The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/22/11 at 08:15 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings managed to pull off a near-miraculous comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins, rallying from a 4-0 deficit, but they came up short in terms of results because they couldn’t complete their comeback, and dropped a 5-4 shootout decision to the Penguins on Monday night.
After a solid five minutes’ worth of hockey, the Wings seemed to collapse into their classic mid-January, “We’ll just tread water until our injured players come back” form, looking like a team that rather desperately missed Pavel Datsyuk’s two-way play and the offensive pop that Johan Franzen and Jiri Hudler give them while getting out-worked, out-hustled and out-played as the Penguins chased Detroit all over the ice and made Jimmy Howard, who didn’t have a terrible game despite pumping out quite a few rebounds, look much worse than he actually played, scoring 4 goals on 15 shots against someone who the Wings admittedly hung out to dry. After Joey MacDonald took over, the Wings finally settled down and started playing like themselves again, scoring 4 consecutive goals…
But they seemed to run out of gas once they tied the game, and their three shooters made Brent Johnson look unbeatable before James Neal scored the shootout winner on the Penguins’ third attempt. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari offers a “just the facts” recap…
[Pascal] Dupuis gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead when he beat Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard with a backhander from along the goal line at 15:14 of the opening period, and Chris Kunitz put in a Dupuis rebound to make it 2-0 at 19:17.
Craig Adams of the Penguins had a goal disallowed early in the second when it was ruled that winger Arron Asham had interfered with Howard, but the Penguins didn’t sag. Dupuis put them up by three with a shorthanded goal at 10:51, as he tucked a shot inside the right post after his attempt to throw a backhand pass failed and the puck caromed back to him off the back boards.
Tyler Kennedy drove Howard to the bench at 13:16, when he got a pass from Kunitz and flipped in a backhander for his 17th.
Penguins goalie Brent Johnson lost his shutout bid at 17:41, when Henrik Zetterberg’s backhander from just outside the left dot glanced off Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and sailed into the net.
Johnson got another tough break at 1:57 of the third, as Detroit’s Valtteri Filppula fought his way free of defenseman Deryk Engelland in front of the net, and slid a shot toward the net. The puck was headed through the crease and wide of the right post, but struck Johnson’s left skate and skidded across the goal line.
The Red Wings’ surge continued when Daniel Cleary deflected in Nicklas Lidstrom slap shot during a power play at 8:08 and Mike Modano pulled them even by whipping a shot by Johnson from near the right dot at 10:27, while Alex Kovalev was in the penalty box for holding, for the final goal of regulation
Molinari also offered a slate of points of emphasis...
Why it matters: Picking up the two points is nice, but not having to settle for one – or none – after building, then blowing, a four-goal lead is a lot more important. Losing this game after getting such a terrific start could have sent the Penguins into a serious tailspin.
In a nutshell: The Penguins dominated the first half of the game, getting goals from Pascal Dupuis (two), Chris Kunitz and Tyler Kennedy during the first 34 minutes, while Detroit controlled much of the third, and had wiped out the Penguins’ lead by the middle of the third. The Penguins regained their equilibrium before the game got out of hand, however, and James Neal was the only player on either side to score during the shootout. That could be pretty big in its own right, since Neal’s confidence has taken a pretty big hit while scoring just two goals in his past 23 games.
Turning point: There were lots, but the last one of real consequence was a save Penguins goalie Brent Johnson made on Darren Helm of the Red Wings during a two-on-one shorthanded break at 16:59 of the third period. If Detroit goes ahead there, the game is all but officially over.
The brightest star: Neal was named the No. 1 star of the game, but Dupuis is the one whose fingerprints were all over this one. He isn’t a major source of offense, but contributed three points on a night when his team needed them badly. And just to top it off, he wasn’t on the ice for any of Detroit’s goals.
The last word: Brent Johnson, on the psychological impact that losing a game in which the Penguins had a 4-0 lead would have had: “It would have been tough. You don’t really know unless it happens. But definitely, it would have been hard.”
So the Penguins got to speak gushily about their commitment to each other, as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi noted:
“Every one of these guys would lay down in traffic for one another,” goalie Brent Johnson said Monday night after a 5-4 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings at Jose Louis Arena.
Seriously, what is a blown four-goal lead to this team?
“Just another obstacle,” winger Chris Kunitz said. “We’ve had a lot of them, so maybe we’re used to it.”
It wasn’t just a win in this building, where they’ve had some highs (Games 5 and 7 of the 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup Final series, respectively); but where they have also lost six times over the last three years. It was winning in this building after blowing a huge lead, after learning before the game that another one of their leaders, winger Matt Cooke, would miss significant time.
“They were humming,” Johnson said of the Red Wings, adding that he changed his goalie glove before the shootout—where he pitched a shutout over three rounds.
But, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Molinari noted, the Penguins received an even more dominant performance from Pascal Dupuis of all people:
Dupuis scored the first and third goals and set up the second as the Penguins rebounded from a deflating 5-2 loss to the Rangers the previous day at home.
