The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/15/13 at 04:48 AM ET
Let's try to sort things out here, as I have an appointment with a parking lot full of 55-and-up condo dwellers, a snowplow and moving my and my mother's vehicles down the block (we have no garages in our condo complex's shared lot, so we have to brush off and move our cars so the lot canbe plowed) in a couple of hours...
And the Red Wings will hope to avenge Thursday's 3-2 shootout loss to Tampa Bay and rebound from Saturday's 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh when the Lightning, who lost 3-0 to New Jersey on Saturday, when Tampa comes to town this afternoon (5 PM EST, FSD Plus/Sun/1270 AM) without the services of Justin Abdelkader, who's "going through the concussion protocol" after taking Deryk Engelland's shoulder to his chin--with Mr. Engelland preparing for a Wednesday in-person meeting with Sheriff Shanny (yielding a 5+ game suspension on tap) and the Wings placing Darren Helm on the IR (no biggie as he won't be back until the 28th anyway) and recalling Tomas Jurco from Grand Rapids as a result, and all of that occurring after the Red Wings revealed very little of themselves on HBO's 24/7 debut (being "straight shooters" and a little vanilla does not make you "boring"--I had simply hoped that the HBO folks would let the characters tell the story instead of Liev Schreiber).
Right, so, let's get to the hit first--and of course I must mention that the Penguins lost Evgeni Malkin to an unspecified injury, too. The hit looked like this...
The good news regarding Abdelkader came in the following form...
And the post-game story went as you'd expect from a team which has one player suspended (James Neal, who kneed Brad Marchand in the head) for shenanigans which took place a week ago against Boston and one player who's recovering from a concussion (Brooks Orpik) thanks to a Shawn Thornton suspended for 15 games.
Engelland insisted that he meant no intentional harm, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted...
“He dumps it in and I try to finish my check,” Engelland said after the game. “Obviously I’m not trying to hit him in the head or anything like that, but I think I catch his chin a little bit before his body. Hopefully he’s all right. I had no intentions there to hurt anyone.”
The incident occurred late in the first period.
“It’s a quick play,” Engelland said. “It’s part of my game, playing physical. I’m not trying to target anyone’s head or anything like that. But whatever they do, you got to deal with it.”
But the Wings were less than amused, as MLive's Ansar Khan found:
"It's a head hit," Brendan Smith said. "I remember when I got my suspension (for a hit on Chicago's Ben Smith in a 2011 preseason game), I got five games. Same outcome. Abby was out, so I'm not sure how they're going to go about it. If you see the replay, he obviously did get the head. I know what it feels like because I've been in that position. It's a quick game, things happen."
Said Niklas Kronwall: "It looked like a pretty clear hit to the head. Obviously, he was dazed and they took him off for a reason. Things like that you never want to see happen to anybody, whether it's one of your teammates or a guy on the other team. It's scary when it happens. Hopefully he'll be OK."
Let's all be surprised that the opposing team's coach was surprised that Engelland received a 5-minute major which the Wings spent trying to pass the puck into the opposing team's net:
"I don't think there's intent to injure, which the match penalty is," [Penguins coach Dan] Bylsma said. "The referee said he can only call a two (minute penalty) or a five (minute penalty) and a five is a match penalty, which ejects him from the game. I think Deryk doesn't have intention of injuring Abdelkader. He's not going after his head. Unfortunately, his shoulder does catch him in the chin and go through his body."
And unfortunately, for the Wings...
"It's something the league will have to look at," [Red Wings coach Mike] Babcock said. "We have a lot of guys out and we didn't have to lose Abby. He's a heavy body for us, plays well for us and gives us pace. That hurt us for sure."
So here comes Tomas Jurco, and the Free Press's Helene St. James seems to believe that Abdelkader will join the Danny DeKeysers, Darren Helms, Henrik Zetterbergs and Jimmy Howards in expecting, expecting, expecting and hoping to return before the Winter Classic, respectively (Stephen Weiss's MRI's on his groin were supposed to be evaluated on Saturday evening, and it's believed that he'll see a specialist this upcoming week--and will miss a good chunk of time with whatever's ailing him)::
Jurco, 20, is a second-round pick from 2011. He'll be making his NHL debut. He's among the handful of promising prospects the Wings have in their system, leading the Grand Rapids Griffins with 27 points in 26 games this season.
Abdelkader had to be helped off the ice after Pittsburgh defenseman Deryk Engelland slammed his shoulder into Abdelkader's jaw on a hit that came just as Abdelkader was reaching for the puck. Engelland received a match penalty and faces certain further punishment after being offered an in-person hearing by the NHL Department of Player Safety. In-person hearings allow for suspensions beyond five games. Engelland is a repeat offender, having been suspended for three games in December of 2011 for another illegal check to the head.
The Wings were still evaluating Abdelkader after the game, but coach Mike Babcock hinted of a concussion when he said certain protocol had to be followed. Standard procedure for a concussed player is that he must be symptom free for one week before returning. Pavel Datsyuk recently missed seven games after sustaining a concussion.
