Archive for December, 2006

GameDay: vs. Los Angeles (14-21-5, 33 Pts) 7:00 ET

Tonight is the second of four games this season between these two teams. The Wings won the first meeting, 3-1 on October 16th off goals from Robert Lang (2) and Kris Draper. The teams will face each other again this coming Saturday in LA.

The Kings are 5-7-1 in the month of December and are coming off a 6-4 loss in Calgary on Friday. The loss came a day after they beat the Edmonton Oilers 7-4. Tonight’s game wraps up a three-game road trip for the Kings, who will kick off a four-game homestand on Wednesday with the Blue Jackets.

It looks like Mathieu Garon will be in net for LA tonight. Garon missed 12 games due to a groin injury, according to the AP, and made his return to the ice in the team’s win over the Oilers. Rookie Barry Brust was in net against the Flames.

The Wings have skated to a 10-3-1 record so far this December, a slightly padded record considering six of their games were against the Wild and Blue Jackets. Their last two wins were against those teams, 3-1 over the Wild on Wednesday and 7-4 over the Jackets on Thursday. After tonight, the Wings will play one more home game (Anaheim, Tuesday) before embarking on a five-game road trip to California, Colorado and Arizona.

Dominik Hasek will be in net tonight.

Chris Chelios will sit with a shin injury, but Mikael Samuelsson will return from his groin/hamstring injury.

It’d be a good night for the Wings to get their power play going, as the Kings are 29th in the league on the penalty kill (76.7%), as Carlos Monarrez of the Freep reports.

I won’t be watching the game since I’ll be in Grand Rapids watching the Griffins with Megan and Sarah, so there won’t be any report on it.

12/30 Notes

Update (5:30 PM): Ansar Khan reports that Chris Chelios will not be in the lineup tomorrow night as he is still recovering from a shin injury after a collision in the Minnesota game on Wednesday.Apparently, he could be back Tuesday night against Anaheim (Steve Yzerman Retirement Night).

Khan also says Mikael Samuelsson will in fact return from his groin injury tomorrow night against the Kings. - Matt

… I just finished reading Blood Feud: Detroit Red Wings v. Colorado Avalanche: The Inside Story of Pro Sports’ Nastiest and Best Rivalry of Its Era by Adrian Dater, a sports writer for the Denver Post.It was a quick read for a 264-page book and definitely more balanced than you might expect. Dater’s familiarity with the Colorado end of the story means there is a little disparity between the Avs’ side and that of the Wings, but it’s understandable, given who he’s worked for (the Post) and with (the Avs players) for over a decade. In the end, you get as good a picture of things as you’re likely to, unless a Detroit writer publishes something.

You might be surprised by some of the inside details he provides, such as the relationship between such players as Claude Lemieux and Brendan Shanahan or Mathieu Schneider and Patrick Roy.

At times, though, it reads like a very long piece for the paper, rather than a book. His lengthy bio-chapters on Lemieux, Scotty Bowman, Patrick Roy, and Darren McCarty are interesting but are more like breaks from the story of the rivalry, as is his chapter on the evil spectre of sports writer homerism.

To Dater, there don’t seem to be any villains in the Wings/Avs rivalry. His perspective as a sports writer definitely affects his perception of the men he worked with on a daily basis, usually in contradiction with images we fans have built of certain players. Even some of the biggest “Enemies of Hockeytown” such as Lemieux, Marc Crawford, and Patrick Roy (though to a lesser extent – he’s still pompous, even to Dater) are just “nice guys” whose on-ice personalities in no way reflect their real character. It was definitely a shock to my worldview to read about Claude Lemieux, humanitarian, etc. Dater insider’s look at the Wings may also jar some perceptions about certain Heroes in the rivalry.

Anyway, it’s definitely worth a read, if you have the time. Christy has a review, with some quotes from the book, here. Get it at Amazon here.

The Freep reports that Mikael Samuelsson is apparently expected to make his return to the ice tomorrow night against the Kings. Josh Langfeld was sent back to Grand Rapids yesterday and unless the team calls someone else up, they’ll be short a forward if Sammy isn’t ready.

The News says the Wings “are hoping” Chris Chelios will be ready to return tomorrow.

7-4 Wings: Cleary and Lang are new Euro-twins

This will be another collaborative post by Sarah and myself (Megan). Yeah, we know Cleary’s not European. It’s an expression, people. Gosh.

