Photos by Andrew Knapik/MiHockey
By @StefanKubus –
DETROIT – The Red Wings didn’t get the result they wanted on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, but they earned a point and gave the league’s top team a run for its money.
Detroit fell to the Montreal Canadiens in overtime, 2-1. Justin Abdelkader scored his fourth of the season in regulation, while Petr Mrazek was stellar in his first outing taking over for the injured Jimmy Howard, stopping 22 of 24 shots – one of those was a save-of-the-year candidate, too. Canadiens leading scorer Alex Galchenyuk ended the game in overtime at 3:37, while Carey Price improved to 13-1-1 on the season with a 32-save performance.
“I thought Wednesday we won ugly, which I think you have to do when you’re coming out of a slump, I thought last night we took a real step forward and I think we continued that step tonight,” Wings head coach Jeff Blashill said. “We weren’t perfect, but I’ve yet to see a perfect hockey game. We didn’t start quite good enough, but I thought as the game went on, we did lots of good stuff… We obviously don’t like the result, we want the result, but I thought we took real steps forward.”
Mrazek did his part to keep the Habs off the board in the opening frame, producing a save-of-the-year candidate as he robbed a wide-open Artturi Lehkonen at the back door with a desperation glove save.
Petr Mrazek is having NONE of that. pic.twitter.com/RhXjoFe4xi
— NHL (@NHL) November 27, 2016
Despite the scoreboard still reading 0-0 after the end of the second period, it was a rough 20 minutes for the Wings. Detroit lost defenseman Brendan Smith and then forward Tyler Bertuzzi later, both to lower-body injuries off hits from Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin that required each to be helped off the ice.
It was announced at the start of the third period that the two would not return to the game. After the game, Blashill said he would have an update on both players come Monday.
“I just saw it live, it looked a little dangerous,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said of Emelin’s hits. “Sometimes you have to have a little respect for the other players on the ice, and it didn’t look he had that there.”
But at 3:20 of the third period, it was the Wings who struck first amidst adversity. Frans Nielsen crossed the Montreal blue line on the rush, dropped the puck to Abdelkader, and he ripped a shot past Price in the far corner.
Montreal evened the score with 8:55 to play in the third period, as Brendan Gallagher redirected home a Tomas Plekanec shot in front.
A full sixty minutes couldn’t resolve the battle, and in overtime, it was the Canadiens who took the second point.
With Shea Weber in the box for slashing just 27 seconds into the extra frame, the Wings were unable to convert on a 4-on-3 man advantage. The Habs made them pay for it shortly after, as Alexander Radulov came down on a 2-on-1 with Galchenyuk and the two connected for the game-winning marker.
“Out of the three games (this week), this might have been one of our better ones,” Abdelkader said. “Obviously, Montreal, you’ve got to give them credit. You look at their team, they’re a very good team. There’s a reason why they’re at the top of the standings.”
Despite the loss, the Wings still took five of six points in three games this week. Blashill said he has liked what he has seen out of his current line combinations, though the injuries could force those to slightly change.
“When you’re starting to play good hockey, you can see it, and I think we’re starting to play good hockey,” Blashill said. “I really like our line combinations, I think they mesh well together. It’s probably the most I’ve liked our line since I’ve been here, including last year. I think we’ve got guys in good spots, I think the guys are playing real good, I think we’re taking steps in the right direction. But now we’ve gotta get results, so we’ve gotta go to work Monday. We’re gonna play a really good Dallas team Tuesday, and we dug ourselves a little bit of a hole. The focus has to be on getting better and finding a result on Tuesday.”
“It was a good week for us,” Zetterberg said. “If you look back on the last three games and the results we got, we’re pretty happy. We wanted to get two points here tonight, we were that close, but they found a way when we didn’t.”
Justin Abdelkader and Jonathan Ericsson each skated in their 500th career game Saturday night.
“It’s kind of cool that E and I shared that moment on the same night,” Abdelkader said. “Obviously it’s a huge milestone, especially in a league that’s gotten younger and younger. It’s been a blessing for both of us just staying with one organization, which you don’t see a lot either. We’re very fortunate, we’ve had some great times here, starting in ’08 when I first came in and we were part of that Stanley Cup championship team, around a lot of great players and learned a lot from them. It goes by quick, but it’s a grind, too, because 500 games is a lot and you think back of all the bumps and bruises, injuries, all the different things you play through.”