The Red Wings fought through the thicket of Minnesota bodies and sticks to come back from a one-goal deficit late in the third period last night and capped the comeback off with a win in overtime. It was their eighth consecutive victory.
The Wild carried a 2-1 lead through the 18:39 mark of the third. At 18:40, Dan Cleary tied it up after he threw the puck at the net from the left-wing boards. It somehow found its way between Niklas Backstrom and the short-side post. It was Cleary's 20th of the season and tied a career high set last season.
Minnesota held the Wings off for the remainder of regulation, but couldn't stop them in extra time. Brett Lebda was the beneficiary of the great work of Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg, who wrought havoc in the Wild zone while #22 jumped up. With all five Minnesota players on the ice watching him to Backstrom's left, Zetterberg sent a pass to a wide open Lebda, who netted his third of the season to win the game.
The Wings began the scoring at 9:58 of the first period with Johan Franzen's tenth goal of the season. Backstrom kicked the rebound off a Tomas Kopecky shot right to the big Swede and he had an easy time of it putting the puck in the net. The goal came seconds after Franzen had hit the post on a feed from Kopecky.
The lead lasted only 1:12, however, as Derek Meech took a bit of a weak hooking penalty at 10:55 and the Wild scored a power play goal fifteen seconds later. Brian Rolston walked out of the right wing corner and stuffed the puck under Dominik Hasek, who had gone down on his side in order to take away the bottom of the net.
The game remained tied until Pavol Demitra scored the go-ahead goal at 5:36. The play began when Pierre-Marc Bouchard tripped Valtteri Filppula in the Minnestoa zone near the left point. The Wild defenseman then picked up the puck and sent it out to Demitra on the opposite wing. A two-on-one developed, with Andreas Lilja the only Wing back. Demitra beat Hasek high gloveside with a quick shot from 37 feet out.
The Wild would eventually fall back into a defensive posture, but immediately following their goal, they looked to press home the attack. They had the Wings on their heels a bit, but their push was interrupted by a four-minute roughing penalty taken at 9:48 of the second.
It was not the Wings' best power of the season and could have been a back-breaker for a weaker team. They got off only a couple shots over the course of four minutes and were manhandled in front of the net by an ornery Wild defense. Jiri Hudler, taking the role of Tomas Holmstrom for the second unit, was roughed up by three Minnesota players when he refused to back down after the whistle had gone.
On the next shift, Holmstrom faced a similar situation. When Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg skated in to provide support, they too were mobbed. Brent Burns gave Zetterberg a completely uncalled-for facewash, nearly knocking him down. The end result of the fray was penalties to Datsyuk and Mikko Koivu, both for roughing.
At 18:03 of the second period, Datsyuk took his second penalty of the game. This time, it was a weak holding-the-stick call. On the ensuing power play, Bouchard had a glorious chance in the slot, but he took too long to get the puck off and it was deflected high and wide.
The Wings looked strong in the third period, but they were competing with a tight-checking Minnesota squad. In an effort to get back in the game, Mike Babcock switched up the lines somewhat.
Henrik Zetterberg centered Mikael Samuelsson and Dan Cleary on at least one shift, and Johan Franzen skated between Jiri Hudler and Tomas Kopecky. Franzen also saw time with Kris Draper and Samuelsson.
The team came close to tying it up a number of times throughout the period as they put up 16 shots to the Wild's three. Niklas Backstrom's quick glove and Minnesota's ability to get to loose pucks before the Wings made a comeback difficult. The Wild were well on their way to pulling off a win when Cleary's bad angle shot suddenly changed the game.
Although he was kept off the scoreboard, Pavel Datsyuk had a strong night.
Dominik Hasek continues to allay fears about his ability to win games as he made a number of key saves throughout the game, keeping the Wings in it when the Wild had control of the ice. He had a couple huge stops on Marian Gaborik, including one on a breakaway in the second period. Somehow that one did not make it into the NHL's highlight reel, but this one came just seconds later.
It was not a perfect game by the Wings. They were beaten to loose pucks more often than not and were too easily defeated by the Wild's poke-check defense. The power play struggled once again and the penalty kill on the Rolston goal was less than stellar. Although the stats (such as the shot totals) would indicate they deserved to win the game, it's probably fairer to say that they stole this one from the Wild.
Despite the fact that it was not their best game, the encouraging thing is that they are still finding ways to win.
Next up, the Wings face the Kings at home Thursday. LA activated Mike Cammalleri from the IR yesterday, so they should be more dangerous than they were on January 22nd. During the broadcast last night, they said that Thursday is 80's Night at the Joe. If you're going, you know what to do.