First, a few notes about Babcock’s pre-game comments. Apparently Chris Chelios was out because he “jammed himself.” We’re not exactly sure what that is supposed to mean, and we’re not sure we want to know. Maybe he stubbed his toe. Lilja played in his stead. Lang was back, and Babcock had this to say about his return:

“Sounds like Langer’s back,” Babcock said. “He was giggling in there. He wasn’t giggling yesterday. He’s got few meals in him, so hopefully he can be back on track.’’

That’s right, Mr. Giggles is ready to go. He proved this with a first-star performance, notching three assists.

For a team that just played last night, the Red Wings looked surprisingly energetic tonight against the division “rival” Columbus Blue Jackets. The start of the game was very fast paced, with Detroit having immediate pressure. This caused the Jackets’ goaltender, Fredrick Norrena, to take a tripping penalty. The resulting power play didn’t look too terrible, with very quick and crisp passing. However, there were few shots and the Wings did not take advantage of this early opportunity.

At 4:31, Dan Cleary scored his first goal of the game. That’s right, his first goal, with more to come. Markov attempted a slapshot from the blueline. The rebound somehow found its way to Lang, who sent it back into the crease, where it came across the stick of Cleary, who shoveled it into the open net. 1-0 Wings.

Nineteen seconds later, Hudler was called for holding the stick that was hooking him. Now Jiri, you know it’s not okay to hold the stick of your opponent, even if just to remove it from your ribs. Lucky for Hudler, Columbus was rather listless on their first power play, failing to give us any reason to worry.

Hudler apparently did some thinking in the box, and he just felt terrible about his crime. So he flew out of the box, snapped up the puck, and rushed in on Norrena, eager to redeem himself. He executed a magnificent deke, and he had Norrena right where he wanted him – falling over. Hudler attempted to pull the puck to his backhand, and got the move perfect – minus one important detail (the puck). He might need a few more lessons with Datsyuk. Almost, but not quite, 2-0 Wings. (For those of you who are now entirely confused and would be more so after the next goal, at this point, it is still 1-0 Wings).

The game went back and forth at a very quick pace. However, Zherdev was apparently a little behind. And now for our Mickey Redmond quote of the night: “He’s thinkin in 8-track tapes right now.” Yes, Mickey is that old, in case you missed the other night when he was forced to ask Ken Daniels if a CD was “that thing that plays movies.” Oh Mickey.

Very soon after this (so soon, in fact, that Sarah missed it as she was writing down the Mickeyism), Cleary got his second of the night, right at the 16 minute mark. Lebda took a slapshot from the blueline, Lang pounced on the rebound (starting to sound familiar?) and passed it toward Cleary. Before it reached him, it was tipped by a Blue Jacket to a more convenient place, where Cleary was able to easily score. Here’s where we ask a question: when the heck did Cleary become our sniper? Not that we’re complaining. We’re just a little curious.

The Blue Jackets were jealous of all the scoring we were doing, so they tried to get in on the action. They tried to be a little too much like us, however, as they tried to score on themselves. They figured it out soon enough, though, and before long they had a scary 3-on-2, forcing Ozzie to come up big.

Columbus started the second the same way they started the first: with a penalty. 1:35 in, Klesla high-sticked Holmstrom and got to spend two minutes in the box. The Wings spent the first thirty seconds of the power play chasing the puck up and down the ice. There were a few high points of the power play, but not enough to make it a good one.

At 4:50, Norrena decided that the Jackets’ only hope was to take Cleary out, and we all know that if you want something done right….As Cleary was chasing down the puck, Norrena left his net, stuck his hip and elbow out, and Dan ended up on his back. Much to our dismay, it was not a penalty, and much to Norrena’s dismay, Cleary got up. Mickey was displeased, which prompted him to give us another lesson. No, he wasn’t telling us to keep our sticks on the ice. Apparently now he’s giving officiating lessons as well. He used this replay as a textbook example of interference.

At 8:45, Zetterberg scored on a play he started himself. He raced down to negate the icing, and the puck was picked up by Lilja to the left of the net, who passed it to Datsyuk in the left circle. Pavel passed it up to Lebda at the blueline, and he found Zetterberg waiting at the right side of the net. Hank had a pretty wide-open shot from that point, and he did not waste it. 3-0 Wings, and still a fun game to watch.

