Gut Check Passed: Detroit Red Wings Edge St. Louis Blues 2-1 In OT


Sunday’s matinée against the St. Louis Blues just felt like one of those games where we would learn something about the Detroit Red Wings. With Pavel Datsyuk out for his third straight game — both losses — and multiple teams closing on their playoff spot, could the Red Wings respond against one of the best teams in the NHL?

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Happily, the answer was yes. Despite going down 1-0 halfway through the second period, Detroit rode some strong goaltending by Jimmy Howard to stay in the game. And given enough power play chances, the Red Wings finally came through, with Justin Abdelkader jamming home a rebound in overtime for a dramatic and much-needed 2-1 victory.

The call on Patrik Berglund that sent him to the box late in the third period gave Detroit its sixth man advantage of a game that felt like the two teams were still divisional rivals. They combined for 36 minutes of penalties in the final frame alone, which included an entertaining fight between Drew Miller and Petteri Lindbohm.

It was fitting that Abdelkader was the overtime hero, as he easily led the Red Wings with seven shots on goal and found the iron on two other occasions. The game-winner was set up on a nice play by Niklas Kronwall, who faked shooting before sliding the puck to Marek Zidlicky. His shot was saved by Jake Allen, but Abdelkader was able to dig out the rebound and slide it home for his 20th goal of the season right before his stick broke.

Abdelkader also assisted on the goal that tied the game just 24 seconds after the second intermission. After his shot hit the Blues’ Chris Butler in the face, Cole cruised through the slot and was able to sweep the puck over Allen’s shoulder for his 21st tally and fourth of the season for Detroit.

Howard did most of the rest of the heavy lifting, covering up for his teammates on a continuous string of turnovers. The Red Wings coughed up the puck nine times to their opponents’ zero through two periods, but their goalie was up to the task, beaten only by an Alexander Steen shot on the power play that found its way through a gaggle of players in front of his net.

The win temporarily gets Detroit some breathing room in the Atlantic Division race, moving it five points clear of Boston with a game in hand. This upcoming week could define the team’s playoff possibilities even more, with four games on the schedule, three of them at home.

If the Red Wings can turn a few more gutty performances like this one, they should be able to reach the postseason without too much hand-wringing from fans down the stretch.

The game was over when … 

Berglund committed his second offensive zone penalty of the game in a crucial situation. I used to get yelled at playing roller hockey for trying too hard and taking dumb calls in the process, and this was roughly the same thing at a professional level. The Blues did a nice job on the PK most of the game, but giving the Red Wings seven chances is playing with fire, and it burned St. Louis.

The unsung Red Wings hero was …

Let’s give some credit to Luke Glendening, who led the team in hits and killed penalties as usual. Even better, he was one of the few Detroit forwards not to have a giveaway on a day when there were plenty.

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