“Guys have to step up and be the hero sometime,” Dupuis said, smiling.
The Penguins didn’t get their two points, though, until after they failed to hold a four-goal lead built in the first 34 minutes of regulation. But even though the Red Wings dominated them for much of the third period—“We got away from our game,” left winger Chris Kunitz said—Detroit never managed to generate the go-ahead goal, and the Penguins got their victory when James Neal was the only player on either team to score in the shootout. Neal has just one regulation-time goal in 12 games since being acquired from Dallas, but his shootout-deciding one is a pretty nice consolation prize.
“It felt good,” Neal said. “Especially after blowing that 4-1 lead.”
Neal’s goal ended the game because goalie Brent Johnson denied Todd Bertuzzi, Mike Modano and Dan Cleary of the Red Wings in the shootout. His glove save on Modano in the second round was particularly dazzling. Johnson said he had replaced his glove at the end of overtime. Modano is to be forgiven for thinking he replaced it with one the size of Kentucky after the way Johnson snagged his blur of a shot.
“He got lots of wood on it,” Johnson said.
Neal was delighted with both his teammates and himself after the game, as PittsburghPenguins.com’s Michelle Crechiolo noted:
“It felt great to get that goal in the shootout,” Neal said. “I haven’t scored in the shootout in a long time. ... No better way to get (a goal) than in a shootout to win a game. We found a way to win and it was a good two points.”
[Penguins coach Dan] Bylsma smiled when asked why he chose to go with Neal as the shooter that could win the game, first citing Neal’s shootout percentage but ultimately stating that the Penguins’ recent acquisition was the guy he wanted to see get that type of uplifting goal.
“He’s got a decent percentage, we’re aware of what he did in Dallas,” Bylsma said. “But he’s a guy I wanted to see finish the game for us, and he certainly came up with a big shot. He’s done it in the past, and it’s good to see him get that goal for us.”
“It’s very important,” Neal said of garnering the win. “But not only that, the team we’re playing, the previous battles that the Penguins have had with Detroit – it makes it that much better. We want to play this team tough every time we play them. No matter how much they battled back, we still find a way to win. “
“I certainly like leaving this building with two points,” [Bylsma] said.
“It’s a fantastic feeling, especially for myself coming to Detroit,” Johnson said, who hails from Farmington, Mich. “It feels really good.”
The Post-Gazette’s Seth Rorabaugh was spot-on with several of his observations and…We’ll agree to disagree about a few others...
-The Penguins had another meltdown in terms of discipline. Thankfully, they had a four-goal lead tonight. If they don’t cash in on all their chances early, the Red Wings win this in regulation.
-Oddly, the Penguins seemed to dominate most of overtime after being spectators in the third period.
-Amazing what a goaltending change can do to wake up a team. Imagine if the Penguins had played a starting goaltender who was even halfway ready to play? Jimmy Howard gave them some absolute gifts tonight.
-Letang lost his composure quite a bit in the third period, particularly when Tomas Holmstrom was around. He’s luck[y] the officials let a lot go.
-Johnson could have stolen a goal or two, but his teammmate left him out to dry quite a bit.
The Wings suggested the same about Howard.
PittsburghPenguins.com’s Sam Kassan spotlighted Dupuis’ performance...
Dupuis finished the night with two goals, three points, a plus-3, five shots and 17:58 minutes of ice time. Dupuis carried the puck from behind the net and snapped a hard backhander into the goal from a tough angle for the Penguins’ first goal of the game.
He gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead in the second while killing a penalty. Dupuis’ fleet footwork helped turn a turnover into a two-on-one rush for the Penguins. At the side of the net, Dupuis lost control of the puck. But he regained it from behind the net and, with some quick handwork, pulled it above the goal line and slipped it into the net before the goaltender could recover for the shorthanded score.
And he suggested that a save by Brent Johnson late in the third period (which I’d suggest was as much a whiffed shot by Darren Helm as Johnson making a huge save) was the game’s “turning point:
The game was tied at 4-4 in the final three minutes of regulation. Pittsburgh had a great opportunity as the Red Wings took a penalty. However, the best scoring chance was in favor of the Red Wings.
Darren Helm carried the puck in on the Pittsburgh goal in a two-on-one rush with Justin Abdelkader. In a give-and-go sequence Helm got the puck back with a gaping wide-open net to shoot at. Penguins goalie Brent Johnson did a split, reaching back with his pad and arm and managed to keep the puck out of the net. A goal for the Red Wings in that instance means the Penguins likely get no points out of this game. But Johnson’s save helped set the stage for the team earn a very big two points.
The Wings did out-shoot the Penguins 41-25 and won the majority of their faceoffs, but Detroit also gave the puck away 13 times, and that helped ensure that, per team statistician Greg Innis, the Wings have never come back from a 4-goal deficit, at least to win…
The Penguins have swept the season series from the Red Wings for the first time since the 1998-99 season (excluding one-game season series). Pittsburgh also defeated Detroit 4-1 Jan. 18 at CONSOL Energy Center.
