By Matt Mackinder –
DETROIT – No 6-0 game tonight.
After being embarrassed in the NHL season opener two weeks ago in St. Louis, the Detroit Red Wings earned a bit of redemption with a 5-3 win over the Blues Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg recorded a hat trick (plus two assists) and Pavel Datsyuk’s goal on a five-minute power play at 11:55 of the third period snapped a 3-3 tie and the Red Wings held on to get the victory.
“The guys, I don’t question their character, we just had to compete a little harder,” said Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock. “We got off kilter a bit, but then we battled back and our big guys were outstanding. We got a big save from Howie at 3-2 and then Pav’s goal to go ahead and obviously, Z’s goal at the end was fantastic.”
Zetterberg factored in on all five Red Wings’ goals Friday night; there were questions on whether he would even play after missing practice time due to an illness earlier in the week.
St. Louis captain David Backes earned a match penalty at 9:38 of the third for a head shot along the boards on Kent Huskins and Detroit took advantage.
On the game-winner, Datsyuk used his magic as he was given time and space to stickhandle and worked his way between the right-wing face-off dot before wristing a shot up high past St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott.
To get his hat trick, Zetterberg outraced two St. Louis defenders to the empty net and on his side falling forward, knocked the puck in as the hats rained down from the sellout crowd of 20,066.
“It was nice to see a good bounce back,” said Zetterberg. “Our second period wasn’t our best, but the way we played in the third showed some character.”
Detroit started out quickly Friday night.
At 6:12 of the first period on a five-on-three power play, Damien Brunner fed Zetterberg skating between the circles and his quick one-time snap shot beat St. Louis starting goalie Jaroslav Halak high to the stick side.
Then at 8:07, Jonathan Ericsson, from his own goal line, sprung Zetterberg for a breakway from center ice and Zetterberg made two dekes before stuffing a backhand through Halak’s pads.
The Blues got one back when Kevin Shattenkirk, one of two players in the box for Zetterberg’s first goal, walked in from the left-wing half-boards and wristed a shot inside off the right post and past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard (23 saves) on a St. Louis man-advantage at 9:50.
Matt D’Agostini got loose for a quick burst and his snapper beat Howard far to the stick side at 13:04 to knot the game at 2-all and seemingly quiet the crowd.
Halak (nine saves) was replaced by Elliott with 3:51 to play in the first.
Perhaps sparked by the goalie switch, the Blues kept pressing.
After Howard stopped Backes on yet another power play, the rebound came right back to Backes, whose centering pass found Patrik Berglund and then the back of the net at 4:30 of the second period.
On the next St. Louis rush, Howard was knocked down in the crease and was slow to get up. Though he appeared hurt, he stayed in the game.
Detroit tied the game 3-3 at 4:31 on a delayed penalty as Ericsson walked in from the right circle and snapped a shot through Elliott’s legs.
“Every point is so important in this short season and we have to keep winning the games in our division,” said Ericsson.
St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock pulled Elliott (17 saves) at 18:59, but the Blues could not get the tying goal.
When all was said and done, Babcock reiterated that Detroit’s stars stepped up tonight.
“You know, I hear a lot about the things we don’t have, but I don’t know too many teams that have Pav and Z,” said Babcock. “That’s a good starting point for me. We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to keep battling and hanging in there.”
Notes: St. Louis forward Scott Nichol, scratched tonight, was the captain during the final season for the IHL’s Detroit Vipers in 2000-01 … Another bit of Vipers’ nostalgia – Blues’ associate coach Brad Shaw was a member of the 1997 Turner Cup-champion Vipers … Detroit scratches were forward Darren Helm, defenseman Brian Lashoff and goaltender Jonas Gustavsson … The Blues sat Nichol, forward Jamie Langenbrunner and defenseman Ian Cole, an Ann Arbor native … Datsyuk Fatheads were given out as the game’s promotion.