Despite NBC Sports Network’s efforts at trying to sell it as one, there hasn’t really been much of a rivalry between the Detroit Red Wings and the Minnesota Wild. Part of the reason is that they aren’t in the same division, and the other part is that the Wild haven’t been competitive when visiting Joe Louis Arena, losing every regulation game there since 2006.
Scratch that second part after Wednesday night. The Wild took the lead just 2:04 into the game on the first of Devin Setoguchi‘s two goals, then cruised to a 4-2 victory over the Red Wings. Detroit outshot Minnesota 38-19 but was equal parts sloppy and unlucky on the night, and Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom was solid in net.
The Red Wings peppered Backstrom with 10 shots over two power play chances in the first period, but Setoguchi’s early strike was the only goal going into the first break. Minnesota added to its lead after Niklas Kronwall was called for a double minor for a thunderous hit on Charlie Coyle that also caught him with a high stick. Though the Red Wings killed off the first three-plus minutes, they were caught sleeping on a give-and-go between Kyle Brodziak and Jared Spurgeon that Brodziak finished to put his team up 2-0.
Gustav Nyquist got one back for the home team by beating Backstrom with a backhand for his first goal of 2013 at the 9:09 mark of the second. But Mikko Koivu and Setoguchi both scored before the second stanza was over, effectively sealing up the game for the Wild.
Drew Miller scored a late goal on the power play off an assist from Jordin Tootoo as Mike Babcock chose to let his fourth liners see some time with the man advantage. Those forwards were also involved with a call in the first period that may have changed the flow of the game. Tootoo threw a high puck into the Wild slot that ended up behind Backstrom, but it was ruled no goal because Miller hit it with a high stick. Replays showed that Minnesota’s Danny Heatley actually hit it with his glove and it may never have touched Miller’s stick, but the play was not reviewable.
Detroit remains in seventh place in the Western Conference with the loss, but a difficult stretch of games awaits before the end of the month. The Red Wings have consecutive games at red hot Anaheim, plus visits to Phoenix and San Jose. They return to the Joe after that, but their first guests will be the NHL’s top team, the Chicago Blackhawks.
There’s another month of hockey to play after that, but if the Red Wings fail to make the playoffs, they may look back on home losses like the one to the Wild and see a big reason why.
The game was over when…
The Wings broke down late in Kronwall’s double minor. The PK unit looked pretty solid before that, but no one followed Brodziak into the slot on what turned into a shockingly easy set-up for Spurgeon. On the opening goal, Brian Lashoff at least tried to get to Setoguchi. No one appeared to be doing the same when Brodziak scored.
The unsung Red Wings hero was…
I’ll give the nod to Tootoo for almost ending up with a goal and an assist, all because he just threw the puck in the direction of the net. Yes, you don’t want guys like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg doing that, but for the less skilled forwards, it’s never a bad idea to get it toward the crease and see what happens.