The Wings ended their season series with Phoenix with a disappointing 5-2 home loss, continuing the trend that began November 5th with another home loss to the Coyotes in the second game between the two teams this year. Both teams finished with two wins and it is highly unlikely they will meet again before next season (the Coyotes need a miracle to make it to the playoffs).
It was a redemption game for Curtis Joseph and a "stayin' alive" game for the Coyotes, who need the dominos to fall just right after having knocked over the first one with this win.
Before the game, the Wings held a recognition ceremony for their Olympic medalists at center ice. Robert Lang went out first, as the lone bronze medal winner on the team, and was followed by the five Swedes: Mikael Samuelsson, who left his medal in Sweden with his father, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom. The JLA PA system played the Olympic anthem and what I'm guessing was the Swedish national anthem throughout all of this.
Mike Babcock's starting lineup was the medalists sans Samuelsson, who is still out with a sore wrist and was once again replaced in the lineup by Mark Mowers. The other lineup change was Brett Lebda's insertion for Jason Woolley. For Phoenix, it was the first game back for young defenseman Derek Morris, who has recovered from a knee injury.
Phoenix was sharp in the early going, getting a couple nice chances in the first couple minutes and generally looking like they wanted the win. This enthusiasm probably led to their first penalty of the game, an interference call that came at 2:56.
The ensuing Red Wing power play was decent and was highlighted by a near goal from Pavel Datsyuk, who just couldn't stuff the puck past Joseph's arm at the right goal post.
Kronwall had a fairly big hit at center ice at 5:04 or so. It would have been a lot bigger had Dave Scatchard not avoided the brunt of it. I'm looking forward to the days when people can't avoid taking the full force of Nik's hits. He's getting there.
The Wings had the puck deep in the offensive zone and were cycling around before Mowers got tangled up near the net and lost the puck. It went the other way fast and the Coyotes scored on that rush. Legace made the initial save, off a tip-in of the shot from the left wing, but unfortunately kicked the rebound off his left pad right to a streaking Mike Comrie. Comrie made no mistake and sent the puck into the net past a helpless Legace, just before Mowers got to him on the backcheck. 1-0 Coyotes at 6:50.
Phoenix went back to the penalty box not long after that but the Detroit power play was cut short by an iffy hooking call on Pavel Datsyuk. Robert Lang, left all alone down low, had a nice chance from the left wing during 4-on-4 play but was stoned by Joseph for a nice save.
When the Coyotes went on the power play for 26 seconds or so after their penalty expired, Manny was forced to make a big save on Denis Gauthier, who was also left alone down low, but who fortunately didn't get all he wanted on the shot. The Wings killed off the penalty but ended up giving up a goal before Pavel could rejoin the play from the box.
With the puck deep in the zone, the defense decided to attack Shane Doan, who had the puck and promptly dished it to Steve Reinprecht. Reinprecht was behind the Detroit defense by then and had former Red Wing Boyd "De-void" Devereaux with him. He passed the puck to Boyd and he roofed the puck over his former teammate to give his team a two goal advantage at 9:54.
One thing I hate to see in replays is a big #3 looking on aghast as the opposition scores on a helpless goalie. This goal was just another example of such an event. Lilja, do you have to try to be so useless or does it come naturally?
At this point Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond starting comparing this game to Saturday's, nothing how similar the two are but with the roles reversed. That kind of talk continued for a while.
Around 12:30, Pavel Datsyuk took a nice pass along the right wing and took the puck down the boards, cutting around behind the defense and skating in on net. He ended up sending it wide left, however, having got our hopes up for nothing. Geoff Sanderson had a similar chance going the other way almost immediately following. He too sent it wide left, much to Red Wings fans' relief.
Brett Lebda found himself with the puck in the slot, wide open after it played pinball in front of the net, at 13:32 but his glorious chance went for naught as his shot hit Joseph's shoulder from 26 feet out.
Thirty seconds later, the Coyotes were headed the other way on a 3-on-2. Devereaux centered the puck to Scatchard, who's shot from the slot was in and out so fast it seemed like it hit the post. 3-0 Coyotes at 14:02. It's gotten ugly.
