Sometimes when an NHL team generates a lot of chances without anything to show on the scoreboard, it can let a winnable game get away from it. The Detroit Red Wings could have done that against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon, but showed some grit to gut out a close win instead.
Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall both scored power play goals, and the Wings killed off seven of eight Oilers penalties to secure a hard fought 2-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena. Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin made his first start of the season and turned away 28 of 30 shots he faced to keep the outcome in doubt all the way to the final horn.
Detroit carried the play in the early going, with Damien Brunner getting the best of the early chances in a relatively quiet first period. Khabibulin rose up to the challenge when called upon, and the Wings had nothing to show for their initial burst.
Special teams took over in a choppy second that saw seven minor penalties called. Datsyuk broke through first, firing home while cutting in from Khabibulin’s left at the 8:33 mark. Rookie defenseman Justin Schultz answered late in the period with a nasty wrist shot while Henrik Zetterberg was off for hooking.
The Oilers got two consecutive power plays early in the third period but were unable to convert either one. That proved costly, as Kronwall took a backhand pass from Datsyuk and blasted a point shot for his first goal of the season – and 5oth of his career – with just under 14 minutes left in the final frame.
Edmonton kept things interesting right up to the end, pulling Khabibulin to make it 6-on-4 with just over two minutes to play. But the Wings killed off that unorthodox power play as well, and Johan Franzen drew a hooking call right after leaving the box that essentially sealed up the win.
Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, fresh off his first rest of 2013, made 23 saves on 24 shots. The Red Wings also dominated the Oilers (who have several injured centers) in the faceoff circle, winning 33 of 50 draws.
The victory moves the Wings to 6-4-1 and gives them their first two-game winning streak of the season. But they get almost no time to rest, as they host the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings at 12:30 on Sunday afternoon.
The game was over when…
Detroit dug down to kill off 1:07 of 5-on-3 time early in the third period. The Oilers terrific collection of young talent didn’t even get a shot off during that time, a testament to some impressive work by Datsyuk and the rest of the PK unit.
The unsung Red Wings hero was…
I gave some thought to Franzen here, as he was great in front of the net in subtle ways on the power play, but his late closing the hand on the puck penalty almost ended up causing disaster. Instead, I’ll go with Justin Abdelkader, who anchored something of a makeshift line with Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson and actually inspired it to some productive shifts in the sparse 5-on-5 time that played out.