While his stats – 13 points in 34 games – may not show it, Abdelkader is a top-six forward for the Wings, who like to utilize his skating and heavy presence next to Datsyuk. Abdelkader has been a mainstay as the top two lines have changed almost daily this season because of numerous injuries.
In terms of the game, as Paul noted, the Penguins had every right to be worried about this hit, too:
I don't care if it's the Penguins and I don't care if it's Evgeni Should Have Been Suspended For Fighting Zetterberg During The 09 Cup Final Malkin, you don't want to see people get hurt like that.
The Penguins were quite worried about Malkin--and Kris Letang--as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Josh Yohe noted...
Defenseman Kris Letang was a late scratch because of an upper-body injury, which left the Penguins without their regular top-four defensemen.
Malkin walked with a slight limp in the locker room following the game.
“He has a lower-body injury,” Bylsma said. “He was walking around after the game, but he'll get further evaluated (Sunday).”
Letang was vague about his upper-body injury. He absorbed a hit from New Jersey's Tim Sestito on Friday but finished the game. Letang was ruled out shortly before the game Saturday, and he isn't sure if his injury could be a long-term situation.
“We'll see,” he said. “I don't know what's going on right now.”
Malkin, who scored his ninth goal of the season and added two assists to surpass the 600-point mark for his career, was injured while attempting to thwart Detroit's two-on-one rush.
The only man back on the play, Malkin took a penalty to prevent a shot. While doing so, he fell awkwardly into the boards, with his feet taking the brunt of the collision.
“You never like to see something like that,” Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. “We've all been there before. I just hope it isn't anything too bad.”
The Penguins were also the team that was able to keep its focus despite its roller-coaster ride, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dave Molinari noted:
“They’re still a pretty good team, a team that plays well under [coach Mike] Babcock,” winger Pascal Dupuis said. “They’re going to be good as long as they’re in the league, I think.”
The Penguins have been pretty good, too. Including guys who aren’t household names beyond the confines of their backyards. Such as rookie goalie Jeff Zatkoff, a Detroit native, who stopped 28 of 29 shots.
“To come in here and play the Wings was nice,” he said. “And to get a win.”
He wasn’t the only first-year player to make a contribution. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who was pressed into service when Letang couldn’t play, responded with 18 minutes, 10 seconds of solid work.
Although Detroit finished with a 29-25 edge in shots, the Penguins had a lopsided advantage in special-teams play. They scored on two of four chances with the extra man, and snuffed all five of Detroit’s power plays. One of those, stemming from the Engelland penalty, lasted five minutes.
“I think [special-teams work] was the difference in the game,” center Sidney Crosby said.
The Penguins’ ability to again plug the personnel holes that arose was a huge factor, too.
“We stuck with it and found ways,” Crosby said. “But we’re not making it easy on ourselves, that’s for sure.”
Before Malkin had to exit, he sure as hell made a difference, as Molinari noted...
Malkin had three points, two of them assists, during the first two periods. His second point of the evening was No. 600 in the NHL.
And PittsburghPenguins.com's Michelle Crechiolo noted that the Penguins' blueline rolled with the punches...
With Letang being scratched, the Pens played Saturday’s game without any of their top-four defensemen. His absence meant that Brian Dumoulin – recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday – made his NHL debut. He got a lot more ice time than he probably bargained for, as the Pens had to rotate a young group of five – including sophomores Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres and rookies Dumoulin and Maatta – for just over two periods after Engelland was thrown out of the game with 30 seconds left in the first.
The most experienced NHLer of that group, Matt Niskanen, led the young group with a career-high 29:26 minutes (with 6:02 coming shorthanded).
“Matt Niskanen had a career-high, I think, in minutes tonight. He stepped up,” Bylsma said. “Olli Maatta, Simon Despres had a big role on the penalty kill there, made several good plays. I thought Brian Dumoulin and the (rest) probably played their best in the second half of the game under tough situations. You’re talking about playing against a real good group of forwards, real good group of players coming at them and they stood up strong.”
And Jeff Zatkoff played out-of-his-mind good in front of friends and family:
"It was different, for sure,” Zatkoff said. “In college it's just a little bit of a different feel. But to come in here and play the Wings was nice, and to be able to get a win, I lost both my games in college. So it was nice to come out with the W.”
“Him coming back home, his first time, I know he was pretty pumped up about playing back here in Joe Louis and against the Red Wings,” Bylsma said. “He was strong. He was real strong. There were some tests there.”
A lot of those tests came on Detroit’s five power-play opportunities, which included Engelland’s five-minute match penalty to essentially start the second. But Zatkoff was tremendous despiteDetroit getting pucks to the net and storming his crease, and was a big reason Pittsburgh’s penalty kill was perfect tonight.
