Tonight the Detroit Red Wings returned home to the city of Detroit and to the Joe Louis Arena after completing a successful 5 game Western Conference road trip to face the New York Rangers. Tonight would also mark the return of Henrik Zetterberg as well as the debuts of the newly acquired Marek Zidlicky and Erik Cole.
As soon as the first puck was dropped the Detroit fans showed their appreciation for having their boys back on home ice by starting a “Let’s Go Red Wings” chant. It was clear in the first few minutes that the Rangers were definitely the quicker team. The Rangers had several odd-man rush opportunities early on in the game but luckily two were called offside and Jimmy Howard was able to stop the other. Just a little over the six-minute mark the Red Wings opened up the scoring after Jonathan Ericsson fanned on a shot from the blue that Henrik Zetterberg was able to pick up infront of the net and make a beautiful no-look pass over to Justin Abdelkader who put the puck behind Cam Talbot.
The Abdelkader goal was followed by some solid fore-checking from the Red Wings. The newly assembled line of Abdelkader/Zetterberg/Cole really cycled the puck well and looked to have some decent chemistry. The Rangers continued to skate hard and had another two-on-one chance that apparently lead to Stephen Weiss getting called for interference even though I never saw the actual penalty take place. Detroit would kill off the Weiss penalty without much trouble from the Rangers.
Shortly after the Weiss penalty ended Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco nearly made it 2-0 but Jurco was unable to put the puck through Talbot’s right pad despite several attempts. The Tatar/Datsyuk/Jurco line would be one of Detroit’s hardest working lines all night long.
The Rangers continued pressure led to Marek Zidlicky getting his first penalty as a Red Wing for holding while trying to contain the surging Rangers in the Detroit zone. The Wings penalty-kill unit played the Zidlicky penalty well but at the tail end of the New York power-play the puck took a bounce off of Kyle Quincey‘s skate and floated in front of the Detroit goal giving Dan Girardi the chance to sneak it past Jimmy Howard and tie the game at one. The first period ended with New York out shooting Detroit 11-9.
The second period started with the aforementioned line of Tatar/Datsyuk/Jurco continuing to make something out of nothing. It really seemed that this line was taking it upon themselves to make a statement. It would be another Detroit turnover in their own zone to Rick Nash that would spark the Rangers offense into taking the reigns of the second period. New York held both the puck and the Red Wings into their own zone for what seemed like an eternity and Detroit looked as if they were on the penalty-kill. Doc Emrick summed it up as only Doc can by saying “Howard and the post are the only things holding them (the Rangers) off.”
After a much-needed zone-clear and stoppage in play the Red Wings picked up their pace and pressure and began to feverishly attack the New York zone. There was a good 3-5 minutes during the middle of the second period where the game really began to feel like a playoff game. Detroit even managed a decent odd-man rush with Nyquist and Sheahan but Nyquist’s shot went wide over Talbot. The second period ended with Detroit being out shot again by New York 27-16.
The game really continued to take on a playoff game feel as the third period progressed. Both New York and Detroit continued to play a concentrated and tight game. Aside from a defensive battle the third period featured some superb goaltending from both Jimmy Howard and Cam Talbot with both making some big and timely saves. Each team had a chance on the power-play early on in the final period but neither was able to capitalize.
With just a little over two minutes left in the third period things got interesting. Justin Abdelkader and Derrick Brassard were called for matching minor penalties which led to 4 on 4 play. With 46 seconds left in the period during the 4 on 4 Gustav Nyquist drew a holding call against Derek Stephan while trying to drive towards the net. The Wings called their timeout and brought out the big-guns for one last effort before the period expired. Detroit had some good looks and chances during the 4 on 3 but Cam Talbot was on his game and saw all the pucks coming at him. The period ended with about one minute of carryover power-play time for the Red Wings in overtime.
It only took Detroit just a little over one minute with the man-advantage to score in overtime. It would be none other than newcomer Marek Zidlicky who would chip the puck up and down the back of Cam Talbot into the back of the net.
The game featured a lot of early mistakes/turnovers that this Red Wings team has become somewhat known for this season but it also featured some late resilience/heroics that this Red Wings team has also become known for. Both teams played a high level of late-season competitive hockey that one would expect from two Original Six teams like Detroit and New York. The goaltending was impressive and timely at both ends of the ice tonight and a big reason that this game went into overtime.
The two “new” Wings Cole and Zidlicky looked comfortable in their new lines and seemed right at home wearing the Winged Wheel. Cole fit in well with Abbey and Hank and provided some solid fore-checking and size. Zidlicky looked comfortable moving the puck out of the zone alongside Brendan Smith and he scored the game-winner. Not a bad first game at all. I was happy when I heard that we had signed these two on Monday and I’m just as happy watching them tonight.
There’s a lot to look forward to in our push for our 24th consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff appearance and tonight was just a taste. Don’t Stop Believin’ Hockeytown!