Kevin Klein is congratulated by Kevin Hayes after beating the Red Wings in overtime as Gustav Nyquist skates by. AP Photo by Seth Wenig/Getty Images
Last night, I attended my third game. Luckily, the Red Wings were in town. Featuring my favorite player Pavel Datsyuk along with Calder candidate Dylan Larkin and equally gifted captain Henrik Zetterberg, the Winged Wheel are a treat to watch. Particularly Datsyuk, who was dangerous most shifts setting up chances and hitting the crossbar on a 2-on-1. In my book, the Russian puck wizard is still one of the best overall players.
The game had a bit of everything. Great goaltending was front and center. Jimmy Howard is no longer the starter for Detroit but put on a show finishing with 29 saves. That included some highlight reel stops including denying Jesper Fast on a penalty shot with the game still scoreless in the third.
Henrik Lundqvist was equally as good stopping all 22 shots to pick up his fourth shutout of the season. During one sequence, he made three straight denials on the Wings during a power play. He also made a nice glove save early following a great Larkin rush around the defense and set up.
The game also featured some chippy play. An uncalled dangerous hit that jarred J.T. Miller at center ice resulted in him skating to the Red Wings’ end and going after a player. I couldn’t tell who did it. Ridiculously, the only penalty was assessed to Derick Brassard for “interference.” This is what you get from a clueless league whose programmed officials are more focused on ticky tac obstruction and phantom hooks and holds than more dangerous hits that can result in injury.
The first two periods were entertaining despite neither team scoring. They didn’t set back instead trading chances off the rush. There were turnovers causing odd-man breaks including a two-on-none for the Blueshirts. But Howard made a sprawling stop on Fast to keep the game scoreless. After two, the Rangers held a slight edge in shots 21-17.
There weren’t as many shots in the third. Particularly for Lundqvist, who only saw three and stopped each without a problem. Howard faced seven and got them all including his clutch stop on Fast during a penalty shot.
However, the period wasn’t without controversy. The Rangers thought they’d scored the game’s first goal off a Kevin Hayes backhand that beat Howard from a tough angle. Originally, it was ruled a goal on the ice. But the Red Wings challenged for goaltender interference. A play that looked okay was reversed due to Oscar Lindberg making contact with Howard. Here is the play in question:
As we see, Lindberg is tripped by Howard and falls into him throwing the Detroit netminder off balance. So, why didn’t the goal count? Lindberg wasn’t the guilty party. It was an accidental trip by the goalie which resulted in the contact. Howard also looked to be in position for Hayes’ odd backhand which beat him. Either way, the Rangers had one go against them. I would love to hear the explanation from Toronto.
It was the second consecutive game they had a goal wiped out. Against the Leafs, it was the right call with Chris Kreider making incidental contact with Jonathan Bernier that disallowed a Dan Girardi goal. Last night, Hayes’ goal should’ve counted.
The game went to overtime. In it, the Wings nearly won it. Gustav Nyquist nearly beat Lundqvist. But Chris Kreider made sure the puck didn’t cross the line and sent Hayes and Kevin Klein on a 2-on-1. Hayes made a perfect pass across for Klein, who made no mistake going top shelf on Howard for the OT winner at 1:59.
The ending was the right one. It would’ve been a shame if the Rangers didn’t win. The bad call allowed the Red Wings to earn a crucial point giving them 69. They currently sit fourth in the Atlantic Division a point behind Tampa Bay and Boston. The point moved them ahead of the Pens into the first wildcard. The slumping Devils trail the Pens by three with 20 games left. Pittsburgh has 22 remaining.
The Rangers’ next opponent are those Devils tomorrow at The Rock. A win in regulation would really do damage to their close Hudson rival. New Jersey has dropped three straight. It’s also the final regular season meeting. They’re 1-1-1 against the Devils taking the last match 2-1 at MSG on Feb. 8.
