Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Sabres wrap-up and Wings-Canadiens set-up: Wings outlast Sabres, have hands full with Habs

We're at the point where the standings and out-of-town scoreboard have become so overridingly important that even Mike Babcock told the Red Wings' press corps that the first thing Piet Van Zant did after Detroit's slightly sloppy 3-2 win over Buffalo was update the team's whiteboard to account for the Wings' win, Columbus and Washington's losses, and possibly tonight's opponent's 7-4 romp over Ottawa (Detroit plays Montreal at 7 PM on FSD, the CBC, RDS, the NHL Network U.S. and WXYT AM)...

So here we are:

The Red Wings took what I'm sure was a bumpy flight to Montreal to face a Canadiens team that's won six of its past seven games, including a very ugly 5-4 decision over Detroit just over a week ago last Thursday--and they're an insane 7-1-and-1 in the back half of back-to-back games!

Depending on who or whom you believe, the Wings either did so having played quite solidy en route to their win over the Sabres, or the youngsters and veterans alike learned a hard lesson about underestimating your opponents.

The Sabres, who lost 3-2 in St. Louis after dealing with tornado warnings waking them up during the day, didn't get into town until something like 5 AM, they didn't hold a morning skate, and they've iced even more players than the Wings--44 to Detroit's 36--so giving the Wings a run for their money was a good thing for Buffalo, as BuffaloSabres.com's Chris Rydnak noted...

Coming off a physical battle the night before in St. Louis, the Sabres fell behind 3-0 to Detroit in the first period. Goaltender Matt Hackett, who stopped 28 of 31 Red Wings shots, was impressed with how the team was able to stick with two of the NHL’s perennially great teams.

“We competed,” he said. “We showed we can play with any team, first place or a great team like Detroit here. They’re both tough buildings to play in and we’re going in the right direction, I think.”

...

Deslauriers made it a one-goal game 6:40 into the third period. Johan Larsson won a faceoff to the right of Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard and then kicked the puck over to the middle of the ice. Deslauriers went to the slot, took the loose puck and beat Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard to make it 3-2. The goal was also his first career point. He celebrated the birth of his daughter earlier in the week and had the chance to celebrate in a different way Friday night.

“It’s a gift,” Deslauriers said. “It’s something special, but I think I’ll stick with the birth of my child first. But the second is especially my first goal."

...

Jamie McBain scored Buffalo’s first goal, a power-play marker with 7:32 to play in the second period to make it 3-1. The goal came as he crept down to the left faceoff circle and beat goaltender Jimmy Howard short side with a one-timer. The pass came from Ruhwedel, who earned his first career point on the play.

“When you have a good pass like that you don’t have to think a whole lot about what to do next,” McBain said of the play that set up his fifth goal of the season. “You can kind of focus on the shot, focus on the situation about where you want to put the shot instead of deal with taking it on your backhand or taking it out of your feet or something. So it was a great pass and I was able to find a whole.”

But the Buffalo News's Amy Moritz noted that the Sabres' loss also sewed up an inglorious distinction:

The loss officially clinched last place in the National Hockey League for the Sabres. Bottom of the barrel. Thirtieth out of 30 teams. It’s the first time the Sabres have finished last in the league since the 1986-87 season.

It’s a dubious distinction, albeit one that comes with promise. The Sabres now have the best chance (25 percent) in the NHL lottery for the overall No. 1 draft pick in June.

Were the Sabres proud about the fact that they rallied? Youbetcha, and coach Nolan told Moritz that the team got its collective and individual crap together during the first intermission:

"I think it was more of a mental approach,” coach Ted Nolan said. “And plus we had to start going north-south with the puck. The first little bit we were starting to do those fancy plays and cross-ice passes and Detroit’s too good of a team to do that. So we talked about a couple things. About stopping and starting in our defensive zone. Moving from north to south and then trying to keep the simple play. Along with the mental approach we did a few things tactically.”

Yes, and the Red Wings started going east-west all over the place...

With a bit more aggression, the Sabres got on the board in the second with a power-play goal. Jamie McBain found room to the left of Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard and buried his opportunity for his fifth goal of the season.

Chad Ruhwedel had the first assist, and his first point in the National Hockey League.

Nick Deslauriers scored his first NHL goal at 6:40 of the third, snapping in the puck after Johan Larsson won the faceoff in the Detroit zone.

“I think everybody knew what we had to do. Just shoot the puck,” Deslauriers said. “They’re a good team and if you let them enter the zone three-on-two they have a chance to put a good shot on net or do something good. Just all the forwards were tracking back and helping our D’s. That’s what we did the last two periods.”

The Sabres also dodged a bullet in the injury department, as the Buffalo News's Moritz noted...

[Luke] Adam was working for position in front of the net when Jamie McBain let go a slap shot from the blue line. The knuckleball shot then deflected off Red Wings defenseman Brian Lashoff and hit Adam in the face.

