Usually I try to get these game recaps to the 500-word mark. The visit the Detroit Red Wings just paid to the New York Rangers made that a bit difficult.
That’s because Jimmy Howard and Henrik Lundqvist put on an absolute goaltending showcase on Thursday night. The result was that rarest of occurrences (at least in the regular season): a low-scoring game that was still exciting. Unfortunately, the home team was the one that caught the break, and the Red Wings left Madison Square Garden with a 1-0 loss.
The tone was set early, as the Wings took some time to find their legs and Howard faced plenty of rubber from the get-go. Yet Detroit enjoyed two power plays in the opening frame, and Lundqvist managed to turn away a pair of good looks from Tomas Jurco as well as late chances by Justin Abdelkader and Riley Sheahan.
New York got its own pair of man advantages in the second but couldn’t get its sixth-ranked power play untracked. In-between, Howard robbed Carl Hagelin with a nifty split, and he got help from Kyle Quincey late to sweep away a puck that had gone behind him and through the crease.
The Red Wings were outshot 35-25 through 40 minutes, but they tested Lundqvist again early in the third period. Their best pressure saw Danny DeKeyser unleash a thunderous slap shot and Jurco wriggle free for a wraparound attempt, but King Henrik answered both challenges.
Ultimately, the game had the feel of one that would be decided by one lucky bounce, and the Rangers got it at the 14:02 mark. After a nice play to gain the zone, Mats Zuccarello took a return pass from Derick Brassard and saw his centering pass hop off the stick of Brian Lashoff and over the right leg of Howard.
One last chance to tie things up came in the closing second with Howard pulled. Gustav Nyquist unleashed a shot that caromed off the list and hit Lundqvist in the back, but he was able to throw his arm behind him and smother the puck to preserve his shutout.
Mike Babcock certainly doesn’t seem to be the “moral victory” type, but he can’t be too upset with the effort of a team that managed 38 shots on goal despite missing six of its top nine scorers. He also can’t fault Howard, who was simply spectacular.
It’s just that Lundqvist was just as good, plus a little bit luckier too.
The game was over when…
That Nyquist shot found the iron and not the net. On a night when it appeared no shot was going to beat either goalie clean, that one did. Only it didn’t go across the line the first time or after hitting Lundqvist, and that was that.
The unsung Red Wings hero was…