So the Penguins earned the right to indulge in bordeline smarm while speaking to NHL.com’s Brian Hedger…
“Yeah, well, it was a Versus game so we tried to make it interesting,” joked Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis, who led Pittsburgh with a pair of goals and an assist for a three-point night. “It’s all about ratings I guess, huh? No, they’re a good hockey team. They kept coming. At the same time, you don’t want to let a team creep back like they did in the third.”
“It’s not only (getting the win), but it’s the team we’re playing and the previous battles the Penguins have had with Detroit,” said Neal, who Pittsburgh traded Alex Goligoski to the Dallas Stars to acquire in February. “It makes it that much better. We want to play this team tough each time we play them. No matter how much they battled back, we still found a way to win. It’s a good feeling.”
Coming all the way back created one of the loudest scenes in the building all season and even impressed Johnson – the grandson of Red Wings legend Sid Abel who spent many nights at Joe Louis Arena as a youngster.
“The barn was maybe one of the loudest I’ve ever heard after they got that fourth goal,” Johnson said. “The decibel level was definitely high in here. Through the (1980s) I came here with my grandpa every game.”
“I haven’t played here in a long time, but playing in front of family and friends it’s definitely fantastic,” Johnson said. “Getting a win underneath my grandfather’s jersey is one great thing.”
The Penguins continued while speaking to the Associated Press...
“We let it slip away a bit and no one likes to see that,” Neal said. “But when you come back and win in the shootout, it’s a great feeling.”
Which notes that both teams were missing key contributors…
[Sidney] Crosby took at least one too many hits to the head that have been forced him to sit out since Jan. 5 because of a concussion. ]Evgeni] Malkin was lost last month for the season after he tore two ligaments in his right knee. Detroit was missing a star, a standout and a role player. Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen missed their second straight game with lower body injuries, and Jiri Hudler was out for a third game because of an upper body ailment.
“Both teams had to play without substantial guys,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “Still a pretty good game.”
And, from the Red Wings’ collective point of view, the team didn’t necessarily receive the best goaltending performance in the world, but the team’s defensive lapses were part of the problem:
“Howie would like to have the first one back, but I think we hung him out to dry on the other ones,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Mac didn’t have much work, but he made some good saves for us and gave us two rounds in the shootout with an opportunity.”
Maybe this is just a personal reaction, but the fact that the Wings still dropped this game stings pretty badly, as far as I’m concerned. Let’s just say that Babcock might disagree with me…
“It was a good point for us,” Babcock said.
As Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji also noted:
“Their goalie made some good saves and it took us a while to get back in it, but our guys really battled and we hung in there and found a way to get a good point,” Babcock said. “It would have been nice to get the second one and we had our opportunities, but a good point for us.”
Mike Modano’s ability to finally break his goal-scoring schneid played a large part in the Wings’ ability to gain a point, with Modano scoring the game-tying goal…
“Just was a tough start, some bad breaks and some fortunate bounces on their (behalf) and it’s 4-0 before we knew it,” Modano said. “We felt if we got one there before the second was over, we’d feel good going into the third. Then some good things happened for us.We felt like we carried the play most of the third, great opportunities even after we tied it. We could have had a couple more to maybe go ahead, but definitely you gotta feel good about the last 20.”
It was Modano’s first goal since Nov. 3 at Calgary, before he was injured.
“It was finally nice to get something positive,” Modano said. “We were out there for a couple goals-against. It felt like it was one of those nights, but (we) kind of hung in there and pushed back a little bit, just kind of kept a little bit on the forecheck and did finally some good things, kept shooting the puck. That’s all you can do is try to create and keep our speed going. It was a great pass by Fil, good screen by Tommy (Holmstrom) and finally put it where I wanted it.”
Modano also made an amusing comment about witnessing a few octopi hit the ice late in the game…
“It’s getting to be that time of year,” Modano said. “I’ve seen plenty of them on the wrong side for a long time, so hopefully it’s finally nice to see them come when good things happen for us and when you know spring’s around the corner and exciting times are ahead of us.”
And Wakiji reports that Modano hit a milestone in tying Guy Lafleur on the all-time scoring list with goal #560:
“I didn’t even know,” Modano said. “Nice to be recognized with a great player of Guy’s caliber and his status. I’m just happy to get one here in a while.”
“Tommy” also registered his 500th point by assisting on Valtteri Filppula’s 4-2 goal, and he was most certainly effective at driving the Penguins to distraction, but it was the Wings that got distracted early, as Babcock told the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell (Waddell also posited a quote-less recap, offering a very, very harsh assessment of Jimmy Howard’s play):
At start I thought we were all over them,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Then they got a real ugly one and took over the game for the whatever was left of the first and the second. I thought our guys really battled and hung in there and found a way to get a point.”
Did I mention that Waddell laid the loss at the feet of Jimmy Howard?
