The battle of the top two offensive teams in the NHL didn’t disappoint, as the Thrashers and Wings accumulated 11 goals. The Wings overtook the Thrashers in overtime on a pretty give play from Whitney to Zetterberg, who stuffed it in upstairs. The Wings finally got a powerplay goal, after going dry in their past 20-some chances. Chelios returned to the ice tonight from a sprained knee. Cujo got the start.
In the first period, there was no scoring. Shots on goal were pretty even at 11-9 in Detroit’s favor. The best part was the Shanahan/Exelby fight Shanny started to get back at Exelby for taking shots at Yzerman.
In the second period, the offensive powers exploded on the ice, with 6 goals total. Detroit got into the scoring first on a neat Mathieu Schneider goal where he took a point shot, and followed through to stuff in the rebound when Maltby couldn’t reach it from his knees. It was a great effort by Schneider. Draper and Maltby got the assists. 1-0 Wings. Then Tomas Holmstrom saved Hull’s butt after Hull missed a wide open net by following up the gaffe with a goal. The Hull miss ended up being the first-assist “pass” on the play. I’d like a Hull quote on that one. Holmstrom’s goal was a trademark stuff pointblank on Thrasher goaltender Pasi Nurminen. Datsyuk and Hull got the assists. 2-0 Wings. Then ex-Wing Slava Kozlov blasted a shot from the point, which was tipped several times, and beat Cujo. The goal was credited to Kozlov, but I believe it was taken away and given to one of the guys who created the redirections on the shot. 2-1 Wings. Then Ray Whitney got a goal from Shanahan and Kronvall. I’d say more, but I don’t remember the play. I guess it’s a luxury not being able to remember a Wings goal, because, for me, it means there was a lot of offense!! 3-1 Wings. Then the Thrashers stormed back with goals from Ronald Petrovicky and Zdenek Blatny, making it a tie game at three apiece.
The Thrashers opened the third period on fire, getting a goal from Ilya Kovalchuk, putting him at second in the league in points at 43 after his 3 point night. Robert Lang is first with 44 and Datsyuk is tied with Naslund at 42. The goal made it 4-3 Atlanta, stunning the homecrowd. Luckily, the Wings weren’t done. On the powerplay, Zetterberg got it done with a between-the-circles goal fed by a neat backpass from Datsyuk. Hull got the second assist. Game tied 4-4. Then the Irish Jig was played as Shanahan got a pointblank tip shot over Nurminen’s stick fed by Zetterberg. It finished off Shanny’s Gordie Howe hat-trick, with a goal, assist, and fight on the night. Fischer got the second assist. 5-4 Wings. The Joe Lewis Arena homecrowd thought the game was in the bag with 8 minutes remaining, but Daniel Tjarnqvist got the equalizer to send the game to overtime. The remaining minutes had both teams playing relatively conservative to preserve the all-important point.
Overtime was pretty open, as the game was against the non-Conference Thrashers, so the teams took in the attitude that they had nothing to lose and everything to gain in getting that second point. Losing in overtime wouldn’t be that bad, as giving a point to a non-conference team is no big deal. Anyways, 4-on-4 overtime play commenced, and Schneider got the puck up-ice to Whitney, who gained control and went up with Zetterberg on a 2-on-1 rush. Whitney passed the puck over to Zetterberg, and Henrik made a great shot to give Detroit a 6-5 victory and two-points to give the Wings more breathing room from St Louis in the Central Division standings. Wings 6-5.
It was a scary moment when the skate of a Thrasher caught Pasi Nurminen on the back of the neck, creating a bloody gash. Luckily, it wasn’t deep and he was quickly bandaged and ready to play. While waiting as Nurminen laid on the ice, the crowd booed a little, probably not realizing the severity of the situation and thinking that he was just bluffing to get a breather in the huge offensive clash, certainly not a goaltender’s game.
The Wings really took it to Nurminen, outshooting Atlanta 44-27, but more importantly in the third period when the game was on the line: 14-4. And the powerplay is hopefully revived, with the Wings finally organizing a successful effort.
Mickey Remond wore his trademark flannel suite tonight, as the Fox Sports Net staff was all dressed up for the New Years Eve game.
Overall, the biggest impression I got from this game is that the Wings were playing with much more chemistry than they had in the four previous games, where they only had 4 goals total. Allowing 5 goals is usually defensive suicide, but against the Thrashers, that is almost to be expected. The Thrashers, unlike other expansion teams, are willing to play an open game rather than a I’ll-wait-until-you-mess-up style. And that’s because they have offense and don’t want to suppress it. The Wings played really well tonight and brought in the New Year with an entertaining victory. And the Wings continue to roll at home. We just need Hull to break out of his goal slump, but he still was a strong contributor with two assists tonight.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!