“Their power play was a shooting power play and they built those shots up in the first period,” Bylsma said. “We saw that and he got tested again. He came up strong the second period. I think he was probably our best penalty killer through that five-minute stretch. Had several big saves. Was really strong around his crease A big effort and great to see him get that win here.”
The AP's recap will serve as the pivot point between the Penguins and Red Wings' perspectives:
"Losing Kris before the game was tough," Crosby said. "We stuck with it and found a way."
Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik hasn't played since being punched Dec. 7 by Boston's Shawn Thornton, who was suspended by the league for 15 games on Saturday.
The Penguins might lose another player from their blue line because the NHL is trying to crack down on blows above the shoulders. Defenseman Deryk Engelland put himself in danger of being suspended for an illegal hit to the head. Engelland landed his right shoulder high on Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader late in the first period and was ejected with a match penalty. Abdelkader struggled to get up, had to be helped off the ice and didn't return.
"He dumps it in and I try to finish my check," Engelland said. "Obviously I'm not trying to hit him in the head or anything like that, but I think I catch his chin a little bit before his body."
The Red Wings got off to a good start. They went ahead 1-0 at 6:09 of the first period when Niklas Kronwall's shot just inside the blue line went off Crosby's stick, bounced off the ice and got past Zatkoff.
The lead didn't last long. Detroit went to the penalty box twice midway through the first period and the NHL's top team on the power play took advantage.
Crosby scored at 9:08 of the first and Malkin made it 2-1 at the 12:50 mark of the period.
The Red Wings outshot Pittsburgh 14-4 in the second, which started with them on the power play for four-plus minutes because of Engelland's penalty, but didn't score.
The Wings readily admitted that they blew the 5-minute major in a big way--by passing the damn puck too much--as they told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
“Our power play was a passing power play on the perimeter,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We were standing around the outside. They were on the inside and shooting the puck. Both of their goals on the power play were simple chaos. They threw it on in and it bounced around and they got it. We passed it around the outside and killed off the time. So to me that was the biggest difference.”
The Wings began the second period with 4:30 work of power play time and their best scoring chance came late by Tomas Tatar, but he was unable to get the puck up and over and outstretched left pad of Zatkoff.
“I thought they got some good breaks there on their power play goals, then we got on our heels a little bit,” Kronwall said. “We had a big opportunity, obviously, being on the power play for five minutes, too much passing around. We’ve got to find a way to get the puck to the net. We’ll look at some video and see what we can do better and make sure the puck gets in there, take advantage of these chances. Tonight (if) the power play’s clicking, we’re winning this game. They’re a good team, very talented and there weren’t a lot of chances either way. But they really took advantage of theirs.”
Babcock wasn't willing to accentuate the positive in this one, either, as he told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
"After the last game (2-1 shootout loss at Tampa Bay Thursday) I felt we played real well, but I don't think that was the case here tonight," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Their special teams were better than our special teams. Both of their goals on the power play were simply chaos. They threw it in there and it bounced and they got it.”
The Red Wings and Penguins created a rivalry when they traded Stanley Cup championships (Wings in 2008, Penguins in 2009) while playing against each other.Wings fans had to be pleased early when their No. 1 enemy, Crosby, played a role in giving Detroit a 1-0 lead in the opening minutes. Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall's drive from the blue line deflected off Crosby's stick, then bounced past Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff at the 6:09 mark for an even-strength goal.
Crosby quickly made up for his miscue when he shoved a loose puck past Jonas Gustavsson from just right of the crease less than three minutes later while the Penguins were on the power play. Then, Malkin made sure he was in the right place at the right time when the puck bounced off of Red Wings defenseman Brian Lashoff and trickled between the circles, where Malkin scored on a wrist shot.
"If you think of those first two goals they scored right off the bat, there were some fluky bounces that went back and forth and those guys found a way to put it in," Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith said. "(Zatkoff) made some big saves and once they got to a two-goal lead, they played a 1-2-2 trap and we weren't very efficient, so we didn't get through."
Jonas Gustavsson wasn't thrilled with his play on the goal that ended up serving as the dagger--as he told MLive's Ansar Khan:
The Penguins took a 3-1 lead with 47 seconds to play in the period on a goal by Olli Maatta. Gustavsson appeared to have Maatta's shot smothered, but the puck trickled through his pads.
"I lost the puck when they shot it," Gustavsson said. "I opened up a little bit because I thought it was going to go wider. Then I saw it, I didn't really have the time to squeeze. I felt the puck, so I felt like maybe it stayed there but it found a way through."
Crosby all but sealed the win with his second goal of the game, his 18th of the season, at 14:33 of the third period.
The Wings admitted that they simply didn't out-compete the Penguins' top players while speaking with Michigan Hockey's Stefan Kubus...
“We can rant and rave about how skilled those players are, but they competed, as well,” Smith said. “That’s what makes them the best players in the world, it’s because they do compete and they win battles. We just didn’t have that today.”