“The way things have been going, I couldn’t look at it,” Nolan said. “I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want to see the replay. When we came in the dressing room they said he was going to be ready to go. It just looked like a little cut on his jaw. It looked like it was going to be a major cut on his jaw, but thankfully it wasn’t that serious.”

Adam returned for the second period, playing on a line with Johan Larsson and Nicolas Deslauriers and was excited for his third call-up of the season.

“No I don’t think so,” Adam said when asked if the transit between the AHL and the NHL has been frustrating. “I think I’m past that point now. Maybe when I was a little younger it was a little frustrating, but I’m not even focused on it. It comes more often and in better circumstances when you’re not focused on it. It’s been a good season and I’m looking forward to tonight.”

And Reuters more or less sums up how the Sabres viewed their experience at the Joe:

"We had nothing to lose. Got the day off tomorrow. Just tried to leave it all on the ice ... after the tough start, "[Jamie] McBain said.

The Sabres lost in St. Louis 2-1 on Thursday night and did not reach their hotel in Detroit until 4 a.m. Friday.

"We talked about having excuses. We could've had a real good one," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. "I think tired is a state of mind. We got in at 4 this morning and slept in. It wasn't that short of a night."

Deslauriers pulled the Sabres to within one at 6:40 of the third period. He drilled a loose puck from the slot off a face-off past Howard.

"Yeah, I got a little more nervous at the end there. They were all over us and we all know we need those points," Jurco said. "It got a little more nervous towards the end, but I think we handled it pretty well."

The Associated Press's recap will shift our focus from the Sabres' to the Red Wings' perspectives, and the Wings were of two minds about their narrow margin of victory. The players weren't delighted with their effort:

"Yeah, I got a little more nervous at the end there. They were all over us and we all know we need those points," [Tomas] Jurco said. "It got a little more nervous towards the end but I think we handled it pretty well."

...

Alfredsson tried to explain the letdown.

"I think it's the pressure, the time of the year, the magnitude of the game, being a game we can't afford to lose, all those things combined, I think makes for us being cautious, more than playing hard for 60," he said. "Before we feel like the underdog and feel like we can claw ourselves into games and find a way to win and today we're the favourites and didn't handle that as well as we can."

Helm opened the scoring 5:47 into the game when he put in a loose puck from Hackett's right at the side of the crease. It was Helm's 11th goal.

Jurco and Andersson then scored 1:16 apart. Jurco tipped Dekeyser's shot from the point out of the air and past Hackett for a power-play goal with 5:48 left in the first. It was Jurco's seventh goal and second in two games. It came with John Scott in the penalty box for hooking.

Alfredsson got his 18th goal, with 4:32 remaining in the opening period, when he scored on a rebound.

The coach wasn't so sure about Alfredsson's theory, as he told MLive's Ansar Khan--and oh yeah, Babcock tied a super important team record...

It was Mike Babcock’s 413th victory as Red Wings coach, tying him for first on the franchise’s all-time list with Jack Adams. Babcock is 413-199-90 overall in nine seasons and has a chance to pass Adams Saturday night in Montreal (7 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit).

“I thought we actually came out and played well and then like most games in the NHL it’s a one-goal game,” Babcock said. “Our guys did tons of good things. In reality we had a ton of opportunities to score, we didn’t finish on a lot of our chances but I thought in the second period our intensity fell off and kind of got them going a little bit and it ends up being a (one-goal game).”

...

Babcock said his team stopped trying to make the simple play.

“Suddenly we were dangling around with the puck and now we had the cute-itis going and then we didn’t want to shoot it in the net, we wanted to pass it one more time,” Babcock said. “The next thing you know it’s game-on instead of just doing things simple and hard and right.”

The Red Wings continued to press and generated some scoring chances – David Legwand had at least two that he didn’t bury – but couldn’t build on their first-period lead.

“I wouldn’t really say it was cautious, I think we got a little ahead of ourselves in the second period and I think we got away from our game plan,” [Jimmy] Howard said. “Our game plan was working really well in the first -- getting on top of them, using our intensity, using the whole width of the zone, getting the points involved; we generated a lot of offense.”

Howard told Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji that the Wings would take the points and run with 'em, however:

"It doesn't matter anything about stats right now, it's just about getting two points, whether you win the game 1-0 or 7-6, it's about getting two points and getting into the playoffs," Howard said.

Also helpful for Detroit toward that playoff goal was the fact that a couple of the teams trailing them lost. The Columbus Blue Jackets (85 points) were 3.9 seconds away from at least a point when the Chicago Blackhawks scored for a 4-3 win.

Jurco's eyes lit up when he was told about the Blue Jackets' loss.

"That's awesome," Jurco said. "Finally some things are going our way. Almost half of the season it was going the wrong way with all those injuries so finally something goes great for us."

The New Jersey Devils passed the Washington Capitals, 82 points to 81, with a 2-1 win. But the way this season has gone, the Wings are taking nothing for granted, not with five games left in the regular season.