It started to get a little ugly at 12:32, when Hainsey took a shot. There were two Wings and two Jackets in front of Ozzie, and Hainsey shot right at this group. The puck found it’s way into our net, apparently avoiding the other two Jackets, as Hainsey got credit for the goal. 3-1 Wings.

Less than two minutes later, two Wings got entangled, and Vyborny was left alone right in front of Osgood. Chris went for the poke-check, but Vyborny shot high. 3-2 Wings.

At 2:31 of the third, Lang was called for holding. We weren’t watching at this point (sorry about that), but Mickey and Ken were apparently not happy with this call either. Fritsche scored on an ugly play. Kronwall missed a clear, sent the puck straight to Fritsche, who put the puck right between Ozzie and the post. Osgood had relaxed a bit, expecting that Kronwall had the clear. Basically, Kronwall made a sloppy play, and Osgood relaxed a little too soon. 3-3 tie, and the game is now a little less fun to watch. The Wings had surrendered their 3-goal lead. But wait, it gets worse.

At 3:45, Zetterberg were called for imaginary interference- apparently. Again we weren’t watching, and again, we’re very sorry. But Mickey Redmond was sent into fits over this one. Adam Foote took a slapshot from the blueline that went into the net. It was deflected by a Wings stick (it may or may not have been our favorite whipping boy, Andreas Lilja). 4-3 Jackets. Shortly after this, the Wings took their standard too-many-men bench minor. At this point, the game is no longer fun. If we were fans of a lesser stock, we would stop watching. But alas, we seem to enjoy the pain and suffering.

It is for games like this that no matter how bad the outlook is, we keep watching. So we whipped out our left over Big League Chew from the World Series (we had some left over because we forgot to chew it during the last few games of the series- sorry Tigers fans, our bad). Pavel Datsyuk apparently heard us chewing all the way in Columbus, and he responded accordingly. While I was panicking and mourning, Sarah assured me that Datsyuk the save the day. Very soon after that, he took the puck to the left side of the net, and took a beautiful shot that went between Norrena and the post (it took a few replays to figure out exactly how it went in). It was from a horrible angle, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from Datsyuk. 4-4 tie.

Hainsey took Norrena’s lead, and went after the most recent goal-scorer. Hainsey got his stick around Pavel’s ankle, and Dats forced to execute his pass mid-flip. Hank almost scored on the delayed call, but he hit the post. On the power play, our new dream pairing struck again. Kronwall got the puck to Lang, who took the shot. Cleary really wanted his first career hat trick, so he tipped the shot past Norrena. 5-4 Wings. Suddenly, we’re having fun again. I tell you, these games are hard on our stomachs.

Ozzie was forced to make a few big saves to preserve the lead. He was punished for this, as an undetermined Blue Jacket jumped on him. He may have been tripped, he may have fallen. We’re not really sure, as they went to commercial right after this.

At 18:15, Datsyuk decided to give us a little breathing room with another completely random goal. He shot the puck, and Norrena deflected it behind the net. Pavel chased it down and shot it from behind the net. He banked it in off the confused goalie for his second goal of the night (Norrena’s first!). 6-4 Wings, and the game is really fun.

This is where we start chanting for them to pull their goalie. I don’t know why, but I love empty-net goals. There’s nothing real impressive about them, but I love them anyway. With just under two minutes left, Hitchcock finally listened. With the empty net beckoning, Danny Markov took a shot from deep in our zone. He found the net with shocking accuracy. 7-4 Wings. This game was so much fun!!

If you are as shocked as us and want evidence of Dan Cleary’s hat trick, check out the official score sheet and shift chart.

GameDay: @ Columbus (14-19-3, 31 Pts) 7:00 ET

Update (6:43 PM): Ansar Khan reports that Chris Chelios will sit out tonight’s game due to a lower body injury sustained in the third period last night.

Andreas Lilja, who was playing well before becoming a healthy scratch with Danny Markov’s return, will take his place in the lineup.

Khan also reports that Robert Lang will go tonight, while Mikael Samuelsson will sit. - Matt

Tonight is the fourth of eight games between these two teams this season. The Wings lead the series thus far, with wins in the first (4-1, Nov 4) and latest (5-0, Dec 20) games. The Blue Jackets won the the Dec 18 meeting, 4-3 in Columbus. These teams will not meet again until January 19th.