Despite their own team’s injuries, Kronwall said it’s not a valid excuse for losing, especially considering how banged up Pittsburgh currently is, too. The Pens are without the services of their top four defensemen, including Kris Letand who took warm-ups, but was an unexpected late scratch.
“Every team goes through injuries,” Kronwall said. “We’ve got to find a way through it. Every team goes through it, it’s hitting us a little bit. You’ve just got to stick to the program, keep believing in the process. We’re going to turn this ship around. We need everybody digging in and staying positive.”
“Their big guys were better than our big guys,” Babcock said. “To me, they skated us. We can talk about who’s not in our lineup. They were without their top four D. They played yesterday. They came into our building, and they left happy. Not good enough.”
Already without five regulars, the Wings lost another player when Justin Abdelkader left late in the first period after Deryk Engelland laid a shoulder into Abdelkader’s jaw. Abdelkader had to be helped off the ice. “We’ve got a lot of guys out,” Babcock said. “We didn’t need to lose Abby, he’s a big, heavy body for us.”
Babcock didn’t have an update on Abdelkader other than to infer it might be a concussion, saying, “it takes protocol.” Players have to be symptom-free for a week before returning from such injuries.
Brendan Smith had to give special teams credit where special teams credit was due...
“Their power play is fantastic,” Brendan Smith said. “We needed to shut that down and we didn’t. And they got the momentum from that, getting up a few goals. I’m not sure what the numbers are with how much specialty teams took place in the game, but it felt like a lot.”
And if you don't believe that the 3-1 goal was the dagger, believe St. James--or the scoresheet:
The Wings had a 26-13 advantage in shots after 40 minutes, but they were trapped into getting just three more shots in the third period, as the Penguins protected their lead. They built on it with 5 minutes to play, when Chris Conner, one of the smallest players in the NHL, outworked one of the tallest, Jonathan Ericsson, along the boards, getting the puck to Crosby.
Babcock was most annoyed by the fact that the team was out-competed by the Penguins' best available players at the Joe, as he told Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji:
The Wings fell to 15-10-9 overall and a ridiculous 5-7-6 at home. On the road, the Wings are 10-3-3.
"We’ve been fine on the road, but the bottom line is we have to find a way to win in our house here," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Coming into (Saturday night's) game we were 5-6-6 and we talked about looking after it and we didn’t do that. We get another opportunity (Sunday), but we have to work hard and compete better than we did."
"Their big guys were better than our big guys," Babcock said. "Look at the overall thing, they skated us. We can talk about who’s not in our lineup, but they were without their top four D, they played yesterday, came into our building and they left happy. Not good enough."
As the Wings approach the midway point of the season, they're going to have to be better, especially at home. They remain fifth in the Eastern Conference with 39 points but can't afford to keep letting points slip away.
Highlights: NHL.com rather surprisingly offers a set of Wings-narrated highlights:
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted a clip of Sidney Crosby's post-game comments;
The Free Press's Helene St. James posted a 1:28 clip of Mike Babcock's post-game comments...
St. James also posted a clip of Brendan Smith and Babcock discussing the Engelland hit...
Fox Sports Detroit posted a clip of Niklas Kronwall discussing the game...
And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Kronwall...
And coach Babcock discussing the game:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 22-image gallery;
The Detroit News's David Guralnick posted a 28-image gallery;
ESPN posted a 26-image gallery;
Shots 29-25 Detroit overall. The Wings out-shot Pittsburgh 12-9 in the 1st, 14-4 in the 2nd and were out-shot 12-3 in the 3rd.
Special teams: Detroit went 0-for-5 in 11:32 of PP time; the Penguins went 2-for-4 in only 2:59 of PP time.
Goaltending: Jonas Gustavsson stopped 23 of 25 shots; Jeff Zatkoff stopped 28 of 29.
The 3 stars were picked by the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness, and he picked Chris Kunitz, Jeff Zatkoff and Evgeni Malkin.
The Wings' goal: Kronwall (4) from Abdelkader (10) and Alfredsson (17).
Faceoffs 23-22 Pittsburgh (Detroit won 49%);
Blocked shots 14-6 Pittsburgh;
Missed shots 14-4 Detroit (attempts 57-37 Detroit, with Detroit firing 29 shots on the net and 28 wide/blocked);
Hits 22-18 Pittsburgh;
Giveaways 5-4 Pittsburgh;
Takeaways 9-6 PIttsburgh.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 10-and-7 (59%); Franzen went 3-and-6 (33%); Andersson went 2-and-4 (33%); Tatar went 3-and-3 (50%); Glendening went 3-and-2 (60%); Eaves won his only faceoff; Miller lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Alfredsson led the Wings with 4 shots; Kindl and Tatar had 3; Datsyuk, Nyquist, Eaves, Miller, Bertuzzi, Cleary and Franzen had 2; Smith, Abdelkader, Andersson, Lashoff and Ericsson had 1.
