In his first game, Marek Zidlicky made a difference. After being dealt by the Devils at the trade deadline for a 2016 third round pick, the veteran defenseman got a piece of a loose puck scoring a power play goal at 1:09 of overtime to lift the Red Wings over the Rangers 2-1 at Joe Louis Arena.
This was one of the most exciting games of the season. Billed as #RivalryNight on NBCSN between Original Sixes, the Rangers and Red Wings skated, forechecked, checked and goaltended for 61 minutes. It truly was a spectacle. Despite the teams combining for 71 shots, only three goals were scored due in large part to the goalies. Jimmy Howard was superb for the Wings making 39 saves. So too was Ranger backup Cam Talbot, who took an unlucky loss stopping 29 of 31.
The Rangers lost despite having the better of the play for a vast majority. In the second game since the Keith Yandle acquisition, they controlled possession for long stretches. There was another long shift where Yandle and Dan Boyle had the Wings pinned in. But they were unable to score due to Howard, who was sensational throughout. Detroit isn’t looked at as a serious contender compared to Atlantic rivals Montreal and Tampa Bay. Maybe they should be. Given the superb skill and goaltending if Howard plays like that, they can beat anyone.
Following a strong push by the Rangers, it was the Wings who drew first blood when Justin Abdelkader was able to legally get a piece of Henrik Zetterberg’s centering pass in front having it go off his skate past Talbot at 6:12 of the first period. The goal was reviewed but it looked like he got part of the stick as well as skate on it. Jonathan Ericsson notched the other assist.
Due in large part to their forecheck, the Rangers drew two penalties on the Wings. After their first power play didn’t get much done, the second one did thanks to an unlikely source. Of all people, Dan Girardi went to the front of the net and steer in a Rick Nash pass for a power play goal to tie it at 17:02. It took till after the period for them to tack on a assist to Derick Brassard, who set the play up.
The second was sheer entertainment. It was mostly Rangers with their combination of team speed and skating giving the Red Wings fits during the long change. It felt like they spent an eternity in the Detroit end. Ultimately, they couldn’t finish. Howard was a big reason for that turning aside all 16 shots. He was at his best stoning Nash and robbing Martin St. Louis.
Every line made it difficult on the Wings including the new fourth line featuring deadline pickup James Sheppard, who took 13 shifts and fit in seamlessly with Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast. Meanwhile, the third line continued to play well with the cohesive trio of J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin getting some good attack time.
The Red Wings had some push back thanks to Pavel Datsyuk and Czech cardinal copy Tomas Tatar. They spent a shift in the Ranger zone forcing Talbot into some difficult stops. Though he wasn’t as busy, he made timely saves denying all seven in one of the best scoreless periods of the season.
The third was a dogfight. Neither team deviated from strategy. They each took turns attacking. It made for an entertaining period that may as well have been a Conference Final preview. If only that actually came down, I don’t think NBC would mind. The Rangers and Red Wings combined for 25 total shots and five penalties. Each defended scoring chances well and each got splendid goaltending.
The Rangers’ best chance came from Marc Staal, who split the middle and cut in firing a laser off the goalpost. A great move by a very confident player who looked lost a year ago in the same system. Whatever it is, he looks all the way back making Glen Sather look smart for locking him up. I’ll readily admit that Staal has proven me wrong. I’m glad he’s still here and is playing at such a high level.
It got chippy late with Brassard chopping back at Abdelkader following being hooked in the Red Wings end. It was a silly penalty because it canceled a power play with 2:04 left in regulation. On the four-on-four, Gustav Nyquist got a step on Derek Stepan forcing him to grab him for a holding minor with 47 seconds left. While he did hook Stepan in to draw it, it didn’t matter. The Rangers had to kill the remaining 47 to get a point. It was Talbot who made a great glove save on Niklas Kronwall with over 10 seconds left that kept it tied.
In OT, each side got a skater back giving the Wings a 5-on-4. They kept pressuring until a bizarre final sequence resulted in Zidlicky’s winner. A great Zetterberg feed for Datsyuk down low forced Talbot into a difficult save. As the puck caromed in front, Ryan McDonagh fell down and Zidlicky reached in and got a piece of the puck chipping it in through a maze of players.
At first glance, it looked like the Wings got away with a shove which would’ve been goalie interference. But vet ref tandem Paul Devorski and Kevin Pollock were proven right. NBCSN replays clearly showed that no one was pushed into Talbot. Zidlicky just made a good play and scored an odd game-winner. Not bad considering it was his Red Wings’ debut. He definitely seemed excited when he talked to Pierre McGuire afterwards.
Rangers Back In First: For the Rangers, they still earned a point tying the Islanders in points (85) but also moving back into first by virtue of two more regulation overtime wins and two extra games left. Beware of the Penguins, who are at Colorado trailing the Avalanche 1-0 in the second. They’re four back.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Marek Zidlicky, DET (scored at 1:09 of overtime in Wings debut)
2nd Star-Cam Talbot, NYR (29 saves incl. 12/12 in 3rd)
1st Star-Jimmy Howard, DET (38 saves incl. 16/16 in 2nd)
Notes: Fourteen of 18 Ranger skaters registered shots led by Nash’s seven. By comparison, 16 of 18 Red Wings skaters had shots. NYR who didn’t were Stepan, Chris Kreider, Sheppard and Moore. Wings who didn’t were Drew Miller and Luke Glendening. … Red Wings won the faceoff battle going 33-for-58 led by Datsyuk (13-and-7). Brassard was the Rangers’ best going 11-and-6. … Each team had 8 giveaways. … Rangers blocked 14 shots with Girardi pacing them with five compared to the Red Wings’ six. … Rangers (39-17-7) get the next three days off before visiting the Blackhawks Sunday.