When I was but a wee Detroit Red Wings fan, games against the Edmonton Oilers typically meant high-flying offensive affairs.
For multiple reasons, the current squads are nothing like those teams of old, and the Red Wings can’t afford the luxury of winning pretty. They simply need to grab two points against teams like the Oilers any way they can, and if that means surviving a horrific mistake and winning in a shootout, so be it.
The cover-your-eyes awful play was made by Brendan Smith, gifting the visiting Oilers a way back into a tight, low-scoring game Friday night at Joe Louis Arena. That meant another in a seemingly endless number of games decided by a shootout, but Tomas Tatar and Jimmy Howard made sure it turned out alright, helping Detroit escape with a 2-1 win.
Despite being outshot 8-6 in the opening period, the remnants of the Kid Line (with Tomas Jurco currently out injured) combined to give the Wings the lead. Tatar made a nice play behind the Edmonton net, and his spinning pass found Riley Sheahan right outside the crease to beat Viktor Fasth from close range for his fifth goal of the season.
That lead held up through a statistically even second frame thanks to solid work in net by Howard and Fasth. They also got help when they needed it, especially when Brian Lashoff made a diving play to nullify a near break-in by Edmonton’s Taylor Hall.
It was still 1-0 int he third period when Smith’s gaffe changed the complexion of the game. His backhand pass deep in the Detroit zone went right on the tape of Ryan Smyth in the right circle, and the veteran beat a helpless Howard to knot things up 1-1 with 11:17 left in regulation.
Both teams had power plays before the end of the third, and the Red Wings even got a 4-on-3 advantage in overtime thanks to a delay of game call on Martin Marincin. But this one seemed destined for a shootout, a feeling Detroit fans know all too well.
The Oilers had the stats on their side, sending Jordan Eberle, David Perron and Hall at Howard. He managed to shut the door on all of them — the first time a goalie has prevented Eberle from scoring during a shootout this season – and Tatar’s nifty goal cemented the two points for the home team.
Howard made 21 saves on 22 shots, remaining perfect in the 10 career games he’s played against the Oilers. Rookie Teemu Pulkkinen made his NHL debut wearing number 56, showcasing his quick shot and even taking out Perron with a nice hip check.
The victory temporarily pulls Detroit even with Philadelphia for the second wild card spot in the East, though the Flyers have a game in hand and are well ahead in the ROW (regulation and overtime wins) column that would break a tie between them. Washington and New Jersey are also very much in the hunt, meaning the Red Wings need to win BDP-style the rest of the way: by any means necessary.
The game was over when …
Howard managed to stop Hall on the final shootout attempt. The Red Wings’ number one goalie hasn’t had much success in the skills competitions this season, but he needs to put those other games behind him and just worry about the present, as the injury-ravaged team in front of him is likely to be playing in more shootouts down the stretch. He came through on Friday, and that’s all that matters.
The unsung Red Wings hero was …
Danny DeKeyser, who took a skate to the face that required stitches, returned to action, blocked three shots and was a +1. He even came to the defense of a teammate involved in a scrum at the end of the first period, which isn’t really his forte but was still good to see.