Blocked attempts: Kindl and Miller had 3 attempts blocked; Bertuzzi and Kronwall had 2 attempts blocked; Smith, Datsyuk, Tatar and Ericsson had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Alfredsson missed the net 4 times; Datsyuk and Eaves missed the net 2 times; Smith, Kindl, Nyquist, Tatar, Bertuzzi and Kronwall missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Smith, Tatar and Ericsson had 3 hits; Franzen had 2; Alfredsson, Datsyuk, Lashoff, Quincey, Glendening, Bertuzzi and Kronwall had 1.
Giveaways: Datsyuk had 2 giveaways; Franzen and Gustavsson had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Smith, Alfredsson, Miller, Tatar, Bertuzzi and Kronwall had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: Smith blocked 2 shots; Datsyuk, Andersson, Ericsson and Kronwall blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Eaves, Miller, Bertuzzi and Kronwall took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at -5. Andersson and Miller finished at -2; Smith, Eaves, Glendening and Kronwall were -1; Abdelkader, Alfredsson and Datsyuk were +1.
Points: Kronwall had a goal; Abdelkader and Alfredsson had an assist.
Ice time: Datsyuk led the Wings with 21:55 played; Kronwall played 21:15; Quincey played 21:10;
Alfredsson played 20:31; Smith played 19:27; Nyquist played 18:57;
Kindl played 18:39; Ericsson played 18:21; Franzen played 17:52;
Bertuzzi played 17:20; Miller played 16:26; Tatar played 15:19;
Cleary played 14:32; Eaves played 14:29; Andersson played 13:25;
Lashoff played 10:00; Glendening played 9:58; Abdelkader played 6:01.
Red Wings-Bolts set-up, brief version: the Lightning defeated the Wings 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday and come into today's game (5 PM EST, FSD Plus/Sun/1270 AM) both excited about Steven Stamkos's status as having skated on Saturday morning and particularly annoyed that they were stifled by the New Jersey Devils on Saturday evening. The Devils defeated Tampa 3-0 and had coach Jon Cooper shaking his head after the game, as TampaBayLightning.com's Missy Zielinski noted:
"Anytime you lose a game and you sit here and say 'I thought we played well and lost,' it's disappointing," head coach Jon Cooper said. "We made some colossal errors that cost us and they capitalized. I didn't think it was one of those games where they it took to us," he said. "I thought they took advantage of what we gave them and we burned tonight."
Jaromir Jagr and Dainius Zubrus, two of the older players in the league, especially compared to the majority of the Bolts' lineup, combined for four points to help lift New Jersey to just their second win in the month of December.
Martin Brodeur, the first star of the night, was awarded his 124th career shutout.
On the other hand, the Lightning have now lost seven straight matchups on the road.
"The one thing that's saved us is we've been pretty good at home," Cooper said. "We need to be a .500 team on the road and we've dipped."
Valtteri Filppula agreed with his coach's assessments, as he told the Tampa Tribune's Erik Erlendsson...
“I think you definitely need to be able to win on the road, and we haven’t played as well as we would like on the road,’’ center Valtteri Filppula said. “We’ve been able to play pretty well at home (11-3-1), but you have to be able to carry that game over onto the road.’’
The Lightning had their legs early and had a great opportunity on the opening shift when Tyler Johnson had an open chance from 12 feet out 21 seconds into game, but he was turned aside by Brodeur. Nate Thompson followed on the next shift with a redirect that was stopped by Brodeur at 52 seconds.
That would become the theme of the night as goals, as usual when facing New Jersey, were at a premium at both ends of the ice. The game was scoreless through the first period.
Brodeur made sure it stayed that way early in the second period when St. Louis was alone with the puck between the circles for a wrist shot, but Brodeur flashed the glove and swiped the puck out of the air at 5:45. Alex Killorn had a chance a few minutes later from the left circle, but his shot hit the post at 9:54.
“There’s a reason their (goaltender) is going to pass go and go right to the Hall of Fame. He’s a really good goaltender, and he made those saves early and a bunch in the second period that kept his team with the lead,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said.
The power play did little to help provide any offense for Tampa Bay, and all the missed chances proved costly when Eric Gelinas found a streaking Brunner up the middle of the ice. And with Lightning defensemen Matt Carle and Radko Gudas allowing too large of a gap, Brunner was able to skate in nearly untouched on Lindback, make a quick move to his backhand before turning to his forehand and beating Lindback at 15:37 of the second.
And the Devils made hay in the 3rd period, as the AP's recap noted...
Jagr skated behind the net and passed to Zubrus on doorstep of the crease for the goal at 6:44 of the period.
Then, at 9:36, Jagr put a backhand shot on goal and Zubrus was there to knock in the rebound for his seventh goal and a 3-0 advantage.
Brodeur came up with two of his best saves in the third to thwart the Lightning. First, he turned away a breakaway chance with a pad save on Nikita Kucherov's shot. Then he smothered a point-blank shot by J.T. Brown.
"I have no clue," when asked how he made the save on Kucherov. "I didn't feel it and didn't know what it was. I got lucky."