"Obviously it was huge for the standings but we still have to get a few more wins here to get in," Gustav Nyquist said. "I feel that every time we win the other teams win, too. Everybody lost (Friday) which is nice to hear. They're going to play for their lives in the last few games and we're going to have to find a way to get a few more wins."

As Michigan Hockey's Nick Barnowski noted, perhaps the measure of dissent was more of an aesthetic one than anything else...

“I thought we did lots of good things in the third,” Babcock said. “Sometimes when you don’t score you evaluate it as we didn’t play well enough, but I thought we did lots of good things.”

With the win, the Red Wings remain in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and are three points clear of the Columbus Blue Jackets and four points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team understands that every point is important with only five games remaining.

“We’re going to keep going, we can’t let up,” Alfredsson said. “You never know and until they put that ‘X’ next to you in the standings. You keep going.”

And the Wings did discuss the nuts and bolts of their win with DetroitRedWings.com's Andrea Nelson:

Jurco and Alfredsson scored goals just over one minute apart to give Detroit a 3-0 lead late in the first period. Jurco netted a power play goal, a deflection off defenseman Danny DeKesyer’s shot, and led all players with three shots in the opening period.

DeKeyser, who also assisted on Helm’s goal, earned his second career two-assist game in the victory.

"We had a great power play breakout and we got in the zone,” Jurco explained. “DK with Alfie made a nice passing play and DK shot it. I was trying to follow the puck in the air and it hit my blade so it was a good goal and it's really good for me, too."

Seventy-six seconds after Jurco’s goal, Alfredsson netted his 18th goal of the season, cleaning up the rebound off Jakub Kindl’s shot. Alfredsson earned one goal and one assist in the victory after missing Wednesday’s game with a lower back injury.

“I felt OK,” Alfredsson said. “Obviously missing a few days, it felt great to be back on the ice and skating this morning and obviously playing again felt good.”

But despite the three-goal advantage, there were still 40 minutes left to play. The Wings proceeded to give up goals to Jamie McBain and Nicolas Deslauriers in the second and third periods, respectively, which cut Detroit’s lead to just one goal.

“I think we probably tried to protect the lead too much, not trying to get the fourth one,” Alfredsson said. “They worked themselves into the game. They’re a dangerous team. They played pretty open, spread us out a bit. I thought down the stretch we did a good job. Last 6-7 minutes felt comfortable.”

One might also be of two minds regarding Pavel Datsyuk's return. He may or may not have looked a little stiff in terms of his mobility after returning from a month of "shutdown" time to rehab his wonky left knee, but he mostly played on the wing--either with Helm and Abdelkader, or later in the game, Franzen and Nyquist (when David Legwand lost his Nyquist privileges with some lackadaisical play)--and he really did, as several of you have noted, looked like he was playing to not get whacked into the boards by some dumb kid.

More than anything else, he looked out of shape, just as Datsyuk warned us he would look, though Babcock told Fox Sports Detroit's Wakiji that he was satisfied with what he witnessed (though he issued an almost immediate caveat):

"I thought he looked like he's a talented guy," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought his fitness showed in the third period for sure and that's not a surprise. I don't know if it's his fitness or just he hasn't played in so long but he'll probably feel better (Saturday)."

That doesn't mean Datsyuk will play Saturday in Montreal in the back-to-back. Babcock said he planned to talk to both Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson after the morning skate to see if they can go.

Fun fact: Daniel Alfredsson's 47 points in 67 games (18 G, 29 A) are now 1 point behind Zetterberg's 48 (in 45 games) for the team lead, though Niklas Kronwall's 46 (7 goals and 39 assists in 75 games) and Gustav Nyquist's 46 (28 goals and 18 assists in 52 games) are close behind.

Datsyuk did not show up in the scoring but he had 23 shifts for 17:45 and finished plus-1. He had one shot on goal, a takeaway, a blocked shot and won 11 of 13 face-offs.

"He provides a lot of things, one of the best two-way centermen in the world and in the D zone he's always in the right spot and helps the team break out fast," Nyquist said. "In the offensive zone he's more creative than most guys out there I would say, and really creates chances. I thought he was great (Friday) and I think he's only going to get better."

Tomas Jurco shares the opinion of most that a less than 100 percent Datsyuk is better than most.

"Pavel looks obviously great," Jurco said. "He can play with a broken leg and he's still gonna look great. It's unbelievable how much energy and how much confidence he brings on the ice."

Alfredsson ended up delivering the non-sequitur of the night in discussing Datsyuk's return with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:

“My father (Hasse) is here for the week and he was extremely happy (that Datsyuk played),” Alfredsson said. “He loves Pavel, the way he plays both ends of the ice and plays so smart. He (Datsyuk) made one Swede happy.”

Perhaps next time, the Wings will take the Sabres a little more seriously...

The Sabres (21-47-9) are far from the playoffs but can be a nuisance just the same.

“They’re dangerous,” Howard said. “You can’t afford to come up short against them, you have to come out there and find a way to get two points. Teams like that aren’t going to roll over just because they’re out of it. They have guys playing for contracts and pride. You have to find a way to win.”

