Red Wings Win Renewed Rivalry Game, Down Avalanche 3-0


We all learned a few things from the Detroit Red Wings’ trip to visit their old foes the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. We found out the Pepsi Center is still inhabited by a bunch of Red Wings fans. We discovered a bit of that  chippy spirit from 15-20 years ago still exists, even in Nathan MacKinnon. We saw that a hand pass can deflect off an opposing player and still be a hand pass, and that it’s possible for a game coached by Patrick Roy to feature more empty net goals than goals scored with a goalie in the net.

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The important thing is that all that teaching was during the course of a 3-0 Detroit win. Justin Abdelkader‘s second period power play goal was the only offense required, as Petr Mrazek made 28 saves to record his first shutout of the season.

As the NBCSN announcers remarked, it’s possible Roy was showing old game tapes to his players from when the rivalry between the two teams was in full bloom. How else to explain MacKinnon dropping the gloves (unsurprisingly, his first career fighting major) to take on the much larger Jonathan Ericsson just 44 seconds into the game? Not exactly a classic hockey donnybrook, but interesting nonetheless.

Colorado played fast and chippy for the rest of the first period, which nearly paid off with a goal 6:09 in. But after a conference among the officials, the tally was waved off, as it was ruled that Nick Holden made a hand pass even though the puck bounced off of Kyle Quincey‘s skate on its way back to a teammate.

Mrazek stood strong and the PK unit killed off two Avs advantages before the Red Wings’ league-leading power play unit got a chance to operate. And it needed only 38 seconds to find the net, with Henrik Zetterberg finding Abdelkader down low with enough time to shoot and smack his own rebound by Semyon Varlamov.

With Mrazek and Varlamov taking turns making impressive stops, it was still 1-0 late in the third. Yet it was still early for pulling the goalie for any coach not named Roy, who sent Varlamov off for an extra attacker with just over three minutes remaining. His trademark tactic backfired, with Darren Helm skating away after a MacKinnon turnover for the first empty-netter, and Luke Glendening adding another just for good measure.

The victory makes Detroit 8-1-0 in its last nine games, and while nearly everything is clicking at the moment, this run does raise an interesting question about Mrazek. With Jonas Gustavsson already back and Jimmy Howard expected to return, it appears the reward for his mostly excellent play is an all expenses paid trip back to Grand Rapids. At least the Red Wings know that if injuries strike again, Mrazek is capable of holding down the fort.

The game was over when …

The Avs failed to score with the goalie pulled. Colorado had managed to score with the extra attacker four of the last five times it had to resort to that move, but the players didn’t really get some good pressure on Detroit until after Helm had already scored. That was too late.

The unsung Red Wings hero was …

In a break from tradition, I’m giving it to the fans this time. It wasn’t quite like a game at the Joe, but man, the Red Wings fans in attendance were really loud. It’s great to see but has to rankle the Avs just a bit, even if this wasn’t the first time that happened.

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