The Wings played about 20 minutes out of 60 last night and were able to mount a 4-3 comeback after two periods of lethargy and ineffective play. Until the third period, the best player on the ice in the Winged Wheel was arguably Jason Williams and if you’ve read this blog for very long, you know how we feel about him. For about 40 minutes, it looked very much like the Wings were not only going to lose, but like they were going to be shut out. It wasn’t until the very end of the second and the start of the third that they woke up and began to play like the team we know and love.
Dominik Hasek was in net last night and, quite frankly, looked shaky. All three goals were weak, the second and third in particular, and when he was called upon to make saves at other times throughout the game, he was not nearly as steady as he usually is, with a couple exceptions. When Dom is in net, I generally have confidence that he’ll make the save more often than not, but last night, I found myself cringing whenever the Islanders had a chance, particularly after the Wings made their comeback and we were heading toward overtime. So, it wasn’t such a good game for Hasek, but no worries. He’ll be back to form Friday.
The Islanders jumped out to a very early lead, scoring 22 seconds into the game on their first shot. They shot the puck into the Detroit zone and it cycled along the boards, with the Wings looking slow to react while the Islanders were all over it. Trent Hunter picked Henrik Zetterberg’s pocket and walked in on Hasek, passing the puck to his right to Mike Sillinger, whose initial shot was stopped with a pad save. The rebound went right back to him, however, and he had a wide open net to put it in. 1-0 Islanders.
The Isles handed the Wings four powerplays in the first period, but they were unable to do anything with them. They looked out of sync and sluggish, while New York had brought their “A” game and was looking dangerous on every rush. Fortunately, even when the Wings are playing badly offensively, they are able to put up a decent defense. They were generally able to funnel the Isles to the outside and prevent a real chance on net, and because they were out of it offensively, New York was able to do the same to them.
The last two power plays were really one, as they came in the form of a double minor for interference and slashing. The Wings were unable to get anything going until the second half when they generated sustained pressure but even then, they couldn’t get the puck in the net. It was a bit disheartening.
During the first half of the above power play, Henrik Zetterberg was nearly serious injured while carrying the puck over the blueline. Two New York defenders sandwiched him, with one sticking his knee out and nearly making knee-on-knee contact. No call was made, which is disgusting, but fortunately Hank came out alright.
The Wings were sloppy to start the second and the Islanders took advantage, generating a couple great scoring chances. Fortunately, Hasek came up big after Brett Lebda turned over the puck on an outlet pass. Two New York passes later, it was on Trent Hunter’s stick down low at the right post. He tried to go high but Dom stoned him and kept the score at 1-0.
At 7:44, Dom wasn’t so great. With the Wings on the powerplay, the Islanders took the puck away along the boards and Shawn Bates was sprung for a fast break down the left wing. He blew by Niklas Kronwall, who was caught with his pants down at center, and took off toward the Detroit end, with Nick Lidstrom getting back and the three Red Wing forwards hauling it to catch up. He released a blast from the left edge of the circle and it blew through Hasek to make it 2-0. Defensive screw-up aside, it was not a good goal for Dom to give up.
The Isles weren’t done. Following the expiration of the penalty, they were back on the offensive and scored again within 4 minutes. Dan Cleary overskated the puck along the right-side boards and Jason Blake was able to pick it up, skate unopposed to the high slot, and let loose a slapper that beat Hasek 5-hole at 11:37.
At this point, my immediate reaction was that Mike Babcock needed to pull Hasek and when he didn’t, I felt it was like giving up on the game. It turned out that the Wings didn’t need the change, but I do feel Babcock could be a little quicker to pull Dom when he’s having a bad night.
The rest of the period was uneventful and painfully boring. The first minutes of the second were much the same. Some sustained pressure in the third minute, however, earned the Wings another power play and this time, they capitalized with just three seconds remaining in it. With Tomas Holmstrom and a New York defenseman out front, Niklas Kronwall took a shot from the point that Rick DiPietro probably never saw. It beat him inside the left post to put the Wings on the board at 3:24.
The Wings scored again at 4:57 after a Danny Markov shot went off the post. The puck ended up in the left corner and Nick Lidstrom picked it up and sent it across the goalmouth to Dan Cleary, who was waiting at the post and slammed it into the net to bring the Wings within one.
They tied it up at 10:12 with a Lidstrom shot from the point that went in just under the crossbar with Holmstrom getting his stick on it out front. The rest of the period was pretty even but uneventful and soon we were headed to overtime.
A coulple notable things in overtime: Kris Draper and Valtteri Filppula broke a 2-on-1 rush, with Draper choosing to shoot and Fil just missing batting the rebound out of the air. Alexei Yashin had a chance going the other way just after that. Then, Danny Markov went all Datsyuk on us and broke out a few moves on a rare offensive foray.
Finally, at 2:57, the Wings won the game and capped the comeback. Nick Lidstrom carried the puck in on a rush, had it tipped up in the air by an Islander defenseman, grabbed it out of the air like a pointguard, stepped around the defenseman with it, walked in on net, and dished it across to Henrik Zetterberg, who one-timed it past a diving DiPietro. 4-3 Wings final.
The Wings deserve a lot of credit for not giving up on the game and for staging such a comeback, but their play for two periods was not something to be excited about. Of course, they won and so the bad things don’t take center stage, but had they lost, it’d be a different story. They aren’t going to be able to pull a stunt like that against, say, San Jose or Anaheim, and were fortunate it worked against a New York team that’s fighting for a playoff spot. The best thing about the comeback win is that it puts them just five points back of the Preds, who lost to Colorado last night. They’ll need to have a more complete game Friday night against the Blues at home.
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