[Zetterberg] got caught taking too long a shift on the Penguins’ opening goal. He couldn’t get back to the bench quickly enough, allowing Pittsburgh to get away on an odd-man rush that led to Pascal Dupuis’ goal at 15:14. Dupuis’ backhander from a bad angle carried a terrible aroma with it to the back of the net as it slid through goalie Jimmy Howard’s legs.
Detroit was simply horrible in the period’s final five minutes [of the first period]. The Wings got their just desserts with 43 seconds to play as Kris Letang outmuscled Dan Cleary just inside the Detroit line. Dupuis’ shot should’ve easily been eaten up Howard, but the Wings’ goalie flubbed it back out for Chris Kunitz to sweep into the goal.
It didn’t get any better for the Wings in the second. After Pittsburgh missed a series of good chances, Dupuis scored short-handed at 10:51 when he tucked one in from behind the net. Howard’s night came to an end after he coughed up another horrible rebound for Tyler Kennedy to slip into the goal at 13:16. The netminder was beaten four times on 16 shots and was replaced by Joey MacDonald.
“Howie would like to have the first one back, but I thought we hung him out to dry on the other ones,” said Babcock with a rather charitable assessment of the goalie he’s going to have to ride into the playoffs.
I’ll readily admit that the first goal Howard gave up was inexcusable, and the second one wasn’t glorious, either, but he was due to have a bit of a stinker in terms of his rebound control, and…
I’m going to take some crap for saying this, but I think it’s more than time: all this, “ZOMG, LET’S PANIC BECAUSE THE WINGS CAN’T GET ANYWHERE IN THE PLAYOFFS WITH HOWARD IN THE NET!!!11111” crap is just that. Crap. A stupid waste of energy that isn’t grounded in any sort of fact.
The bottom line about any goaltender is that until he delivers a strong playoff performance and wins you a couple of rounds, he’s not going to quell any doubters. He either delivers or he doesn’t. That being said, however, the concept of writing off Howard because he played inconsistently in the playoffs as a rookie makes very little sense. A goaltender whose rebound control remains suspect and whose fundamentals are still poorer than Howard’s delivered the Wings a Stanley Cup in 2008, and the Wings didn’t win “in spite” of Chris Osgood. They won because he was a dominant goalie during the Wings’ Cup run, and there’s no reason to believe that Howard can’t do the same at some point. In the interim, panicking about whether Howard can deliver after all of one playoff run’s worth of experience strikes me as a colossal waste of energy.
Anyway, back to the game.
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan focused on the bright side of the Wings’ loss in the fact that they were simply able to earn a point after stinking up the joint at times—collectively—from minutes 5 to 47:
Trailing 4-0 and seemingly out of the game, Henrik Zetterberg began the onslaught with his 21st goal at 17:41 of the second period. It was the trigger the Wings were waiting for.
The Wings scored three times in a span of 8:30 to open the third. Goals from Valtteri Filppula (16th, 1:57), Dan Cleary (power play, 24th, 7:00) and Mike Modano (power play, third, 10:27) tied the score and sent the 20,066 at Joe Louis Arena into delirium.
“We’ve had a number of those you kind of watch and the team keeps coming back and making plays,” said Modano, who scored his 560th career goal, tying Guy LaFleur for 23rd. “They never quit and it’s a real sign of this team’s consistency and the pride they have. It’s really great to be part of.”
“Great pass from Fil (Filppula) and good skating by Tommy (Holmstrom) and I was finally able to put it where I wanted it,” Modano said.
Zetterberg suggested that the Wings may have been a little peeved at themselves…
“Pride is always involved,” Zetterberg said. “We had a tough start and that happens. But we found a way to get back in the game.”
As he also told the Grand Rapids Press’s Kyle Meinke:
“It felt really good after the second period there, came back, played a really good third and really showed that we can score some goals when we need to,” said Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg, who began Detroit’s rally with a goal at 17:41 of the second period, making the score 4-1. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the two points.”
Modano, in his 12th game since missing half the season with a wrist injury, completed Detroit’s comeback by turning a perfect pass from Valtteri Filppula into a whistling shot that beat backup Pittsburgh goaltender Brent Johnson on a power play. It was Modano’s first goal since Nov. 3.
“(He had) a lot of good chances and played really good hockey,” Zetterberg said. “It’s really good to see him get that tying goal. He just gets better and better every day.”
“We really didn’t too much in the first 40,” Modano said, “but we certainly gave ourselves a chance to make it interesting and make a game out of it.”
“The strength of our team is the forecheck and our ability to turn pucks over and take them to the net,” Modano said. “A couple chances like that came our way, and we finally were able to get a couple by Johnson, who was playing good, for the most part.”
The Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema noted that Zetterberg took the point the Wings earned and ran with it…
“All points are really important, all the teams are fighting for those points and it is good,” Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “If you go back four or five years, the last 10-15 games, you have nothing to play for. This is better. We’re going to get the playoff mentality before we start playing the postseason.”