Some quick hits:
-Making his debut on the fourth line, Marek Hrivik took nine shifts receiving 7:32 of ice-time. The 24-year old forward was recalled from Hartford after the Rangers finally waived Daniel Paille, who cleared and went down. Hrivik was selected over Ryan Bourque. While I would’ve preferred Bourque, at least they chose a young player over a vet. Hrivik also received a penalty kill shift logging 44 seconds.
-The score and situation dictated that Hrivik wouldn’t see the ice much down the stretch. Tanner Glass got 11 shifts and 6:48. Dominic Moore received 15 shifts (11:22) including 4:33 on shorthanded. He is a key penalty killer who has struggled. But had a better night helping the team kill four penalties.
-With Ryan McDonagh (jaw contusion) unavailable and thankfully not concussed, Dylan McIlrath got his usual 12 minutes. He took 16 shifts logging 11:08 at even strength and another 1:04 on the penalty kill. It would be nice if the coaching staff showed more confidence in Big Mac. But that’s clearly not the case.
-Marc Staal had a strong game logging a team high 25:03 including 18:49 even strength plus a big 6:01 shorthanded. He even had a brief 13-second sting on the power play that almost resulted in a goal with his shot redirected forcing Howard to make a tough save. Staal blocked a team best four shots. One thing about him. He seems to play better when his ice-time increases.
-Dan Girardi was beaten to the outside on one Wings’ chance. He didn’t see as much ice getting 17:29. Especially 5-on-5 with him receiving 12:54. Girardi did get 4:27 shorthanded. He took a penalty in the third for elbowing which the team killed off. It was probably wise to limit Girardi’s shifts at even strength against a very fast and skilled opponent.
-The overtime hero Kevin Klein had a good night scoring his fifth goal while logging 22:32 in 29 shifts. He blocked three shots and had four shot attempts with the final one going in. Klein got 18:42 at even strength and was used with Staal primarily.
-Keith Yandle paired with Girardi while McIlrath worked with Dan Boyle. Yandle logged 22:13 with four shot attempts including most on the power play. He was in the penalty box twice with the refs taking over the game with some marginal calls while missing more egregious infractions which drew the ire of the crowd.
-There were quite a few Red Wing fans in attendance. That included a nice couple who sat next to us in our section. Interestingly, the guy’s girlfriend had the dyed auburn red hair making her look like a Red Wing. I also noticed a few other Winged Wheel supporters in the Blue Seats over in the next section including one wearing a Larkin alternate while another had a classic yellow and navy blue Michigan jersey.
-On a weekend, you’re gonna get more supporters from the out of town team. Especially with season ticket holders putting their tickets up on the exchange or Stubhub.
-It was the Wings’ second straight game. They gave a good account and can thank Howard for a point.
-Pavel Datsyuk folks: 27 shifts 24:23 including 18:22 ES 5:54 PP 5 shot attempts 1 crossbar 10-and-8 faceoffs
-Somewhat curiously, the trio of Larkin, Nyquist and Tomas Tatar each only had 11 minutes apiece. While Nyquist and Tatar have struggled, I couldn’t quite understand why Larkin didn’t play more. He is really fun to watch.
-With an assist and a goal rejected for the wrong reason, Hayes continues to play better. Maybe he’s a second half performer. He produced a lot better in his rookie year in the final two months. He can still salvage his season.
-As for Kreider, he was more involved. He went after a Wing during a scrum. Kreider also was right in front of Howard on one power play. An area he needs to be consistently. He’s still hesitant to shoot passing up a opportunity for a tough pass in front for a covered Mats Zuccarello.
-I also felt Viktor Stalberg was one of the better forwards. He did a good job on the forecheck and had three shots while being active.
-Derek Stepan had a near miss on a shorthanded bid with a wraparound just missing. Not much else from him or the top line. Though I liked Miller’s game. He’s always active during shifts and makes things happen. When he has the puck, there’s a buzz now. Fans anticipate something positive.
-It’s all on the road this week with a visit to Newark tomorrow and then two games over three days at St. Louis and Dallas Thursday and Saturday.