By Stefan Kubus –
(Photos by Tom Turrill/MiHockey)
DETROIT – In a special-teams dominated Saturday night contest between the Senators and Red Wings, the visitors prevailed.
Led by a pair of Clarke MacArthur goals and a stellar goaltending performance from Robin Lehner, Ottawa defeated Detroit at Joe Louis Arena for the second time this season by a score of 4-2.
Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm scored for Detroit, now 10-7-7 on the season.
“I’m concerned always if you don’t win,” Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we started real good tonight. I thought we had lots of good things done. In the end, we didn’t find a way to win the game.”
A combined total of 46 penalty minutes between Ottawa and Detroit allowed for eight power plays aside, not only providing numerous quality scoring chances, but also completely removing any rhythm from the game.
With so much time in the game spent on special teams, a lot of players are forced to sit on the bench and watch, with full lines unable to take regular shifts together.
“No one gets to play, that’s the bottom line,” Babcock said. “You can’t kill penalties all the time and just go to the power play. There’s no rhythm off your bench. You end up gassing lots of people.”
It took the Senators nearly half of the first period to record their first shot on net, with Detroit holding a 10-1 advantage at that point.
With seven minutes to play in the opening frame, Helm tipped home his fourth of the year on a Tomas Tatar shot to make it 1-0 in favor of Detroit.
But a minute later, Ottawa’s MacArthur tied it right back up after a strong effort down low to corral the puck by former Honeybaked standout Bobby Ryan.
Chris Neil put his Sens up 2-1 shortly after, giving Ottawa the lead after the opening 20 minutes, despite them being outshot 17-7.
“The first two goals for them were two gifts,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “I think in the first period, we played well, came out, had a good start, had a lot of chances. We scored one. Unfortunately, they scored two.”
A little under halfway through the second period, Neil dropped the gloves for Ottawa. And for Detroit, with no true enforcer in their line-up, it was defenseman Brendan Smith accepting the challenge. While Smith landed a few shots, the heavyweight Neil certainly came out on top in the bout.
“I never really thought much of it,” Babcock said. “Smitty’s a tough kid and obviously there’s no reason for him to fight Neil unless he wants to.”
With 1:43 of power play time to work with at the start of the third period, Ottawa defenseman Mark Borowiecki took a tripping penalty to give the Red Wings a lengthy 5-on-3. Working the puck around, Datsyuk sent a cross-crease pass to his teammate on the other side, but the puck went in off of Jared Cowen’s leg and past Lehner to tie things up at two aside. Zetterberg’s assist on Datsyuk’s goal was his 699th career point.
Moments later, Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey took a double minor for high sticking that set up Ottawa with a 5-on-3 power play of their own after Helm was already in the box. The Senators converted on the two-man advantage at 3:51 of the third period, as Ryan potted his 11th of the year on a feed by defenseman Erik Karlsson from the point.
Halfway through the third, Detroit had another 5-on-3 opportunity that ultimately proved to be fruitless, a moment that Babcock said stuck out most in his mind.
“We had two power-play goals, they had two power-play goals, but I still thought we could’ve gotten another power-play goal on that 5-on-3, that extended 5-on-3 in the third,” Babcock said. “We had a chance, but didn’t score. I thought that was part of it. The other thing is you can’t be killing penalties all night long.”
Later in the final frame, Datsyuk went down in the corner at what appeared to be a fluke incident, but replay revealed that Cowen elbowed Datsyuk’s head. Fortunately, No. 13 skated off under his own power, but the elbow went undetected, and it’s a play that has potential to be looked at by the league tomorrow.
“The combined eight eyes out there didn’t see it, the referee team,” Zetterberg said of the play. “And if you don’t see it, you can’t call it.”
With just under five minutes to play and with the man advantage, MacArthur popped home his second of the game on the rebound for Ottawa to extend the Sens’ lead to 4-2 final.
“A lot of penalties, a lot of special teams,” Zetterberg said. “But we couldn’t really get more pucks behind them. I think we were close to 40 shots again tonight. Unfortunately, we couldn’t win.
“Obviously, point-wise, we’re not happy at all. If you look at those [past home] games, the way we played, we want to score more goals, but we did a lot of good things in them. We’re right there, we’ve just got to keep playing, keep getting better, getting some bodies back here and win some more games.”
Babcock also announced backup netminder Jonas Gustavsson will be in goal Sunday for the game against Buffalo.
Notes: Defenseman Jakub Kindl took one shift in the third period before leaving with an undisclosed hip injury… Former Plymouth Whalers star Stephen Weiss made his return to the Red Wings’ lineup after a groin injury kept him out since Nov. 7… Weiss replaced Todd Bertuzzi, who is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.