The Jackets have played three games since losing to the Wings on the 20th and have gone 2-1-0, with wins over Vancouver and Boston. Their loss came on Long Island, a 4-0 decision against the Islanders. The win over the Bruins was a 5-4 overtime comeback triumph, which will no doubt give them a lot of confidence going in to tonight’s game. Columbus has excelled at home under Ken Hitchcock, posting a 5-1-0 record to this point of his tenure.

Fredrik Norrena will be in net for the Jackets tonight. He was pulled in the third period of the Wings’ 5-0 drubbing of Columbus and will be looking to redeem himself.

The Wings are coming off a 3-1 home win over the Wild last night. It was probably their best performance of the three games in the miniseries with Minnesota. Dominik Hasek kept the Wings in it when the Wild made pushes, making 32 saves to improve to 19-5-3 for the season. Kirk Maltby scored 16 seconds into the game and Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen scored before the halfway point of the second period.

Chris Osgood will be in net tonight, since it’s the second game of a back-to-back sequence.

According to George Sipple’s blog post, Robert Lang should be in the lineup tonight, even though he left last night’s game after the first period due to the flu. Sipple lists Lang as questionable in today’s Wings Corner, however, so he may sit.

It looks like Mikael Samuelsson will sit out at least one more game, which means Josh Langfeld will get some more time with the team.

I wrote above that last night’s win was probably the Wings’ most impressive game they played against the Wild in the miniseries. That’s not saying much, however. They have definitely not played their best hockey over the past three games. The Blue Jackets will be looking to make up for the embarrassment of following up a 4-3 home win with a 5-0 road loss and will take advantage of the Wings if they sit back and rely on goaltending. Columbus a lot more skill than the Wild do and play a more aggressive game.

Given how the Wings generally play on the second night of a back-to-back stretch (2-3-2), they may be in trouble tonight.

Merry Christmas

Chances are posting will be light over the next couple days. I’ll be in Holland this afternoon and tomorrow, at least, and will be otherwise occupied. I should have something for the game on Wednesday. So, On the Wings is on a brief holiday break.

Merry Christmas!

Wings 2, Wild 3 (OT)

No full, chronological recap for the game last night. Just a few notes/comments:

… Dominik Hasek did not make the trip with the team, since he wasn’t going to back up Chris Osgood anyway. Joey MacDonald manned the faceoff clipboard instead.

… Gotta love this sight in the first period: little 5’8″, 180 lb. Jiri Hudler having to cover 6’7″, 270 lb. Derek Boogaard. A bit of a mismatch, I think.

… Chris Osgood looked good last night. The Wild are the kind of team that can do nothing offensively for long stretches before suddenly coming on for brief but intense offensive forays. Ozzie was strong in all of these, allowing goals only when he was either hung out to dry by his teammates or when the shot was tipped just before it got to him. He was not responsible for the loss last night.

… After two scoreless and unexciting periods, the third period seemed like a goal fest. It started out badly for the Wings, however, who gave up a shorthanded goal at 3:25. They were slow to set up in the first place, but matters were not helped by the fact that Jason Williams was again on the blueline for the second unit. A turnover by Williams following a carry-in resulted in a clear.

Back in the Minnesota end, the Wild were very effective at pressuring the Detroit puck-handlers, especially at the blueline. A turnover at the left point resulted in a fast break going the other way, with Jason Williams the only Red Wing back. Pascal DuPuis took the puck down the right wing and waited for Williams to make a decision on his coverage. Williams, who obviously never read the Defenseman’s Handbook, chose to attempt to knock DuPuis off the puck. DuPuis, predictably dished the puck off and took the hit, with Mikko Koivu taking the pass. Koivu had Osgood flat-footed and put it over the falling goaltender.

Just for future reference, Jason, in a situation such as that, your first responsibility is to take away the pass. Trust your goaltender to cover the puck carrier, who is likely to shoot if there’s no passing alley.

… Tomas Holmstrom sure was determined to get his first goal in 20 games. He had seven shots through two periods, which constituted nearly a third of the 20 shots the Wings had at the start of the third. He was finally rewarded for his effort when he tipped in a shot by Henrik Zetterberg at 10:16 of the third period. Zetterberg had taken the puck down the right wing and around the back of the net before turning and taking a bad angle shot from the bottom of the left circle. Homer got his stick on it for his fifth goal of the season.