And there was this, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted:

“We got a little bit ahead of ourselves,” Howard said. “We got away from our game plan. But it doesn’t matter what the score is. It’s just about getting the points.”

Then Howard added tongue-in-cheek, “I’m highly disappointed Gus (Nyquist) didn’t score.”

Nyquist spoke with DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose about the team's progress...

The Red Wings have won four straight games, and taken points in nine of the past 12 contests that included benchmark wins over three of the top four teams in the East – Boston, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. The win gave the Wings a three-point lead in the standings over the Columbus Blue Jackets, who lost to Chicago, 4-3, on Friday.

“Obviously it was huge for the standings but we still have to get a few more wins here to get in,” forward Gustav Nyquist said. “I feel that every time we win the other teams win too. Everybody lost tonight which is nice to hear but obviously we have to get a few more wins. They’re going to play for their lives in the last few games and we’re going to have to find a way to get a few more wins.”

Two of the three closest teams chasing the Red Wings, including the Washington Capitals, lost one-goal games Friday night. Detroit (88 points) now has a three-point lead over the Jackets (85), while increasing its cushion over Toronto (84), who was idle Friday, and New Jersey (82) and Washington (81).

The Jackets are clinging to a one-point lead over Toronto for the second wild-card spot but they lost in the most demoralizing way possible Friday. With 3.9 seconds left in regulation, the Blackhawks’ Ben Smith was credit with the game winner in Chicago’s 4-3 victory when he swatted the puck in a scrum that eluded the Jackets goalie and two defensemen who were all in the crease.

...

With five games remaining, including an Atlantic Division showdown in Montreal Saturday night, the Red Wings continue to feel the playoff pressure, and likely will until they secure a spot.

“I think we’ve been feeling it for forever, I think that’s a great thing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Pressure means you have an opportunity. If you had no pressure you’d be out or you’d be 20 points up. The reality is, is for us, we understand the situation we’re in. We look at the scoreboard every day.”

And the Free Press's Helene St. James (who also posited a capsule recap) noted that Babcock made quite the quip about his team's state of mind:

“We started really good, we were all over them,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Suddenly we had some skill and suddenly we were dangling around with the puck, and now we had cute-itis going and then we didn’t want to shoot it in the net, we wanted to pass it one more time. The next thing you know, it’s game on, instead of just doing things simple and hard and right.

“That was us feeling like we’re a pretty good team suddenly. Maybe we weren’t scared for the first time in two months.”

Again:

Alfredsson cited the time of the year and the magnitude of the game as reasons for the lapse.

“All those things combined I think makes for us being cautious more than playing hard for 60,” he said. “Before we feel like the underdog and we claw ourselves into games and find a way to win. Today we’re the favorites and didn’t handle it as well as we can.”

Alfredsson had a goal and an assist, playing in front of his dad, who is in town for the week from Sweden — but that Datsyuk played might have made Hasse Alfredsson’s trip.

“I know my dad was extremely happy,” Alfredsson said. “He loves Pavel for the way he plays both ends of the ice, and his smarts, so he made one Swede happy today.”

In "The Spirit of the Thing," the Detroit News's Bob Wojnowski pondered the state of the team as one in transition to a true youth movement, so he'll take us out:

There’s been a natural switch with the recent hot streak, as the Wings have gone from a nice underdog tale to a team feeling better and better about itself. Quietly in net, Jimmy Howard is putting together a fine season, and not so quietly, Babcock is doing one of the great coaching jobs of his career. He has adjusted to an injury-mangled roster with the right mix of assertiveness and patience.

When some observers wondered why GM Ken Holland bothered to trade for David Legwand to gear up for a run, well, here’s your answer. The Wings always go for it, and always should. The longest postseason streak in professional sports is worth preserving, not for historic reasons or organizational ego, but because the Wings have the skill and speed to be difficult for someone, especially someone like the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Wings were riding fumes last spring and still beat the Ducks in the first round and took the Blackhawks to overtime of Game 7. They were battered then, and didn’t have a lot of reinforcements. Nyquist tallied three goals in 22 games last season and added two in the playoffs.

Everyone acknowledges Nyquist, 24, deserved to be on the roster at the start of this season, but he did have a wobbly stretch — one goal in 18 games — that makes his sudden dominance even more startling. It has been a revelatory season for several young players, including Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and any other Tomases you can name.

When the Wings rallied to beat the mighty Bruins 3-2 the other night, the old Joe was cranked up. It was loud again Friday night, although it dissipated after the early fury. The Wings legitimately are in decent playoff shape for the first time in a while, heading to Montreal tonight. But four of their final five games are on the road, and if they’ve learned anything this season, it’s that givens aren’t givens anymore.

“We’ve been feeling (the pressure) forever, and I think that’s a great thing,” Babcock said. “To me, this ain’t about the past. This is about this group in this room, that’s where the pressure comes from. We feel this group has an opportunity, so let’s make good on it.”

That's the hope.