Before taking Zetterberg’s quote and running with it himself, suggesting that the Wings kicked off their playoff push on Monday night:
It wouldn’t be completely absurd to argue the playoffs started against the Penguins. A little premature? Sure, but not absurd. And in that scenario the Red Wings would be down 0-1. It would be crazy, though, to write off the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup prospects.
Granted, the Red Wings skated without Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Jiri Hudler, three key cogs that help explain why the offensive machine was so slow to start. But Pittsburgh was playing without Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Mark Letestu and the suspended Matt Cooke. Detroit’s depth, experience and skill is supposed to overcome those kind of absences. It’s what has made the Red Wings so dominant during the past two decades. It also is exactly what kick-started the Red Wings third-period comeback. Four-nil deficits, obviously, aren’t something that Detroit can afford to make habitual.
No doubt, persistent questions hover around the Red Wings. Can Jimmy Howard shake off a rough outing after getting pulled with 6:44 remaining in the second period? Can the defense lock down opposing offenses? Will everybody be healthy?
The Red Wings have nine games remaining in the regular season to answer those queries and round themselves into playoff shape. It will be especially vital since the final stretch isn’t exactly filled with gimmes. Detroit faces Western Conference-leading Vancouver on Wednesday. A hungry Toronto team follows on Saturday, and three showdowns with division rival Chicago are waiting after that. It may be just the challenge that puts them on track.
The Wings might not be ready to make such sweeping proclamations, but they definitely accentuated their positive points of emphasis after the game, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted:
“I think pride is always involved,” Zetterberg said. “We had a really tough start and found a way to get back in.”
Many cheering fans had been booing earlier, as the Penguins outworked and outhustled the Wings after Pascal Dupuis scored his first of two goals late in the first period. Chris Kunitz made it 2-0 after 20 minutes.
“It was a tough start,” Modano said. “Just some bad breaks, ... and it’s 4-0 before we knew it. We felt if we got one there before the second was over, we’d feel good going into the third, and then some good things happened for us. We felt like we carried the play most of the third. Definitely, you’ve got to feel good about the last 20.”
Even with key players missing—the Wings didn’t have Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen or Jiri Hudler available because of injuries; the Penguins didn’t have injured forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin or suspended forward Matt Cooke—the game didn’t lack intensity. The Wings had the early edge in shots but sagged through much of first period and deep into the second.
“I actually liked the start of the game,” Mike Babcock said. “I thought we were all over them. ... When they got momentum, they won all the battles. ... Once we scored, we came out with a real push in the third. I thought our guys really battled, and we hung in there and found a way to get a point.”
I’m glad that the Wings got a point, but the Wings have been “losing battles” in one-on-one situations where puck possession is in question for about three games now, and while I understand the team’s reticence to subject Franzen, Datsyuk or Hudler to further injuries, the Wings dropped down to 10 forwards when Justin Abdelkader was shaken up by a nasty check from behind by Matt Niskanen (the Versus gents seemed to be convinced that Abdelkader was taken to a “quiet area” to undergo a neurological baseline assessment under the new concussion protocols), and while the Wings can handle missing key contributors more than most teams…
They really did look like a team that had gone back into, “Let’s just tread water till our injured players come back” mode, and at this time of year, remarkable, near-miraculous comebacks included, that kind of attitude doesn’t cut it. If the team can’t shake the injury bug by the time the playoffs begin, there is no treading water in April. You decide to win with the personnel you have by committing to out-working and out-competing the other team for 60+ minutes, or you start booking tee times, and in this town, we Wings fans tend to believe that losing in the second round is a disappointing one-season aberration, not the new normal.
Highlights: Sportsnet posted a 1:59 highlight clip:
Versus posted a 4:20 highlight clip…
As well as the game’s individual goals in Pascal Dupuis’ 1-0 goal, Chris Kunitz’s 2-0 goal, Tyler Kennedy’s 3-0 goal, Dupuis’ 4-0 goal, Henrik Zetterberg’s 4-1 goal, Valtteri Filppula’s 4-2 goal, Danny Cleary’s 4-3 goal, Mike Modano’s game-tying goal and James Neal’s shootout winner.
TSN posted a 2:22 highlight clip;
And NHL.com posted a six-minute highlight clip:
TSN’s post-game offerings include a “breakdown” of the Penguins’ ability to dominate the Wings for the first 40 minutes of the game, a quick discussion of the game‘s events and a “shootout” between Steve Simmons and Mike Johnson regarding Henrik Zetterberg’s take on the Matt Cooke suspension and the Norris Trophy race;
The Penguins’ website posted interviews with Pascal Dupuis…
And Penguins coach Dan Bylsma:
The Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell posted a one-minute clip of Eric Staal speaking to the press…
And the Red Wings’ website posted a clip of Henrik Zetterberg, Mike Modano and Wings coach Mike Babcock’s comments to the media:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 5-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 22—image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 7-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 23-image gallery;
Statistics: 41-25 Detroit overall, breaking down as 11-8 Detroit in the 1st period, 12-8 Detroit in the 2nd period, 14-5 Detroit in the 3rd period and 4-4 in OT.
