John Tortorella made his return to the Vancouver Canucks tonight, and he had claimed his team had ‘forgotten how to defend” and the first period reflected that. The Red Wings had a couple of real nice stretch passes that turned into decent attempts but nothing that really turned into a scoring chance. Detroit took two penalties in the first period and was outshot by the Cancucks but only 8-7.
Jonas Gustavsson started this game but Jimmy Howard took over at the start of the second period. We all assumed he had a groin issue, but Fox Sports Detroit later informed us it was due to dizziness (never a good sign). Even more interestingly, it didn’t appear to be due to any sort of contact in the first period.
Justin Abdelkader took the initiative to strengthen the Red Wings’ figurative groin by Lack after bouncing the puck off a Cancuck’s glove. The slightly deflected shot sailed over Lack’s blocker side to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. A lucky bounce no doubt (Abdelkader was standing above the circles when he took the shot) but sometimes you have to be lucky to be good. This was the second time Detroit scored first in their last 13 games.
Jakub Kindl worked really hard this period to become the new Kyle Quincy. He hooked David Booth, in the middle of a breakaway, three different ways, but Jimmy Howard, despite having played just four minutes and coming in cold, shut the door on Booth, keeping the game from being tied. The Joe Louis Arena faithful rewarded this effort with a “Jim-my Ho-ward” chant. Howard is now 11 for 16 in his NHL career for penalty shots.
The game continued to ramp up in intensity and controversy. Vancouver got to poke away at the puck about 5 seconds after Howard had it covered. Eddie Lack stopped a scoring chance by flopping and attempting to swim on frozen water. Michigan outcast Ryan Kesler flopped down over the puck after he lost a faceoff. Fortunately Detroit got it’s own powerplay chances with a penalty to Jason Garrison and it turned to a Detroit a 5 on 3 after a holding penalty to Zack Kassian. Lots of posts were hit, a time out was used by Babcock, but alas the score remained 1-0.
I usually say that if you can’t score on a 5 on 3 you don’t deserve to win. Detroit seems to do this so often, however, I should probably stop saying it. Kindl ran a defender into Howard, which is a smart thing to do with a potentially injured goalie I guess, and the Canucks continued to take liberties with Howard with no call from any referee to be found. Detroit continued to show that good teams adapt and overcome in these situations and dominated the possession for the remainder of the period. (To be fair, Quincy got away with what could have very well been interference as well). Despite the intensity and powerplay opportunities, Vancouver outshot Detroit 13-12.
Vancouver had it’s scoring chances in the third, especially from a power play after Tomas Jurco caught disowned Michigander Ryan Kesler with a gruesome knee-on-knee hit. Vancouver’s chances also included a horrendous defensive miscue by Detroit’s top pair of Ericsson and Kronwall, but the house of cards that is the one goal lead remained through the third. Detroit got called for too many men with four and a half minutes left. Ryan Kesler took out a moster hit on Kronwall, no doubt looking for revenge from previous years, and Jonathan Ericsson took exception. The two went off for coinciding minors.
Darren Helm had a beautiful short-handed breakaway but he just couldn’t bury it. Eddie Lack made a solid save worthy of being first star in a game even if his team lost. John Tortorella pulled Lack to the bench with about a minute and a half left. Tomas Tatar took this opportunity to continue Detroit’s night-long tradition of hitting the post without scoring a goal. Alexander Burrows took a penalty for cross-checking Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader netted his second of the night, and Detroit took home a 2-0 victory in a game that could have easily been 5-2 had it not been for absurdly impressive goaltending. Detroit’s strong third period left the final shot count at 30-24 in favor of Detroit.
Of note: This was Detroit’s last home game before the Olympics. They played “Don’t Stop Believing” followed up by “All I Do is Win” at the end of the game and I haven’t heard that one in a while. Detroit travels to Florida next to face the Panthers on Thursday night.