And the Bolts also lamented their outing while speaking with the Tampa Bay Times' Damian Cristodero:
"It's a hard league," captain Marty St. Louis said. "You get down, you make a mistake here or there, and they capitalize."
It didn't help that Devils goalie Martin Brodeur was at his best, stopping 33 shots for his third shutout of the season and 124th of his career, extending his league record.
The thing is, Cooper said the Lightning (18-11-3) played a fairly good game overall. Consider the 19 shots it allowed were a season low, and St. Louis said Tampa Bay played patiently against a defense-first opponent.
And it wasn't as if Brodeur wasn't tested. His glove save on St. Louis' wrist shot from the slot 5:45 into the second period preserved a 0-0 tie.
"I was kind of offbalance," St. Louis said. "I wasn't locked and loaded, and I didn't get a lot of wood on it. He still made a good save, though."
"There's a reason he's going to pass go and go right to the Hall of Fame," Cooper said. "He made those saves early and a bunch in the second period that kept his team with the lead."
But there also was this: The Lightning was 0-for-3 on the power play and looked bad on it with just three shots. And the team made what Cooper called "some colossal errors that cost us."
Here's a set of game highlights:
NHL.com offers a balanced game preview...
Season series: This is the third of five games this season between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Red Wings. The first two have been decided after regulation and won by the Lightning. Teddy Purcell scored in overtime for a 3-2 victory in Detroit on Nov. 9, and Martin St. Louis had the decisive shootout goal in a 2-1 win at Tampa on Dec. 12.
Big story: Steven Stamkos won't play Sunday, no surprise since it's only been a little over a month since the Lightning superstar broke his right tibia in a game against the Boston Bruins. However, Stamkos skated briefly Saturday for the first time since the injury, giving Tampa Bay, its fan base and all those pulling for Canada in the 2014 Sochi Olympics hope he may return sooner than originally expected. Tampa Bay faces a challenge Sunday: The Lightning are 1-5-2 on the road since he left the lineup.
"We've got to win on the road," coach Jon Cooper said. "You've got to be an above .500 team on the road. We were that for a little while and now obviously we've dipped. What we have to do is turn the page, though."
Lightning [team scope]: Ben Bishop figures to be back in goal after Anders Lindback got the start Saturday against the New Jersey Devils. Lindback kept the game scoreless late into the second period, but on a night when his counterpart, Martin Brodeur, extended his NHL record for career shutouts to 124, there was no margin for error in what ended up a 3-0 loss. Coach Jon Cooper pulled Lindback with more than four minutes left in regulation, but even the extended 6-on-5 advantage wasn't enough to allow the Lightning to break through.
Who's hot: Nikita Kucherov had goals in consecutive games for the Lightning this past week, Dec. 10 against the Washington Capitals and Dec. 12 against the Red Wings. … Prior to his outing Saturday, Gustavsson had given up two goals or less in six consecutive starts for the Red Wings and was 4-1-1 over that span.
Injury report: Stamkos remains on injured reserve for Tampa Bay along with defenseman Keith Aulie (hand) and forwards Tom Pyatt (collarbone) and Ryan Malone (ankle). Also out is defenseman Victor Hedman (lower body). … In addition to Howard (knee) and Abdelkader (head) being out, Detroit has defenseman Danny DeKeyser (shoulder) and forwards Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disc) and Stephen Weiss (groin) on injured reserve. Forward Darren Helm (shoulder) is also out. The Red Wings hope DeKeyser and Helm can return shortly after Christmas.
You want stats? The AP/Stats LLC's preview has 'em.
[Saturday] was the seventh straight road loss for Tampa Bay since beating Montreal 2-1 in a shootout Nov. 12. The Lightning have been shut out in three of the past four away from home while allowing 26 goals during the seven-game skid in opposing arenas. They haven't dropped eight in a row on the road since Nov. 10-Dec. 10, 2008.
Ben Bishop may be back in net looking to help Tampa Bay avoid matching that dubious streak. He was rested Saturday in favor of backup Anders Lindback, who made 16 saves.
Bishop stopped 28 shots against the Red Wings on Thursday, and turned aside all six shootout attempts. He's 16-5-2 with a 2.05 goals-against average this season, but also has struggled on the road lately.
Bishop is 0-2-2 with a 3.33 GAA in his last five away contests after winning three straight behind a 0.95 GAA. That includes a 25-save performance before Teddy Purcell scored with 1:09 left in overtime of a 3-2 win at Detroit on Nov. 9, ending the Lightning's six-game slide there.
Richard Panik had an assist on Purcell's goal. The right wing is expected to return from a two-game suspension for a hit on Washington's Karl Alzner in Tuesday's 6-5 shootout loss.
While the Lightning are trying to end their road losing streak, the Red Wings (15-10-9) are seeking to halt their four-game overall slide. They've scored only five goals in that stretch with the power play going 1 for 16 after producing seven goals during a 6-2-0 stretch.