Jimmy Howard stopped 11 of 15 shots; Joey MacDonald stopped 10 of 10; Brent Johnson stopped 36 of 41 shots.
The Wings went 2-for-4 in 6:23 of PP time; the Pens went 0-for-3 in 6:00 of time;
The Wings’ goals: Zetterberg (21) from Cleary (18) and Stuart (14);
Filppula (16) from Stuart (15) and Holmstrom (17);
Cleary (24) from Kronwall (24) and Lidstrom (42), PP;
Modano (3) from Filppula (20) and Lidstrom (43), PP.
The 3 stars, per Dana Wakiji: Filppula, Dupuis and Neal.
Faceoffs 42-24 Detroit (64% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 12-11 Detroit;
Missed shots 19-12 Pittsburgh (total attempted shots 64-56 Detroit);
Hits 37-29 Pittsburgh;
Giveaways 13-5 Detroit;
Takeaways 10-8 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 11-and-9 (55%); Filppula went 10-and-5 (67%); Helm went 8-and-4 (67%); Draper went 5-and-2 (71%); Abdelkader went 3-and-2 (60%); Cleary went 2-and-2 (50%); Modano went 2-and-0; Eaves won his only faceoff.
Shots: Modano led the team with 7 shots; Cleary had 5 shots; Lidstrom and Helm had 4; Eaves, Miller and Rafalski had 3; Salei, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Filppula had 2; Abdelkader, Ericsson and Holmstrom had 1.
Blocked attempts: Kindl, Stuart and Rafalski had 2 shot attempts blocked; Eaves, Helm, Filppula, Modano and Holmstrom had single shot attempts blocked.
Missed shots: Bertuzzi and Filppula missed the net 3 times; Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; Cleary, Ericsson, Modano and Holmstrom missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader had 5 hits; Cleary and Helm had 4; Bertuzzi had 3; Miller, Draper and Ericsson ahd 2; Kindl, Lidstrom, Eaves, Stuart, Zetterberg, Kronwall and Holmstrom had 1.
Giveaways: Zetterberg and Ericsson had 2 giveaways; Kindl, Lidstrom, Abdelakder, Rafalski, Draper, Helm, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Modano had 1.
Takeaways: Abdelkader and Filppula had 2 takeaways; Cleary, Rafalski, Draper, Zetterberg, Helm and Ericsson had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 4 Penguins shots; Kindl, Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Eaves, Stuart, Salei, Rafalski and Ericsson blocked 1.
Penalties: Bertuzzi, Ericsson and Kronwall were tagged with minor penalties.
Plus-minus: Kindl, Rafalski, Filppula and Modano finished at -2; Lidstrom, Cleary, Salei and Bertuzzi finished at -1; Stuart and Kronwall finished at +1.
Points: Both Stuart and Lidstrom had 2 assists; Cleary and Filppula had a goal and an assist apiece; Zetterberg and Modano had goals; Kronwall and Holmstrom had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 25:16 played; Lidstrom played 24:12; Stuart played 22:24;
Zetterberg played 22:01; Cleary played 21:45; Ericsson played 21:00;
Rafalski played 20:30; Bertuzzi played 19:12; Filppula played 18;15;
Holmstrom played 17:32; Helm played 16:28; Modano played 16;13;
Eaves played 15:18; Miller played 12:38; Draper played 12:16;
Abdelkader played 12:12; Kindl played 10:25; Salei played 6:28.
Red Wings notes: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review posted reactions to Matt Cooke’s suspension for the balance of the regular season and first round of the playoffs, and several Wings weighed in on the issue of Cooke’s repeated willingness to go way over the line in terms of not respecting his opponents and targeting their heads, as Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika...
“I think the suspensions he gets don’t really bother him,” said the Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg, who said he would have suspended Cooke for the rest of the season, including the playoffs, and then “see what we’re going to do after that.” “It’s the same guys who go out and do this all the time. We’ve just got to somehow find a way to make them stop.”
The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff...
“That’s one of those things that we’ve been trying to get away from our game,” said Detroit defenceman Niklas Kronwall, who applauded the suspension. “That has to be one of the answers. We need to bear down and be even tougher on the suspensions.”
The Detroit News’s John Niyo...
“Honestly, you just have to be aware to see: He keeps doing stuff over and over,” said the Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg, who was calling for a suspension for the entire playoffs at Monday’s morning skate.
Said Holland: “We make rules and players will still break rules. So if you think you’re gonna make some rules and you’re gonna eliminate everything, I mean, Matt Cooke — we just had the meeting and he broke the rule.”
And the Grand Rapids Press’s Kyle Meinke noted:
Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, himself a hard hitter, saw Cooke’s shot, but wouldn’t go so far as to say he was in favor of eliminating all hits to the head.
