar and tied the game at one. Nice goal by Lang, who may be finally getting it together and who scored his 11th on the play.
Not even a minute later, the Wings struck again. This time, it was Brendan Shanahan, who took the puck in with Kris Draper on the other wing and let fly a shot. Lundqvist made the save with his pads but the puck still ended up behind his arm and when he went to stop a possible shot from Draper, he knocked the puck in with his stick before Draper could get to it. 'Bout time, Shanny. 2-1 Wings.
The Rangers came on after the goal but Manny was sharp. The Wings had to kill off another penalty but did so in convincing form and seemed to be very much in control of the game.
Still, New York wasn't going to let the Wings keep them from scoring again and score they did, at 19:45. This time it was Michael Nylander, who put the puck over Legace's shoulder as his teammate Ville Nieminen crashed the net. Apparently, Nieminen ran just enough interference to keep Manny from making a save but not enough to get a penalty, though the Wings tried to argue for it. I thought it was a clear case of goaltender interference but the goal stood. Nieminen's run one of our goalies before
, during the 2004 playoffs, if you remember. This time it wasn't quite so nasty, though the result was a little harder to take. 2-2 tie.
The third period began with both teams playing pretty evenly. Each team had a couple scoring chances but nothing too exciting happened in the first five minutes.
Then, the Wings scored. It was sort of a fluky/weird play: Chris Chelios was swarmed by three or four Rangers at the blueline and knocked down. Pavel Datsyuk kept the play alive by taking the puck down the left wing boards and passing it to Zetterberg. Hank centered it to Shanahan in front of the net and Lundqvist made the stop on the ensuing shot but fell backwards into the net. The puck ended up between his legs and Shanahan made a second attempt at it, just barely getting his stick underneath it to flip it over Lundqvist, who was sitting up just in time to see the puck roll up his chest and by his head on the way into the net. Great goal, Shanny's 22nd of the year and second of the game. 3-2 Wings.
Though the Wings had the lead, the Rangers were still dangerous and coming close on their scoring chances. They actually rang a shot off the outside of the post on one play but shot themselves in the foot when they took a penalty on a Draper near-breakaway at 12:10.
The Wings got a good setup and a couple of good shots off but didn't score due to Lundqvist and some good penalty killing by his teammates.
Despite their efforts on the PK, the Rangers gave up another goal. This time it was Johan Franzen, who got his stick on Kris Draper's centering pass and redirected the puck into the net. The goal came off a fast break and wouldn't have happened if Maltby hadn't slammed on the breaks at the blueline to keep the play onsides. The goal came at 14:39 and gave the Wings a two-goal lead. It was Franzen's 8th of the year.
The Wings were really showing some good energy at this point, doing a good job of pursuing the puck and not laying back much at all.
Shanahan came close to scoring a hat trick a couple times, most notably when he went on a 2-on-1 with either Zetterberg or Datsyuk (regrettably, I neglected to write down which it was) and ringing a shot off the crossbar, to the disappointment of 20,066 fans in JLA.
Bench-reporter Pierre McGuire, in one of the more entertaining anecdotes he related during the game, told the viewers that Steve Yzerman was giving Jed Ortmeyer some lip from his spot on the bench. Ortmeyer and Yzerman had faced each other on their teams' respective fourth lines and Yzerman was trying to generate some hostility in preparation for their next shift against each other. Well, Ortmeyer left the bench right about then and ended up putting his team within one, whether as a result of Yzerman's talk or not. No, I'm not blaming you, Steve.
Anyway, Ortmeyer took a shot from the point that was blocked partially by someone in front. It was going wide of the net when it hit Lebda and that put it back on target. It beat an unsuspecting Manny Legace to make it 4-3 at 17:34.
Nevertheless, the Wings kept the pressure on and forced the Rangers to take a timeout after the puck was frozen in their zone. They lost the ensuing faceoff and the Wings burned a good 40 seconds in the zone until New York could finally get it out. They pulled Lundqvist as they headed up the ice but to no avail.
As the buzzer sounded, Henrik Zetterberg sent the puck over to Shanahan, who took a shot from behind his own blueline and would have scored had time not run out. So, no hat trick, though it was a nice gesture by Hank.
Not a perfect game by the Wings but a good one. Next up, is the game at fluffball Columbus, on Wednesday.
Weird Line (3 Defensemen?!)
*compiled by Brian