… The Wings took the lead at 16:17 after some consistent Minnesota pressure. They took the puck the other way on a 3-on-2, Kirk Maltby carrying down the right wing, Kris Draper skating parallel through the middle and Johan Franzen trailing behind him. Maltby centered it to Franzen, who’s one timer was stopped by Manny Fernandez. The puck fell to his feet, however, and Draper pounced on it, knocking it into the net to make it 2-1 Wings.

… The Wild responded 16 seconds later with a tying goal. Keith Carney took the shot from the left point and Mark Parrish got his stick on it maybe 10 feet out, redirecting it under Osgood’s right arm. The puck may also have gone off Williams on its way to the net.

… Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg and Nick Lidstrom started overtime for the Wings. After some up and down play, Datsyuk took the puck over the Minnesota blueline. He apparently felt a sudden need to do everything himself as he deked and juked while three Wild players swarmed him. He finally decided to pass the puck but picked a bad time to do it as Wes Walz’s stick happened to be in the way.

Walz passed the puck to Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who had half of the ice surface with which to work on his way to the net. He deked forehand to backhand and beat Osgood gloveside to win the game at :45 of OT.

Of course, you’d like to see Osgood make that save in today’s shootout era, but blame rests on Datsyuk’s shoulders with that selfish turnover.

… Overall, I felt the Wings and Wild played pretty evenly last night. Both teams had their periods of dominance and both teams had their periods of defensive passivity. The Wild continue to dictate the pace of the game to the Wings, however. It only opens up when the Wild want it to, it seems, and since that isn’t very often, the game wasn’t overly exciting. It’s clear that the Wings have trouble beating teams that prevent them from setting the game’s pace and that sit back patiently, waiting for mistakes. It’s a bit disturbing and hopefully they’ll become better at overcoming stiffling trap-type defenses like the Wild’s.

The last game of this miniseries is on Wednesday at 7:30 in Detroit.

Wings 3, Wild 1

The Wings won the first round of their three game series with Minnesota last night, 3-1 at the Joe. It wasn’t the team’s best performance, but Dominik Hasek was stellar, making 34 saves and keeping the Wild out of it. It was definitely a case of goaltending winning the game for the Wings. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, seeing Hasek in net is a good feeling.

Dan Cleary, who’s been playing center lately, started the game for the Wings with Robert Lang and Jason Williams on his wings. Chris Chelios and Brett Lebda held the blueline. Next out were Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Tomas Holmstrom. Neither line did a whole heck of a lot and as play was uneventful for the first two minutes or so, though it was continuous. The Wild were already in a 1-2-2, clogging the neutral zone and making it difficult for the Wings to get through.

Around the 3:00 mark, things heated up a bit as the Grand Rapids Line of Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula, and Matt Ellis – with Brett Lebda on the blueline to round it out – put on a show in the Wild zone for about a whole shift. Ellis kicked things off with a chance out in front of the net and his linemates then began what looked like a power play. They cycled the puck along the boards and generated some serious pressure, which culminated in a near-spectacular play by Hudler.

With Manny Fernandez on his stomach following a flurry around the net, the puck came loose as Hudler fell to his knees with his back to the net. He somehow turned and got a shot off at the open net only to see a Wild defenseman deflect it wide. It still nearly went in as another Wild player deflected it again at the far goalpost. In the end, the kids forced a faceoff which would lead directly to a goal. Great shift by the young guns.

After Fernandez froze the puck, Zetterberg’s line came over the boards to take the faceoff in the right circle. Hank won it to Holmstrom, who got it back to Niklas Kronwall on the blueline while Zetterberg headed to the net. Kronwall’s shot went wide off the backboards but the puck was picked up by Zetterberg, who took it around behind the net and scored a back-hand wrap-around goal through Fernandez’s 5-hole at 4:00. 1-0 Wings.

Around the 6:00 mark, the game lost all flow as there were a number of play stoppages and faceoffs. The Wild put the screws to the Wings for about a minute beginning at 7:00, but they were held off, though the Wings had to ice the puck.

