One did what he’s always done, tormenting opposing players by swiping the puck right off their sticks. The other did what he’s become increasingly known for, showing off his nose for the net to revive the Detroit Red Wings’ struggling power play.
On a night when the Los Angeles Kings were without two of their top offensive stars, Pavel Datsyuk and Gustav Nyquist provided more then enough offense to ensure the fans at Joe Louis Arena went home happy on Halloween. The two men combined for three first period goals as the Red Wings raced out to a 4-0 lead, and Datsyuk added an empty netter that deflated a Kings rally and sealed up a 5-2 Detroit victory.
Scoring with the man advantage had been a problem for the Wings, who entered the night just 3-for-34 on the season. Nyquist solved that problem early, finishing a bang-bang passing play with Henrik Zetterberg 5:51 in, then converting a rebound off the back boards just under six minutes later. Those tallies were sandwiched around a classic Datsyuk steal, and his centering pass bounced off Jake Muzzin and past a helpless Jonathan Quick.
Tomas Tatar also scored before the first period ended 1:52 early thanks to broken glass behind the Detroit net. The defending Stanley Cup champs, playing without Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar, got one back in the second after Jimmy Howard tried to smother the puck only to see Mike Richards knock it out from under him and get it to Alec Martinez for his first goal of the season.
The third period turned more tense than anyone could have suspected early on. Already leading the NHL in shorthanded goals, the Kings got another one after a sloppy exchange between Howard and Zetteberg allowed L.A. to send the puck to the point and give Tyler Tofoli an easy rebound chance to draw the visitors to within two. On the same Red Wings power play, Danny DeKeyser was called for tripping Dustin Brown on a breakaway, though Howard was able to stop his relatively benign penalty shot.
The Kings pulled quick with nearly 2:30 left in regulation, but Datsyuk cashed in on a nice string of passes from Justin Abdelkader and Zetterberg to prevent any late drama.
Datsyuk and Nyquist both finished with three-point nights, while Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall each picked up a pair of assists. Howard stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced, including a big save on Toffoli late in the second period that could have made for an even more nerve-wracking finish.
As games with the Kings often do, things got physical on more than once occasion, with Darren Helm the recipient of several big (and questionable) hits. Nor did the Red Wings emerge from the game unscathed, as defenseman Kyle Quincey left the game in the first period with a lower body injury and did not return.
Still, the win means that Detroit finishes October 6-2-2 in its first 10 games, better than most fans and nearly every NHL journalist would have predicted given the caliber of its opposition. If the quest for a 24th straight playoff birth is successful, it may turn out that this start was as important as any other part of the journey.
The game was over when …
Nyquist sparked the power play early on. The Goose turned out to be the cure to what was ailing the PP unit, and both of his goals resulted from being exactly where he needed to be. The outcome would still have been in doubt if not for some stellar work from Howard when the Kings were making their push, but had the Wings not cashed in on those early man advantages, this would have been a much different contest.
The unsung Red Wings hero was …
We’ll go with Jonathan Ericsson tonight. Everyone knows the Red Wings don’t really do fighting in most circumstances, but after Helm smashed into the boards by Jordan Nolan, Ericsson went rushing to the forward’s aid, not really dropping the gloves but at least showing that those kinds of hits won’t go completely unchallenged.
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