Tuesday night’s home opener against the Dallas Stars was already the third game of the 2013 season for the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately for the home fans at the Joe Louis Arena, their goal scoring touch looked like it was still stuck back in the lockout.
Michael Ryder scored twice for the Stars, and only a late tally from Damien Brunner–his first in the NHL–kept the Wings from being blanked for the second time in the young season as they fell to Dallas 2-1. Keri Lehtonen was a big part of Detroit’s offensive woes, making 39 saves before Brunner put one past him less than four seconds shy of a shutout.
It was Ryder who appeared to have the most jump in his legs early, not a shocker since the Wings needed a shootout to defeat the Blue Jackets in Columbus the night before. He opened the scoring at the 5:41 mark of the first period, when his shot from above the left circle appeared to change direction off the stick of Kyle Quincey before zooming over the right shoulder of Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.
Ryder padded the Dallas lead 5:34 into the third frame. Ray Whitney had his initial shot blocked by Brian Lashoff, but the 40-year old forward was able to recover his own rebound and send it over to Ryder to slot by Howard from the right circle. Ryder and linemates Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr caused havoc for the Wings all night, combining for 17 shots.
Howard was the primary reason they didn’t do more damage, stopping 30 of the 32 shots he faced. Several were of the highlight reel variety, including a diving glove save to rob Reilly Smith about halfway through the third period.
The netminder also bailed his teammates out of trouble on their own power play on several occasions. Detroit’s power play futility stretched to a third straight game, going 0-for-4 with the man advantage and surrendering a number of shorthanded chances in the other direction.
Wings coach Mike Babcock switched up his forward lines late int he second period to try to find a spark, separating Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk for the first extended time this season. Both forwards had good scoring chances after that, but Lehtonen proved up to any challenge until Brunner found the twine with Howard off for an extra skater.
That was too little, too late, and the Wings will finally get two nights off before returning to the Joe on Friday to face the Minnesota Wild. And they certainly need the break, with defenseman Ian White leaving the game late. Detroit already had to press Kent Huskins into immediate duty after signing him earlier in the day, and the team’s ever growing list of injured players includes Darren Helm, Mikael Samulesson, Carlo Colaiacovo, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Jan Mursak and Jonas Gustavsson.
The game was over when…
The Wings failed to score on their fourth power play, which came with just under eight minutes left in regulation. Niklas Kronwall had a good chance cutting into the slot that was stopped by Lehtonen, and the rest of the advantage expired the same way most of the team’s power plays have in 2013: harmlessly. A score there could have made Brunner’s first NHL goal mean something.
The unsung Red Wings hero was…
Probably the team’s tailor for keeping all of the injured players nattily attired. On the ice, it was Justin Abdelkader, who looked like he had plenty of energy and was the most successful forward at keeping the puck in the Dallas zone to help generate sustained pressure.