Pavel Datsyuk and Company had a good shift around 9:00, with Pavel getting off a shot on a nice scoring chance only to be stopped. Minnesota reciprocated with a good minute of offensive zone possession, getting off a couple shots, but the Wings cleared the zone. The Wild brought it back in right away, but were offsides so play was stopped as the game became choppy again.

At 11:53, Brian Rolston was sent to the box for holding and the Wings got their first power play. They shot the puck into the zone only to have it cleared pretty much right away. The Wild took it the other way and Pascal DuPuis had a great shorthanded chance as he split the Wings defense just before he got to the net. Hasek made a great play with his stick, however, poke-checking the puck away before DuPuis could capitalize on his chance.

The rest of the power play went like this: The Wings set up, with Schneider passing it to Lidstrom, who took a shot that resulted in a flurry out front with Hudler swiping at it. That led to a faceoff and a subsequent set up by the Wings. Jason Williams, on the blueline again, blew it for the Wings, however, with a bad pass that led to the puck being cleared. Henrik Zetterberg took it back in right away and had the Wild defense at his mercy as he skated around them like pylons only to continue on behind the net without shooting. He threw it out front and Williams got off a weak shot that went wide.

At 14:50, the Wild evened the score off a strange goal by Stephane Veilleux. Veilleux took the shot from 54 feet out but it immediately went off Chelios’ skate and started bouncing. Hasek apparently had expected it to go wide or something and wasn’t quite set as it reached him. It went over his right pad and into the net. My immediate reaction was that it was a weak goal, but the replays vindicated Dom somewhat. Still, it wasn’t a hard shot and he probably should have been able to stop it. He made up for it later, however, so no worries.

The Wings went back on the power play 15:59 but it was pretty uneventful.

At this stage of the game, the Wings were controlling play, but the Wild were patiently playing their game.

Towards the end of the period, the Wild began to assert themselves, however, with a little help from the Wings. Around 18:50, the Wings lost a defensive zone faceoff and it resulted in a quick shot by Mark Parrish that forced Hasek to be sharp. 30 seconds or so later, Andreas Lilja made a crap-tastic backhand pass at his own blueline, virtually handing Mikko Koivu the puck on a silver platter. Seriously, Andreas, don’t they teach you at Defenseman School that outlet passes are supposed to go up ice, not across it?

Anyway, Koivu broke in and Mathieu Schneider had to bail his defense partner out. He took a penalty in the process (don’t be too hard on him, he may have prevented a goal), and the Wild got their first power play at 19:24. They didn’t do anything with it, though, until the second period.

FSN interviewed Zetterberg during the first intermission and they asked him the predictable question: how do the Wings regain the lead in this game and keep the Wild out of it? (paraphrase) He said something about attacking and then said, “we need to be a little more safe on the blueline.” If he was referring to Lilja’s turnover, he must have said much the same thing in the lockerroom a couple minutes later because Andreas came out in the second and third periods and played some great hockey.

The Wild started the second period on the power play and made pretty good use of it, keeping the Wings on their toes and forcing Hasek to make some good saves. Schneider’s penalty was killed off, however, in spite of their efforts.

I didn’t get the time, but Pavel Datsyuk made a nice play at the Wild blueline in a rush for the puck. Knowing he was slightly of position and wasn’t going to be able to beat the Wild player to the puck, he took his stick and held up his opponent’s for just a second until he could wheel around and get the puck. Just a smart play by a smart player, though in today’s NHL, it could have easily been called interference. I personally think the League should let stick-on-stick play go, so I’m glad Pavel wasn’t called.

Anyway, the Wild came close to taking the lead at 3:35, when Brian Rolston sent the puck off the goalpost. After that, play went up and down the ice, with neither team really having a clear advantage for a few minutes as there were no whistles.

Around the 6:00 mark, Matt Ellis was promoted to Robert Lang’s line with Dan Cleary, replacing Jason Williams. Ellis became much more noticeable after that.

The Wild had somewhat taken control of the game and were pressuring the Wings when Kris Draper took a holding penalty at 7:53. Minnesota set up and cycled the puck, getting off a shot or two before Detroit was able to clear it. They sent the puck the length of the ice, and Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary followed it. Fernandez misplayed it at the side of the net and set it up for Franzen to take behind the goalline. Johan centered it to Cleary, who went down on one knee to blast the puck from 18 feet out, beating Fernandez for his 14th goal of the season. The goal came at 9:10 and put the Wings ahead 2-1.