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: Let's just say that Stephen Weiss is gonna be out for a while, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted:
Stephen Weiss is still waiting to hear the results of his MRI, which are supposed to come Saturday night, but there’s a good chance he’ll need to see a groin specialist according to Wings general manager Ken Holland.
“There’s a chance we might send him in for another opinion,” Holland said. “We’re going to see tonight what Dr. Plagens thinks, but Piet Van Zant thinks the second opinion might be (the right move).
“You’ve got a guy that’s had groin issues 3-4 weeks ago, came back, felt great, now we got groin issues, we got to be sure,” Holland added. “He’s out for sure until after Christmas. Let’s see what Dr. Plagens reads and let’s see where we go.”
Weiss has been placed on short-term injured reserve.
Aside from talking about Chris Kuntiz's attempts to impress Mike Babcock, who told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dave Molinari that he's well aware of the fact that Kunitz is auditioning for a Team Canada spot...
Babcock offered a similar take on Kunitz, after volunteering that he “obviously is having a big year” for the Penguins.
“It’s no different than if I wasn’t coaching [Canada],” he said. “In order for [the Red Wings] to have success, we need to know who the good players on the other team are and the nuances of what they do.”
Molinari offered the following:
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall isn’t the most frequent hitter on the Red Wings roster, let alone in the NHL. But there might not be anyone in the league capable of delivering more punishing checks than Kronwall.
He had been credited with just 23 hits in 31 games before facing the Penguins — no fewer than 11 teammates had more — but he might be the only player on the club, or in the NHL, whose name has been turned into a verb in recognition of his crushing hits.
Opponents who find that out the hard way are said to have been “Kronwalled.”
“He’s up there [among the game’s big hitters],” Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said. “He’s got really good timing.”
That’s not Kronwall’s only asset, however, even though his ability to play the body gets most of the attention.
“He’s also a really good defenseman,” Dupuis said. “He defends well. He has good offensive instincts. He jumps into the play. I think he’s pretty complete.”
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff focused on Mike Babcock's status as Dan Bylsma's competitor behind both the Wings' bench and Team Canada's bench as Bylsma will coach Team USA at the 2014 Olympics--and as something of a mentor as Babcock coached Bylsma during his last year as a player with the Ducks:
“He was real smart about how he played,” Babcock said of Bylsma. “He maximized his potential.”
Both served lenghty apprenticeships in the hockey boondocks before earning the right to display their wares in the show. Like Babcock, Bylsma’s first pro coaching position was with the AHL’s Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, a farm club once shared Anaheim and Detroit.
“He put his time in,“ Babcock said of Bylsma. “He was always a student of the game. He could always talk to people. I think he’s no different in the game as a coach. He can talk to people, he works real hard at it. He’s a smart guy and he’s had success.“
Ditto, you could say, regarding a descriptive of Babcock. Bylsma pointed out that Babcock’s churned out success and reached the Stanley Cup final with a defensive-minded, grunt-filled roster in Anaheim and while in charge of Detroit’s high-end skill outfit.
Citing his roster that includes Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and noting Byslma can send Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin over the boards, Babcock offered another parallel between these two coaching success stories.
“The other thing that’s real important about coaching and it’s no different than what I’ve had in Detroit – when they give you good players, you get a chance to be a lot better coach,“ Babcock said.
And this quip from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Josh Yohe is becoming familiar but good to hear:
Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson, the face of the Ottawa Senators for more than a decade, finally is feeling comfortable in Detroit. Alfredsson signed with the Red Wings during the summer and has produced seven goals and 23 points in 28 games with Detroit.
“It's been a change, a challenge,” Alfredsson said. “But it's kind of rejuvenating, too. It's been fun.”
The Free Press's Helene St. James focused on Brendan Smith's slow but steady progression toward becoming, well, a steady presence on the Wings' blueline in a feature article, noting that Smith was on the ice for both of Evgeni Malkin's points, but didn't feel that he was in poor form against an elite competitor:
“I actually had a lot of fun playing against him,” Smith said. “I think I did a really good job. Full game, even strength, I think we played really well.”
The Wings’ top shutdown pair, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, were assigned to Sidney Crosby, which meant coach Mike Babcock looked to Smith and Kyle Quincey to mitigate Malkin.
“Smitty is an elite skater,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Smitty can skate with him, no problem. It’s just decision-making.”
Smart choices with the puck are a big part of what makes a good NHL defenseman. Smith has made some rough ones and, at 24, and with just 70-some games to his credit, will continue to do so. Barring a few exceptions, growing pains are de rigueur as teams integrate young players. The key to the Wings’ success this season hinges on the continued improvement of their defense, and that’s why it has been so satisfying to see Smith making strides.
“I think Brendan’s been good,” Babcock said. “He’s a good player for us, he skates real good, he moves the puck for us and gets us out of our zone. Does he make decisions like kids do sometimes? Absolutely.”