The Wings put on some pressure and drew a penalty as a result. They set up the power play and got another penalty, resulting in a lengthy 5-on-3. They got set up again and very pretty patient with the puck, doing a good job of cycling it and keeping it in despite Phoenix' best efforts. The result was their first goal. It came from Pavel Datsyuk, who one-timed Schneider's pass and beat Joseph from the right wing. Lidstrom had the other assist (his 600th career assist) on the goal, which came at 16:32 and put the Wings within two.
Detroit looked better as the period wound down, getting a few nice chances that nevertheless were balanced by a very big Phoenix scoring opportunity with nine seconds left. Henrik Zetterberg deflected the puck high on what would have almost surely been a back-breaking goal.
The Wings outshot Phoeix 12-8 in the first but weren't playing so hot on defense and were down by two as a result.
Mark Mowers opened the second period with a play he definitely wants back: he had Joseph down and out but sent the puck off the cross bar instead of into the net where it should have gone. Ah well.
It didn't take long for the Wings to make up for Mark's blown play, though. When Phoenix failed to clear the zone around 2:40 or so, Kris Draper picked up the puck and took it along the boards to the back of the net, where he centered it to Brendan Shanahan. Shanny was wide open in the slot and one-timed the puck but Joseph made the save. The rebound came right back to Brendan, though, and he one-timed that
, this time scoring in the top right corner to put his team within one at 2:53.
After that, the pace quickened, with both teams getting chances. The Wings went on the power play just before the halfway mark of the period and though they put on a good show, they were unable to score. There was a bit of a scare when Steve Yzerman was roughed up by the Phoenix punks in front of the net. He skated off and went straight to the dressing room but he returned a couple playing-time minutes later, seemingly okay.
Somewhere in here, I noticed an interesting choice for a defensive pairing by Mike Babcock: Brett Lebda and Niklas Kronwall. A lot of youth and inexperience there, but it seemed to work out pretty well. A climes of the future (and a bright one at that).
The Wings started to get into some penalty trouble as the game wore on and it began to get in the way of their comeback attempts. Two penalties by defensemen in the second half of the period didn't help, with the Coyotes looking to finish the kill.
The third began with some fairly even play in the zones but Tomas Holmstrom began an unfortunately timed parade to the penalty box at 4:47 and the Wings spent most of the first half of the period killing off penalties when they should have been focused on a comeback.
The Coyotes scored again during Jason Williams' high sticking penalty, a tip in by Comrie off a shot from the point by Michalek. Manny didn't have any chance on that one, it's just unfortunate his teammates put him in the position of having to make the save when shorthanded. 4-2 Coyotes at 9:05.
After that goal, Gretzky's team went to a 1-4 defensive posture as they settled down, confident they would win.
The Wings had another power play but couldn't score, though it wasn't a bad effort.
At 14:57, the Wings were awarded a penalty shot on a strange play. A Phoenix player had lost his stick and Comrie had moved it in the way of the puck while in the defensive zone, resulting in the call. Because Mark Mowers was the last Red Wing to have possession, he was awarded the shot. I initially thought the Wings had the choice of whom to send out and when I saw Mowers head to center, I wasn't too thrilled. Anyway, Mowers tried much the same shot Lidstrom tried on Thursday, with the same result. Joseph turned the puck away easily with his blocker and the score remained 4-2 Phoenix.
Not long after that, Schneider went off for interference and the Coyotes got their last goal as a result. Somehow Shane Doan ended up all alone out front and he had Legace at his mercy. Manny fell pretty quickly and Doan put it over him as Lidstrom and Maltby tried desperately to get back in time to stop him. 5-2 Coyotes at 15:51.
To cap off the night, Brendan Shanahan was given an unsportsmanlike conduct and a game misconduct penalty at 17:08 and was booted from the game. Steve Yzerman served the penalty.
It was a disappointing game and proof that I probably went too far when I said the guys were over any Olympic hangover.
I hope they play better on Thursday against the Kings. I'll be there with my Dad, having just bought a pair of tickets.
Abel to Yzerman's game summary
*compiled by Brian