The Wild weren’t able to do much with the power play after that and the penalty was killed off.

Pavel Datsyuk and Company, with support from the defense, pressured the Wild into taking a penalty at 10:42. The Wings’ power play was soon halted briefly by an odd sequence of events that led to off-setting penalties. With Lidstrom handling the puck at center in front of his own bench, Veilleux decided to take a run at the Wings captain. Nick easily side-stepped the hit and left the boards open to take the brunt of the hit. Veilleux went half-over into the Wings’ bench, losing his stick in the process as Andreas Lilja, Niklas Kronwall and Chris Chelios looked on, bemused.

He tried to get back his stick, which must have fallen to the floor at the Wings’ feet, but had some trouble and decided to throw a fit. He lashed out at Kronwall, provoking an angry response from Lilja. The official immediately slapped them both with penalties, roughing for Veilleux and interference for Lilja. Not sure why Lilja got called, but whatever.

The Wings’ power play continued until Hudler took a weak hooking call at 11:49. I thought refs usually didn’t like it when players sell a penalty to them, but whoever made that call ate it up. With the teams skating four a side for 53 seconds, there was a momentary scare as Pavel Datsyuk spontaneously lost his balance and went nearly head first into the boards. Soon after that, Pavol Demitra nearly had a breakaway, but Hasek came way out of his net to knock the puck away before it developed.

Once the Wild penalty expired, they went on the power play, which was soon augmented by Lidstrom’s holding the stick penalty that handed them a 20-second 5-on-3 advantage. Babcock put Henrik Zetterberg, Chris Chelios, and Andreas Lilja out there for this sequence, but Lilja stole the show with some great defensive plays, even after he lost his stick. That’s the thing about Lilja. He plays pretty average (at times even mediocre) for games at a time and then he’ll suddenly play like an All Star.

Anyway, the Wild set up again after the puck was cleared, but by that time, Hudler was out of the box and it was just a regular power play. Minnesota did the Wings’ work for them when they cleared the puck on a blueline miscue. The Wild brought it back in, though, and their pressure continued after Lidstrom penalty expired. The Wings were pretty well covered in their zone, however, as they had three defensemen (Kronwall, Schneider, Lidstrom) and two defensive forwards (Draper, Franzen) holding off them off.

Brett Lebda made a rare major mistake at 16:05, giving away the puck right in front of the Wings’ net. Hasek was on top of things, however, and made a great save on Joel Ward.

The Wings took a two-goal lead at 18:13. Kris Draper took the puck over the blueline and, after waiting a second, released shot. It went off a Wild skate and deflected right to Lidstrom, who had the entire left side of the zone to himself. His blast blew through Fernandez to make the score 3-1.

The period wound down after that, with little to report.

During the second intermission, FSN had a nice segment on the NHL’s Video Room. I didn’t come away with all kinds of confidence in the system, however. The night FSN was there to tape the guys in the Room, it was slow and there wasn’t a ton going on. They did have to review a goal, however, and the impression I got was that they looked at it on this screen the size of the average computer monitor. Then, one guy said, “No goal. You guys comfortable with ‘no goal’?” The other guys muttered some kind of assent and that was the ruling that came down from the vaunted Toronto office. Um, if that’s all you have to do, I want that job.

The third period was extremely boring, as the Wild really clamped down on defense and the Wings apparently forgot how to pass the puck accurately. Much of the period was spent at center with the puck pin-balling around and no one having real possession. Fortunately, though, play was continuous for long stretches. Otherwise, the Wild’s poor excuse for a style of hockey would have had me falling out of my chair with boredom. I’m not even going to try to recap it, except to say that both teams had some chances, though they were fairly few and far between. Hasek was great when the Wild made pushes, though they came close late in the period when a shot rang off both posts. An empty net in the last minute or so was not enough and the Wings won 3-1.

Definitely not the team’s best game but that’s why they have Dominik Hasek. Hopefully, we won’t be subjected to more of the same tonight in Minnesota. The Wings need to find a way to open up the game a bit and not let the Wild dictate the pace. Chris Osgood will need to be on his toes, as the Wild are good at exploiting mistakes and seem to play better at home. The game is at 8:00 PM ET tonight.