Highlights:

Post-game: NHL.com's highlight clip is narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:

Fox Sports Detroit posted Daniel Alfredsson's post-game comments...

And Tomas Jurco's comments:

And the Wings posted post-game comments from Gustav Nyquist...

Alfredsson...

And coach Mike Babcock:

The Free Press's Helene St. James also posted a 1:22 clip of Alfredsson's comments, and NHL.com happened to post a pre-game clip of the Wings reacting to Pavel Datsyuk's return.

Photos: The Detroit News posted a 20-image gallery;

The Detroit Free Press posted a 17-image gallery;

Michigan hockey posted a Flash...I mean HTML5 gallery;

ESPN posted a 33-image gallery;

And NHL.com, the Sabres' website and the Red Wings' website posted 23-image galleries.

Statistics:

Shots 31-23 Detroit overall. Detroit out-shot Buffalo 12-7 in the 1st, 9-7 in the 2nd and 10-9 in the 3rd.

Special teams: Detroit went 1-for-3 in 4:03 of PP time; Buffalo went 1-for-3 in 3:01 of PP time.

Goaltending: Jimmy Howard stopped 21 of 23 shots for Detroit; Matt Hackett stopped 28 of 31 shots for Buffalo.

The 3 stars were picked by Michigan Radio's Rich Kinkaide, and he picked Luke Adam, Danny DeKeyser and Darren Helm.

The Red Wings' goals: Helm (11) from Glendening (6) and DeKeyser (18);

Jurco (7) from DeKeyser (19) and Alfredsson (29), PPG;

Alfredsson (18) from Kindl (16) and Abdelkader (17).

Faceoffs 32-23 Detroit (Detroit won 58%);

Blocked shots 22-16 Buffalo;

Missed shots 11-4 Detroit (attempts 52-42 Detroit; Detroit had 29 shots on the net and 33 wide/blocked);

Hits 25-18 Buffalo;

Giveaways 4-1 Detroit;

Takeaways 7-3 Detroit.

Individual stats:

Faceoffs: Glendening went 11-and-6 (65%); Datsyuk went 10-and-2 (83%); Sheahan went 5-and-7 (42%); Legwand went 4-and-5 (44%); Helm went 1-and-2 (33%); Abdelkader won his only faceoff; Franzen lost his only faceoff.

Shots: Jurco, Helm and Franzen led the team with 4 shots; Smith, Alfredsson, Nyquist, Quincey and DeKeyser had 2 shots; Kindl, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Sheahan, Legwand, Miller and Tatar had 1 shot.

Blocked attempts: Glendening fired 4 shots into Sabres players; Alfredsson had 3 attempts blocked; Datsyuk, Tatar, Kronwall and DeKeyser had 2 attempts blocked; Smith, Kindl, Abdelkader, Nyquist, Jurco, Quincey and Helm had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Datsyuk, Nyquist and Franzen missed the net 2 times; Kindl, Abdelkader, Legwand, Miller and Kronwall missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Quincey and Kronwall led the team with 3 hits; Kindl, Abdelkader, Tatar and Glendening had 2 hits; Smith, Legwand, Jurco and DeKeyser had 1 hit.

Giveaways: Sheahan, Lashoff and DeKeyser had giveaways.

Takeaways: Nyquist had 4 takeaways; Alfredsson, Datsyuk and Sheahan had 1 takeaway.

Blocked opponent shots: DeKeyser blocked 4 shots; Lashoff and Kronwall blocked 3 shots; Abdelkader blocked 2 shots; Smith, Alfredsson, Legwand and Franzen blocked 1 shot.

Penalties taken: Smith took 2 minors; Legwand took 1 minor penalty.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at +5. Sheahan, Tatar, and Jurco finished at -1; Abdelkader, Alfredsson, Datsyuk, Miller, Quincey, Glendening, Helm and DeKeyser finished at +1.

Points: Alfredsson had a goal and an assist for 2 points; DeKeyser had 2 assists; Jurco and Helm had goals; Kindl, Abdelkader and Glendening had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 20:45 played; DeKeyser played 19:30; Quincey played 17:59;

Smith played 17:38; Franzen played 17:16; Kindl played 16:08;

Nyquist played 15:58; Datsyuk played 15:12; Legwand played 14:23;

Lashoff played 13:42; Abdelkader played 13:20; Jurco played 13:18;

Sheahan played 12:50; Tatar played 12:33; Glendening played 12:33;

Miller played 12:01; Helm played 12:00; Alfredsson played 11:58.

 

 

 

Red Wings-Canadiens preview: The Wings got their asses kicked despite the 5-4 score of last Thursday night's loss to Montreal, and the hype machine will be running on all cylinders as the Wings head to Montreal to battle the Canadiens in a Hockey Night in Canada tilt (though the game will serve as the undercard to Winnipeg-Toronto, nationally speaking) televised in the U.S. on the NHL Network and in French on RDS.

