Tonight the Detroit Red Wings faced a big challenge in their push for a 23rd consecutive post-season appearance in the form of the red-hot Boston Bruins. The Bruins came into Joe Louis Arena tonight on a 9 road game winning streak and the Red Wings looked to continue their own winning ways on home ice.
The first highlight of the game came when Jimmy Howard made a huge save on a Patrice Bergeron breakaway off of a stretch pass from Torey Krug. On the Detroit side of things Gustav Nyquist displayed some great back-checking skills, one such moment led to the Wings first real offensive sequence of the game. Boston’s defense had definitely done their homework on Nyquist and did a great job of shutting him down most of the first period.
During a TV timeout Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was quoted as saying that his team was being “outworked” by Boston and it was true. Detroit’s offense had barely challenged Tuukka Rask at the other end of the ice up to this point. Shortly after Babcock’s comments about his team, Gustav Nyquist was called for holding, giving Boston’s 3rd ranked power play their first opportunity of the game.
With 50 seconds left in the Nyquist power play, the Red Wings caught a huge break as Torey Krug’s slap shot goal from the blue-line was waved off due to some questionable goaltender-interference from Zdeno Chara on Jimmy Howard. The Wings good fortune wouldn’t last long though as Johnny Boychuck ripped a long-range bomb behind Howard shortly after Krug’s goal was called back putting the Bruins up 1-0. The Red Wings were lucky to go into the dressing room at the end of the first only being down by 1 goal as they were outshot in the opening period 11-4.
Just under 3 minutes into the second period, Detroit got their first chance on the power play with Patrice Bergeron being called for Hooking against Tatar as he displayed some fancy puck possession through the slot in front of Rask. Boston played a strong penalty kill game and was able to stifle most of Detroit’s chances but as the final seconds ticked off of the penalty Tomas Tatar was able to bury a beautiful snap shot just over Rask’s right side as the Detroit loyal urged him to “Shoot!”. It was later decided that the goal had gone in after the penalty had expired but regardless the Wings had tied the game.
Tatar’s goal had riled the Joe Louis Arena crowd into a “Let’s go Red Wings!” chant and it was obvious both teams were feeding off of the new-found energy in the game. Around the 7 minute mark Brian Lashoff was called for Holding against Chris Kelly as Kelly skated towards the net. Seemingly still feeding off of Tatar’s goal the Red Wings were able to kill off the Lashoff penalty and even got a couple of quality short-handed chances from Darren Helm and Kyle Quincey. The Red Wings were penalized two more times in the second period, the first came after Tomas Jurco was called for Boarding Johnny Boychuck (who visibly let Jurco knew he disapproved of the hit), the second came with only 3 seconds left in the period as Darren Helm was called for Hooking. Again the Wings were badly outhsot by the Bruins at the end of the period, this time 14-7.
Right before the third and final period started something magical happened, something that only happens in Detroit around this time of year, an octopus flew through the air and landed on the ice of the Joe Louis Arena. The first octopus of the year proved to be the luck the Red Wings needed. Despite giving up an early power play goal on the Darren Helm Hooking penalty that carried over from the previous period and the continued lack of quality scoring chances allowed by stingy Boston defense, the third period would favor the Red Wings.
The first half of the third was completely controlled by Boston. Chara and the rest of the Bruins continued to shut down Gustav Nyquist and the rest of the Detroit goal scorers. The Red Wings had a couple of chances but were mainly limited to “one and done” chances with not a lot of second opportunities being giving up by Tuukka Rask. Jimmy Howard kept the Wings in the game, the entire game. The Bruins had several missed chances but Jimmy was the one who kept Detroit in the fight, not just in the final twenty minutes but rather the entire 60 minutes.
It was with 9 minutes left in the game when the luck of the octopus started to really kick in. Niklas Kronwall ripped a shot from the blue-line into a crowd in front of Tukka Rask, players from both teams hacked and whacked trying to free/find the elusive puck when it dropped down from its hiding spot in the equipment of Anthony Meszaros. In the ensuing melee that the falling puck created, Tomas Tatar made a nice soccer-like pass with his skate to Tomas Jurco who was able to put the puck in the net behind Rask. The Wings had tied it up at 2 goals apiece and the crowd went wild.
The Bruins continued to push back hard but Detroit was able to feed off of the momentum and did not allow Boston to gain much ground back. Less than two minutes after Jurco’s thrilling game-tying goal it was time for none other than Gustav Nyquist to break out (and away) and remind everybody of why he has become one of the hottest players in the NHL since the Olympic break.
Nyquist, who had back-checkd in Datsyukian fashion all night long, picked Carl Soderberg‘s pocket just as he crossed over into the Detroit zone and quickly turned around and hit center ice with a huge burst of speed. Just over center ice Nyquist came face to face with the man who had shut him down all night long, Zdeno Chara, but this time Gustav would not be contained. Nyquist was able to shift into next gear and easily blew around Chara leaving nobody to stop him from putting the puck over and behind the shoulder of Rask. It would be Nquist’s only shot on goal the entire game.
With the Red Wings up 3-2 on home ice and with the support of 20,000 fanatical Detroit hockey fans, the Bruins were unable to mount a comeback and the Red Wings would go onto to beat Boston and continue to improve their chances of making the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive year.
Going into tonight’s game I would’ve have been happy just earning 1 point and losing in overtime, heck, halfway through the third period I would have still been happy with that outcome, but this Red Wings team continues defy all the laws of “what should happen”. This team of young and dynamic players has come to embrace and represent everything that made me fall in love with the Detroit Red Wings almost 20 years ago. Never giving up, grinding it out and always believing in being able to accomplish unbelievable. Despite being outshot and outplayed by one the best teams in the NHL, Mike Babcock and the Red Wings still found a way to get the job done.
It’s a great and exciting time to be a Red Wings fan, but I don’t think I have to tell you that.
Goodnight and keep on believing in 23.