“That’s a tough call to make. It’s so based upon the judgment the ref makes on the ice,” Kronwall said. “I think a lot of times when guys go in to hit someone, they don’t try and aim for the head or anything like that. You don’t want that in the game, but at the same time you want to keep hits in the game. It’s hard to go in and really focus on not hitting the head. A lot of times to the guy on the other side of the hit, if he sees you at the last second he’ll try and get away, and then accidentally you end up hitting the head sometimes. That’s a real tough question, but a subject we need to discuss.”
Red Wings forward Mike Modano didn’t see the hit, but he found it interesting Penguins legend Mario Lemieux and general manager Ray Shero recently have preached about player safety, yet have Cooke on the roster.
“It seems like a pattern between the same four, five or six guys in the league that have repeated or constantly done the same thing,” Modano said. “How do you get your point across to those guys? Financially might do it. Miss games, but then you’re hurting yourself and your team. But then maybe at some point it finally hits home.”
“I’d swear we’d been talking about this for a while as a league,” Babcock said. “It’s real straight forward.”
• Ruslan Salei made it very clear that he didn’t want to play in Monday night’s game, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted...
Personnel shortages forced Ruslan Salei into the lineup despite having not skated for a week, as he returned to Detroit on Sunday after a week in California with his wife, who had their second daughter Wednesday. “I was riding a bike only,” Salei said. “Really, there was no time. I was at home with two kids, and then in hospital. It was really nice of them to let me stay with my family. I appreciate that. That was real class act.”
Salei played only 6:28, the fewest minutes on the team, as the Wings’ seventh defenseman, going -1 and registering 2 shots and a blocked shot.
The Wings didn’t use Salei or Ericsson as their twelfth forward: Babcock either double-shifted Filppula, Zetterberg, Draper or Helm between Drew Miller or Justin Abdelkader on the fourth line, or he simply swapped out a forward on the Helm-Eaves pairing to give Abdelkader and Miller regular shifts.
• The Grand Rapids Press’s Kyle Meineke also spoke to Salei...
“I haven’t been up to the standards, conditioning-wise, and I haven’t been skating for a week,” Salei said. “It’s up to the coaches, obviously, whatever decision they make. I just got back into it.”
He noted that Chris Osgood wants to back up Jimmy Howard on Wednesday vs. Vancouver…
“I (feel) like I’m back where I was before I had the previous setback,” Osgood said. “If I feel real good (today), hopefully I can be back Wednesday.
And after providing an update regarding Jiri Hudler (who has a sore neck and shoulder after getting dinged by Washington Capitals forward DJ King), he noted that Niklas Kronwall’s been impressed with the Penguins’ moxie in persisting despite injuries to Crosby and Evgeni Malkin:
“I’m very impressed with the season they’ve had with (Malkin and Crosby) out,” Kronwall said. “I think a lot of guys thought when Crosby got hurt, and then Malkin got hurt as well, it would be tough for them. That just goes to show that you can rely on the structure of game that you play when you have new guys coming in and taking on bigger roles.”
• Brad Stuart extended that compliment to his own team while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan about the injuries both teams have sustained this season:
“It speaks to the foundation that both teams have,” Stuart said. “Good depth, structure. Other guys can step in and play those roles — you’re not going to replace guys like that (Datsyuk, Crosby, Malkin) — but you have guys who can step in and do a good job until those guys are ready to come back.”
Kulfan also spoke to Tomas Holmstrom about the fact that, as usual, the league has waved off at least half a dozen Wings goals because Holmstrom was in, near or looking at the crease, bumping goaltenders or being bumped by them, or otherwise being Tomas Holmstrom. Holmstrom was particularly miffed about the Niklas Kronwall goal that was waved off on Saturday because Stephen Walkom deemed that Holmstrom, who was both outside the crease and was pushed by Pekka Rinne, somehow prevented Rinne from doing his job:
“Ridiculous,” Holmstrom said of referee Stephen Walkom’s goaltender interference call last weekend that negated an goal against the Predators. “I’m trying to put it behind me.”
The playoffs can’t be too far away when Holmstrom is under the microscope for his actions around the net. All he wants is a fair shake.
“Even (Nashville goaltender Pekka) Rinne came up to me and said that was bull, that was a goal,” Holmstrom said. “That’s real bad. Even he (Rinne) said it. It’s getting to be frustrating.”
Holmstrom, who doesn’t understand why such calls aren’t allowed to be looked at on video replay, said he’s frustrated by the league’s apparent desire for more offense, but then not allowing players to work around the net.
“They check high sticks (in terms of apparent goals),” he said. “But they can’t check (goaltender interference). Guys have to be able to go to the net. You can’t take that away. That belongs in the game. Going to the net, that’s how goals are scored in the playoffs.”
The league seems to have no problem with goalies getting ran over by onrushing forwards or pushed into the net at times—depending on, supposedly, whether a player’s stick is under or over a goaltender’s glove, blocker or leg pad—but stick Holmstrom in front of the goalie, and incidental contact is called almost inevitably.