The Canadiens--who've won 6 of their past 7 games--rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Ottawa Senators 7-4 on Friday, and they were quite pleased with themselves afterwards, as the Montreal Gazette's Pat Hickey noted:

The Senators raced to a 3-0 lead before the game was six minutes old and they outshot Montreal 43-23. Ottawa won 66 per cent of the faceoffs and had a wide edge in hits. But [Canadiens coach Michel] Therrien said the Canadiens won because they had character.

“We showed a lot of character to come back after giving up three goals and as a coach you appreciate that,” said Therrien. “We didn’t quit and we showed that we’re ready for the playoffs. We’ve achieved our goal of making the playoffs and now we want to play solid and play with passion and we did that tonight.”

Well, maybe not the solid part.

“We expected them to come out hard and we weren’t sharp in the beginning,” said goaltender Peter Budaj. “They got a couple of nice goals, a couple of tips and a nice backdoor play, but we persevered. We scored some goals and we basically started the second period 0-0.

“In the second period, I felt good,” said Budaj, who had to be sharp as Ottawa outshot Montreal 15-4. “I made some big saves and we didn’t have many chances, but we scored two goals to take the lead. We didn’t play as well as we could in the second, but we came away with the lead.”

Budaj won't start on Saturday; Carey Price will oppose Jonas Gustavsson.

It was another big night for David Desharnais & Co. Max Pacioretty picked up his third hat-trick of the season — goalie Carey Price threw his hat on the ice to celebrate — and added an assist. Desharnais had a goal and an assist, and Thomas Vanek had three assists. Pacioretty has 38 goals for the season and he is in a position to become the team’s first 40-goal scorer since Vinnie Damphousse potted 40 during the 1993-94 season.

“It’s not something I’m thinking about,” said Pacioretty. “I’m focused on helping the team win. I wouldn’t be very happy talking to you if we had lost tonight.”

The Canadian Press's recap continues the narrative...

Montreal finally got what it wanted on Friday night as they defeated the Senators 7-4, making Ottawa's chance at returning to the post-season that much more difficult as the club sits seven points out of the final wild-card berth with just five games remaining.

Max Pacioretty had a hat trick for the Canadiens.

"This year we definitely felt like we owed them a little payback for last year in the playoffs and our games have been heated against them," said Pacioretty. "It's not just on the scoreboard that feels good it's seeing guys step up and stand up for their teammates. I think that's one of the more rewarding feelings about the night."

Andrei Markov, Mike Weaver, Lars Eller and David Desharnais also scored for Montreal (44-27-7) as Peter Budaj stopped 39 shots for his 10th win of the season.

Zack Smith scored twice for the Senators (32-31-14) while Ales Hemsky and Mika Zibanejad had the others. Craig Anderson faced 22 shots.

...

Despite being outshot 15-4 in the second the Canadiens scored twice to take a 5-3 lead after 40 minutes.

"Obviously you look at the shots and we got some favourable bounces and that's just the way it goes some nights," said Pacioretty. "It just shows our last two games against them you're never down and out."

And NHL.com's Sean Farrell will close the narrative:

"We still had confidence," said Pacioretty, who got his team-leading 36th, 37th and 38th goals to tie Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars and Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks for the most hat tricks in the NHL this season.

"We knew that they had gotten the bounces early on, but obviously you look at the shots and we definitely got some favorable bounces and that's just the way it goes some nights. But it just shows our last two games against them, you're never down and out. Obviously tonight was very early, but you keep working hard and good things happen."

In their prior game against the Senators on March 15, the Canadiens scored three times in the final 3:22 of the third period to erase a 4-1 lead in a 5-4 overtime win at Bell Centre.

Friday, Pacioretty assisted on Weaver's first goal in more than a year, and on Desharnais' goal at 9:14 of the third period, which increased the lead to 7-3.

"He's an animal," said Desharnais, who assisted on Pacioretty's third goal. "He scores every chance he's got and I don't expect less from him. He's a great guy, a great leader, and that's what we need from him. All the credit to him."

Peter Budaj made 39 saves for Montreal. The Canadiens, with four games left to play, moved into second place in the Atlantic Division with 95 points, two ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have one game in hand.

If you wish to read the Montreal Gazette's Hickey's sans-quotes recap, Canadiens.com's Shauna Denis' interview with Pacioretty or the Gazette's Mike Boone's "Spirit Of the Thing" tale, you may most certainly do so on your own, but you may want to know some of the following tidbits from Hickey...

Subban benched again: Defenceman P.K. Subban found himself back in Michel Therrien’s doghouse. He was on the ice for the first two Ottawa goals and sat on the bench for the remainder of the first period. He returned to play a regular shift in the second period.

They wuz robbed: The Senators had reason to be upset when referee Wes McCauley waved off an apparent Ottawa goal shortly after Eller gave the Canadiens the lead. He claimed there was incidental contact on the play, but the player who took Budaj out of the play was Weaver.

What’s next: The Canadiens wrap up the regular season with three of their final four games at the Bell Centre, beginning with Saturday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN-690 Radio). The Canadiens are in Chicago on Tuesday and then return home to face the Islanders on Thursday and the Rangers on Saturday.

