To say that the Red Wings home-and-home series versus the Minnesota Wild this weekend is critical would be an understatement. After winning two huge consecutive games on home ice against Toronto and Pittsburgh the Red Wings came into today’s game looking for their first road win in 4 games against a Minnesota team just as desperate to make the playoffs as themselves. It was also announced just before the game that Detroit’s list of wounded Wings would be one name shorter with Darren Helm being cleared to return to action.
The first few minutes of play featured some conservative/smart hockey with both teams feeling each other out. Around the four-minute mark Red Wings fans collectively held their breath as Niklas Kronwall fell awkwardly into the boards behind the net after losing an edge and simultaneously being hit by Mikko Koivu. It was clear to see Kronwall was foggy and briefly shaken up as he was helped off the ice. The thought of losing Ericsson and Kronwall in the same week seemed a cruel joke at the time but the hockey gods showed mercy on Detroit and Kronner would return a few shifts later.
Shortly after the Kronwall incident Kyle Quincey was called for a questionable interference call on Zach Parise which led to Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu scoring the game’s first goal on the ensuing power play. It wasn’t long after Koivu’s goal that things got physical between the two teams. Tomas Tatar and Nate Prosser were both called for minor penalties for an altercation behind the net that led to two minutes of 4 on 4 hockey. Tatar’s penalty and physical play was full endorsed by Mickey Redmond who I might add was on broadcasting fire this afternoon.
The Red Wings got their first power play opportunity of the game after Ryan Suter was called for Slashing Darren Helm. Believe it or not it didn’t take Detroit long to score after Brendan Smith quickly backhanded an off the post shot by Tatar. As the first period wound to a close Jimmy Howard made a couple of big saves as the final seconds ticked away.
The first half of the second period was fairly uneventful with Mickey Redmond and Ken Daniels spending a good chunk of time discussing the NHL Draft and more specifically Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters. As somebody who grew up in Erie and an Otters fan it was a nice little treat for me personally but I digress. Clayton Stoner was penalized for high-sticking Tatar with about three and half minutes left in the period which led to a power play goal by David Legwand after a beautiful set up by Sheahan and Kindl. Detroit’s special teams play was a well oiled machine this afternoon on both the penalty-kill and the power-play.
The final 20 minutes of hockey has statistically not been very good for Detroit this season and today’s didn’t start any better. Just 15 seconds into the third Charlie Coyle tied the game at 2 after scoring on a penalty shot after being tripped by Johan Franzen. After Coyle’s goal the Red Wings just didn’t seem to have the jump that they did in the previous 40 minutes of play. It wasn’t until Landon Ferraro and Cory Emmerton broke out on a failed 2 on 1 that Detroit started to show signs of life.
Around the 5 minute mark Gustav Nyquist put on his cape and once again played hero of the day as he scored what would be the game winner and his team leading 21st goal of the year on a beautiful wrist shot. Nyquist continues to score big goals and now has 5 goals in his last 4 games. The Wings would have went up 4-2 shortly after but Johan Franzen had a goal called back due to “goaltender interference” (notice the quotations).
Now it wouldn’t be a Detroit Red Wings game without a late game penalty to keep things interesting and today it was Kronwall being called for holding with just under three and a half minutes left. Once again Detroit’s penalty-kill unit was forced to close the game in dramatic fashion and they did just that. Minnesota pulled Darcy Kuemper while on the power play and forced the Red Wings to kill off a 6 on 4 attack. Luke Glendening nearly tallied his first goal of the year on a long empty net shot but the puck went just wide of the net.
For the third straight game the Red Wings have played as a team, got the victory and managed to get valuable points despite their long list of injured players/stars. It’s an extremely exciting time to be a Detroit Red Wings fan as the team continues to defy critics and fight for a 23 consecutive playoff appearance.
Enjoy the night citizens of Hockeytown and don’t stop believing!