By @StefanKubus –
DETROIT – The Western Conference’s best team came into Joe Louis Arena Sunday afternoon and acted like it, as they defeated the Red Wings, 4-1.
Patrick Sharp, Valeri Nichushkin, Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin scored for Dallas, while Kari Lehtonen stopped 21 of 22. Gustav Nyquist scored Detroit’s only goal, and Jimmy Howard stopped 20 of 22, while Petr Mrazek stopped two shots late in relief.
“I’ll always coach the process,” Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill said. “I thought there was lots of stuff that we did tonight, especially in the second period. You look at our second period, I thought it was great, one of the best periods we had all year.
“We missed the net, we didn’t have enough net presence. If you ask me on a specific area where we need to score more, we need to make goalies make saves and we have to have net presence.”
Andreas Athanasiou made his NHL debut for Detroit, playing 9:36, utilizing his speed to create some chances in a bottom-six role. Blashill, Athanasiou’s former coach in Grand Rapids, liked what he saw from the rookie.
“Once we recalled him, let’s see what he can do, and I thought he did a really good job,” Blashill said. “I thought he provided speed, I thought he had a number of good opportunities… He’s dangerous because of his speed for sure and I thought he did a great job of stopping on the puck and being on the right side of the puck.”
Photos by Michael Caples/MiHockey
The Dallas power play entered Sunday’s contest operating at a 28.9-percent success rate, good for second in the entire league. And just 18 seconds into the first Dallas power-play attempt, Sharp buried a gorgeous cross-ice feed from defenseman John Klingberg at 7:22 to make it 1-0.
“The start was fine, I thought once they scored, it wasn’t good enough,” Blashill said. “Momentum is a big thing and we cannot allow a goal against to take away our momentum.”
Nichushkin then added an insurance goal at 15:19, as the 6-foot-4 Russian winger potted his first of the season after following up on his own rebound right in front of Howard. Brendan Smith was there, but couldn’t quite get enough of Nichushkin’s stick.
Late in the frame, though, the Wings pulled to within one, getting a valuable power-play opportunity of their own with key Stars penalty-killer Johnny Oduya in the box for hooking. After a sloppy first half of the man-advantage, Detroit managed to enter the Dallas zone with smooth, concise passing, and Abdelkader bumped a pass back to Mike Green at the point. He immediately passed across to Niklas Kronwall, whose slap pass fooled Lehtonen and Nyquist redirected it home for his sixth of the season.
In his first game back, Green notched his third assist of the season and played 25:40 in the game, the most of any skater.
“It felt good… two, three shifts to get the speed of the game again and then go from there, but it felt good,” Green said.
Both teams tightened up in the middle frame, with very little being given up either way. After Dallas held a 15-8 shot advantage in the first period, each team only mustered three shots apiece in the second period.
With just under 13 minutes to play in the final period, Howard was forced to leave after taking a knee to the head from Jason Spezza crashing the net on a 2-on-1 rush. Mrazek entered in relief.
After the game, Blashill said that Howard was fine and actually ready to re-enter the game.
With 7:55 to play, Ales Hemsky hit Jonathan Ericsson from behind in the Detroit zone along the boards and Ericsson’s head was cut on the glass. The only penalty given was to Ericsson for retaliating. Ericsson left for repairs, but did return shortly to finish both serving his penalty and the game itself. Blashill declined to comment on the play and his spirited discussion with the official following the play.
“That’s a scary situation, (Ericsson) goes in pretty hard and he’s a big guy, so obviously there was some intent there, but he’s got to protect himself,” Green said of the play.
Eakin and the former Plymouth Whalers standout Seguin each added empty-net goals to ice it at 4-1. Seguin extended his league-leading point total to 23 with a goal and an assist.
Detroit hosts Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, the night the Wings honor Sergei Fedorov for his Hockey Hall of Fame induction. Ovechkin also only needs one goal to break Fedorov’s record as the highest-scoring Russian-born player in NHL history.
For Green, it’ll be his first game against his former team.
“Obviously I know their habits and how they play. We expect them to come out pretty hard, and they’re a very offensive-minded team, so we’ll be prepared for sure.”