The Wings did get a break on Monday as Aaron Asham’s decision to sneak up alongside Jimmy Howard negated a Penguins goal, but the Wings often find themselves on the receiving end of such calls because Holmstrom’s reputation precedes him.
• Red Wings forward Mike Modano has played strongly since returning from a right wrist injury which involved three torn flexor tendons and extensive nerve damage, but Modano told the Free Press’s Helene St. James that his goal on Monday night allowed him to break through a wall of frustration with himself:
“It was finally nice to get something positive,” Modano said. “We were out there for a couple of goals against, and you felt like it was one of those nights. It was a great pass by Fil and good screen by Tommy, and finally I could put it where I wanted it.”
“I don’t feel that useless anymore as I did a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “I’m starting to get from point A to point B a little quicker. I’m getting opportunities and seem to be around the puck a little more, so that’s some positives.”
Mike Babcock insists that Modano has played just fine recently…
“I thought Mike was real good the other night in Nashville,” coach Mike Babcock said. “The scoring is more important for him, so he feels good about himself. But I think he’s been skating good and coming.”
And Modano told St. James that Babcock sat Modano down to encourage him to stick with it on March 12th:
“We had a good little chat and discussed my situation and what he felt we needed to keep pushing on and keep focusing on,” Modano said. “It was not concern about being on the score sheet, just playing real good hockey and doing things well without the puck and being in good position and working down low. I just needed to feel I was getting a little stronger in that area. The St. Louis game was one of those nights you say, ‘It’s got to get better from here.’”
Also of Wings-related note: The Northwest Herald’s George Castle reports that the Chicago Blackhawks, who are 9 points behind Detroit in the Western Conference and Central Division standings, are already looking forward to their three games against the Red Wings…
Then comes the first of three games against the blood-rival Red Wings in the final two weeks—two in Detroit and one at the United Center to wrap up the regular season. The cynical view here is the Hawks will come out of the trio of games with just one victory and two points. But no matter what the results, if the Hawks can’t develop playoff intensity from a trio of games against the Wings, they don’t belong in the playoffs.
“They will be big games,” Sharp said. “If we’re only six points behind them going into those three games, we can technically catch them in the standings. It’s going to be a big game from their standpoint. It’s going to be big for us as well. Even if the games are meaningless points-wise, they’re still big games with the two rivals going at each other.”
Said captain Jonathan Toews: “They’ll feel those are very important games, too. When we get around to them, we expect them to be playing their best hockey. They’re not just going to throw those games knowing they’ve got the division all sown up.”
• The Vancouver Canucks traveled to Detroit on Monday night in preparation for Wednesday night’s game minus the injured Manny Malhotra, who the team announced would miss the rest of the season with an eye injury, and Daniel Sedin, whose wife is about to deliver the couple’s first child.
They may also play without the services of Tanner Glass, but the Canucks believe that defenseman Kevin Bieksa will play against the Wings, and as the Vancouver press has played up Detroit as the supposed team that the Canucks are poised to surpass, following in the footsteps of the Wings’ 2008 championship because, according to their press corps, the Canucks can supposedly exceed Detroit’s depth, Wendesday night’s game is being played up as a “measuring stick” tilt, and the Vancouver Province’s Gordon MacIntyre posted the first column suggesting that we’ll be watching a Western Conference Finals preview on Wednesday night:
Most of the Canucks would love to play Chicago in the playoffs again, but there’s a feeling that this year the road to Lord Stanley could go through Detroit. If the Canucks win on Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena, it’s hard to see the Wings catching them for first overall in the Western Conference. If the Wings win, well, there’s still a lot of ground to make up with both teams having eight games left to play.
“If we win it, great, but if we lose, it’s not a huge deal,” Mikael Samuelsson said of Wednesday’s game against his old team. “I think the teams know enough about each other.”
The Canucks are in unfamiliar territory, having sewn up a playoff spot so early. Usually they’re one of the teams scraping and clawing for a playoff spot down the stretch. Now they’re the team facing those desperate squads, secure in the knowledge that should they lose all eight of their final games, they’ll be seeded no lower than No. 3.
“They’re our biggest competition in the conference right now and it’s going to be a fun game to play,” Roberto Luongo said of the Red Wings. “I think guys are pretty excited. It’s a different situation for us. We’re used to fighting for our lives at the end of the year.”
“It’s kind of nice to be in this spot, but we want to keep playing well, we want to keep winning games. We want to stay on top of the standings and we know that if we don’t win, teams are going to catch us.”
• I managed to find a middling-quality clip of Niskanen’s hit on Abdelkader, via YouTube user “mokyboy11”:
• In Russia, Sergei Fedorov’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk defeated Avangard Omsk 2-0 to advance to the second round of the KHL playoffs, where they’ll face Salavat Yulaev Ufa;
• In Russian, Pavel Datsyuk told Sovetsky Sport that, if the Win
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