Expectations of Smith have been high since he was drafted in the first round in 2007. He’s offensively inclined, and he has had to learn that high-risk plays that paid off positively in college and in the minors more often pay off negatively in the NHL.
“Maybe I’ve found a little niche right now,” Smith said. “I’m trying to make a good first pass, trying to stay confident about that. I do feel that I’ve been playing a little bit better. ... I’m just going to try to stay at it and hopefully I keep progressing. As a young guy, that’s the biggest thing.”
And the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan talked about the Wings' interim #1 goaltender as part of a larger notebook:
Gustavsson entered Saturday’s game with a .944 save percentage and a 1.40 goals-against average in the previous five games.
As well as Gustavsson has played, the Red Wings found out even he couldn't stop Pittsburgh with the Penguins on the man advantage. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin scored first-period power-play goals, then Gustavsson did give up a bad goal when Olli Maatta's drive from the left point tricked through his pads and into the net for a 3-1 lead with 47 seconds left in the second.
"Gus has given us an opportunity every time he's played," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "When the game got to be 2-1 Gus made an unbelievable save with a minute left to give us an opportunity, but we didn't do anything with that opportunity. Sure, he would have liked to have that third goal back."
Said Gustavsson of the third goal: "I lost the puck when he shot it so I opened up a little bit because I thought it was going to go wide maybe, and then I saw it, but I didn't have time to squeeze it. I felt the puck so I felt like maybe it stayed there, but it found a way through. When you let four goals in it's tough to win so I've got to be better."
Look for Gustavsson, who finished with 21 saves, to remain busy through the holidays with starter Jimmy Howard out 2-4 weeks with a left knee injury. Howard could miss the Winter Classic game against the Maple Leafs on New Year's Day at Michigan Stadium.
Otherwise, the Free Press's Steve Schrader offered the following "News Quiz" item...
Why did Steve Yzerman change his mind about the Alumni Showdown?
A) He has never let down Hockeytown before.
B) You just can’t get this kind of weather in Florida.
C) It’s a chance to do a little scouting for Canada’s Senior Olympic game.
D) He wants to show his old-man strength.
If you're interested, the Hockey News allowed former Wing Brad Stuart to pen a "before I made it" tale...
I didn’t start playing hockey until I was about seven years old and still remember the day I came home and told my dad I wanted to play. This was back in my hometown of Rocky Mountain Top, Alberta, and a bunch of my friends were already playing and I felt left out. A couple of days after I spoke to my dad, he came home with a box full of hockey equipment and the rest is history.
One big minor hockey moment for me would be when we won the peewee ‘AA’ Provincials in Alberta. It was huge for us because we were such a small town and to do that was a big deal. I still remember there was a store that had a big banner hanging outside congratulating us. That was something I’ll always remember and I still have buddies back home from that team and we’ll still talk about it every once in a while.
I had two coaches that had a real positive impact on my career; Frank Walton and Henry Laroque. I still see them every now and then and I know that anybody who played for them, really benefited from their commitment to the game.
My hometown hockey program only went up to ‘AA’ so I had to leave when I was 14 to go play ‘AAA’ in Red Deer. I was pretty lucky because my grandparents lived out there so I just stayed with them and it was only about 45 minutes from my hometown. After that I went to Regina to play junior.
I had lots of different jobs growing up. I was a paperboy when I was 11 delivering the daily paper and that was a tough grind for sure. When I was 16 got a job at Husky Oil through their summer work program. Pretty much just 9-5 labour work, but I was able to save up some money.
And I have an appointment with a snowplow and a bunch of grumpy seniors in three hours, so I'll talk to you later today.
Update: Oh joy, I cannot sleep, and here's a 6 AM article from MLive's Brendan Savage:
After starting the season with an 8-0-1 record, Gustavsson is 0-2-1 in his last three decisions after stopping 21 shots against the Penguins.
Perhaps the most disturbing statistic for the Red Wings is a 2-6-6 record in their last 14 games at Joe Louis Arena, where they're 5-7-6 this season. That's something nobody can explain.
"It's tough to say," Gustavsson said. "If you look at the game tonight, I thought we played a really good game. We spent a lot of time in their end, we had a lot of shots, we played good enough to win the game. We just got to find a way to put the puck in the net. For myself, I got to find a way for them to score less goals."
Before getting hurt when he crashed into the end boards, Malkin had three points for the Penguins and Zatkoff made 28 saves in raising his record to 5-2-0.
Zatkoff stopped all 14 shots the Red Wings (15-10-9) threw at him in the second period, when Detroit had 11 of the first 12 shots in the second but couldn't get anything past Zatkoff, who was playing at Joe Louis Arena for the first time as a pro
"It was exciting for me," Zatkoff said. "A little bit of nerves in the beginning, but once the game started, everything kind of settled in. To be able to get the win was obviously nice. I was always a Wings fan. I grew up going to the games. My dad's company had a suite here, and we went a lot, especially during the playoffs. It's a little bit of a different feeling coming back here as the opposition. I lost both of my college games here."
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