And Canadiens.com penned a set of pertinent stats:

17 – Number of back-to-back game series the Canadiens have taken part in this season, now owning a 5-4-1 record in the first game and looking to build on their 7-1-1 record in the second when they face the Red Wings on Saturday night.

Holy shit.

71.4 – Percentage of Andrei Markov’s goals in 2013-14 that have opened the scoring for the Habs, getting Montreal on the board for the fifth time this season with a goal from an impossible angle against the Sens.

...

20 – Number of assists racked up by Max Pacioretty so far this season, becoming the eighth Hab to hit that mark so far in 2013-14 with an assist on Weaver’s first-period marker.

38 – Number of goals scored by Pacioretty this season, now sitting fourth in the league behind Alex Ovechkin, Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski in the NHL's scoring race.

5 – Number of points racked up by Pacioretty on Friday night, adding a pair of assists to his third hat trick of the season.

NHL.com's Brian Hunter offers a balanced preview...

Last 10: Detroit 7-2-1; Montreal 8-2-0

Season series: This is the final game between the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens. The Red Wings have won two of three, with forward Gustav Nyquist's overtime goal giving them a 2-1 victory in the first game at Bell Centre on Feb. 26. NHL Trade Deadline acquisition Thomas Vanek scored the decisive goal when the Canadiens won 5-4 in the most recent game March 27.

...

Canadiens [team scope]: Price was scheduled to have the night off when Montreal visited the Ottawa Senators on Friday, though it appeared that might be in question when backup Peter Budaj was beaten three times in the opening six minutes. Coach Michel Therrien stuck with Budaj, and though his night didn't get any easier in terms of workload, he made 39 saves and got plenty of support from his teammates.

...

Who's hot: Red Wings forward Darren Helm has four goals in as many games. Forward Tomas Jurco has a goal in two straight. … Pacioretty has eight goals in his past seven games and a career-high 38 for the season. Desharnais has a goal and an assist in three of his past four games. Vanek has two goals and seven assists in his past five games.

Injury report: Red Wings forward Stephen Weiss (sports hernia) has been shut down for the season. Forward Henrik Zetterberg (back) is expected to start skating next week and could return during the first round of the playoffs. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (hand) and forward Daniel Cleary (knee) are out. … Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges (hand) is skating but not ready to return. Forwards Dale Weise (upper body), Brandon Prust (upper body) and Travis Moen (concussion) are out.

And here are a few more stats from the Associated Press:

Alfredsson, who assisted on Jurco's goal, has four goals and six assists in his last 10 games. The veteran forward has two assists in three games versus Montreal this season, and his 107 points in 92 lifetime games against the Canadiens are his most against any team.

Montreal (44-27-7), which is fighting Tampa Bay for home-ice advantage in the first round, took a two-point lead over the Lightning in that quest with four games remaining after storming by Ottawa 7-4 on Friday despite being outshot 43-23.

The Canadiens dug themselves a 3-0 hole 5:50 into the game but responded with seven consecutive goals - including a hat trick by Max Pacioretty, who added two assists for his first career five-point game. It was the ninth win in 11 games for Montreal, which has scored 33 of its 39 goals in that span at even strength.

FYI:

Canadiens defenseman Douglas Murray will serve the second of his three-game suspension for his hit on Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mike Kostka.

 

 

 

Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: Here is our Big Story of Friday Recap from the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:

When the Red Wings return from their road trip next week they might have a teammate joining them. Henrik Zetterberg could, maybe, be joining them in some part.

Maybe before the rest of the team skates, maybe with them, possibly when they're done, Zetterberg could be ready to begin skating after having back surgery just after the February Winter Olympics.

General manager Ken Holland was cautious Friday when talking about the possibility.

"I don't want to overplay this," Holland said. "We're hopeful that when we return from our games in Buffalo and Pittsburgh, Hank might be ready, in some form, to begin skating. I don't know if it'll be all out, or in what form. But we think he could be ready."

Zetterberg isn't expected to return for the playoffs, if the Red Wings qualify, until the latter half of the first round at the earliest.

Stephen Weiss appears to be out for the year, however, and again, per Kulfan:

Daniel Alfredsson (back) returned to the lineup after missing one game. Alfredsson scored a goal and had an assist in 12 minutes 40 seconds, on 18 shifts.

“I felt OK,” Alfredsson said. “Obviously missing a few days there, it felt great to be back on the ice this morning skating and playing again felt good.”

… Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (fractured finger) remains on target for a return, likely the second round of the playoffs.

...

… Daniel Cleary (knee) took part in the morning skate. Cleary hasn’t played since Jan. 28.

The Free Press's Helene St. James' notebook focuses on Gustav Nyquist's scoring pace...

Nyquist had 23 goals in his previous 28 games, a pace not seen in Detroit since Ray Sheppard tore through 28 games with 27 goals 20 years ago. Nyquist had three goals in three straight games; another streak can start as soon as today at Montreal.

Nyquist’s puck proclivity comes from speed and smarts. His hockey IQ, coach Mike Babcock likes to say, is “off the charts.” Johan Franzen — who knows a thing or two about being on a streak — noted that what’s so remarkable about Nyquist is how he creates his own offense.

“He’s faster with the puck than without it, and that’s pretty uncommon,” Franzen said. “It’s more his speed getting away from the D’s and creating such great chances for himself — it’s not like anyone is really setting him up. He’s just waiting for the right opportunity, and it usually comes from his own blue line when he can beat the D to a puck and skate around them.”

St. James continues...

And I cannot deny that when I watched Christian Ehrhoff play--especially given what a trainwreck the Vancouver Canucks are, and what their reported asking price for Alex Edler was at the deadline (STILL two top prospects and a 1st round pick), I kind of thought, "Don't worry, Christian Ehrhoff, it sucks for you now, but you might be in Detroit soon."

St. James confirms that the Wings may revisit that theory in the summer:

Buffalo defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is on the Wings’ watch list as they seek to upgrade their defense this summer. Ehrhoff is offensively gifted — he has 26 assists and could help with the Wings’ puck-possession game from the back end. Ehrhoff, 31, is signed through 2020-21, but he has a reasonable salary-cap hit of $4 million.

Edler is 27 by comparison, but he's also -33 and has a $5 million cap hit on a deal that goes through 18-19 (per Capgeek), while Ehrhoff, who will turn 32 in July, has a more reasonable cap hit and real-money hit (though he's definitely got a "lifetime contract," and yes, he's -22, but that's Buffalo), and Ehrhoff has a much better track record in the point-producing department. The Sports Forecaster describes the 6'2," 203-pound defenseman, who would still be hard to acquire from a division rival, as follows:

Assets:  Owns good hockey sense, elite skating ability (highlighted by excellent acceleration) and the talent to log big minutes. Loves to move the puck and knows when to join the attack. Can quarterback a power play and also be used in defensive situations.

Flaws:  Plays a chippier game than earlier in his career, but can still struggle against bigger NHL forwards. He can also make bad decisions under pressure from time to time, which will lead to weak zone coverage and bad penalties. His shot isn't always on target.

Potential: Big-minute offensive defenseman.

Whatever the Wings do this summer, whether they make a trade, look for a free agent--even a Timonen or Boyle on a one-year deal if necessary--the team does need to add another "big-minute offensive defenseman." They don't want to impede the progress of all of their prospects in Grand Rapids, but they can't wait forever, either.

Otherwise, in shorter form: MLive's Brendan Savage wondered aloud whether Mike Babcock's Jack Adams Award material (answer: you bet, but the NHL's award-deciders [broadcasters in the case of the Jack Adams] tend to make their picks earlier in the year, and the momentum behind Craig Berube, Patrick Roy, Dan Bylsma, etc. will prove to be too hard to overcome);

Regarding those plucky Canucks, the Vancouver Province's Ed Willes suggested that their dysfunctional coach and GM, John Tortorella and Mike Gillis, respectively, might not be in charge of such a hot mess if they acted a little more like Mike Babcock and Ken Holland do;

Regarding the playoffs, ESPN's Craig Custance assessed the Wings' chances of making a dent in the Eastern Conference thusly in an insider-only mailbag:

The Red Wings will be a fascinating team in the playoffs because many of these players who are contributing now were a part of their surprising run last spring that almost had them knocking off the eventual champion Blackhawks. Gustav Nyquist has been an absolute force, and the return of Pavel Datsyuk gives them another star for opposing teams to focus on. In Jimmy Howard, you have a playoff-tested and confident goalie more than capable of stealing a game or two while some of the young players get acclimated.

NHL.com's Adam Kimelman posited a set of nine potentiallly game-changing players come playoff time, and his Wings pick was a logical one:

Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings -- Injuries up and down the lineup have put the Red Wings' NHL-record 23-season streak of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs at risk, but the biggest loss might be the absence of its captain following back surgery Feb. 21.

The Red Wings initially said Zetterberg would be re-evaluated eight weeks after his procedure. The best Detroit could hope for is a deep run into the postseason that would allow Zetterberg potentially to return for the Eastern Conference Final.

Zetterberg would be a welcome addition to Detroit's postseason roster no matter when it comes. He's a proven playoff performer who ranks third among active players with 55 postseason goals, to go along with a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy.

If you are interested in that sort of thing, the Macomb Daily's Tom Watts reports that Ciccarelli's Sports Bar in Shelby Township now has a banquet hall;

And on Twitter:

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

OlderThanChelios's avatar

5 – Number of points racked up by Pacioretty on Friday night, adding a pair of assists to his third hat trick of the season.

It’ll be interesting to see how well Max fairs with Glendenning hanging all over him every time he’s on the ice.

Canadiens defenseman Douglas Murray will serve the second of his three-game suspension for his hit on Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mike Kostka.

That’s a great big “whew” if Pavel plays tonight.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 04/05/14 at 10:00 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.