Pressure on both ends of the ice was strong all game. Very few scoring chances were produced for either side and puck possession was the story of the game. The Wings’ first opportunity of the game came at 2:21 of the first, as Dustin Penner took a tripping call against Tomas Tatar. The power play, while unable to convert on the chance, looked stronger than the road power play we’ve grown accustomed to seeing this season. Their second power play at 6:56, for another tripping call against Rob Scuderi on Johan Franzen also went unconverted on.
The scoring was opened at 9:42 of the first, on a lucky bounce off Jonathan Bernier’s glove that came as a result of a slapshot from Kyle Quincey at the point, who was credited for the unassisted goal, (his first of the season). Both teams kept strong defense and pressure through the remainder of the period, preventing any further goals.
The pressure on the forecheck from both sides continued into the second period, which, regardless of the end result of the game, was arguable the best effort put up by the Wings in this shortened season. Justin Abdelkader took a boarding call at 11:35, putting the team on the penalty kill. 23 seconds later, Jonathan Ericsson was called for tripping, putting the Kings on a 5-on-3 man advantage for 1:37. With 15 seconds left in the 5-on-3, Pavel Datsyuk was called for hooking, at 13:20, extending the Kings’ power play for another 2 minutes. The Wings spectacularly killed off all 6 minutes of penalties.
The third period is where everything arguably fell apart. The Kings’ Slava Voynov took a hooking penalty at 4:27, which was once again not converted on. Kyle Quincey, attempting to avoid a hit from Kyle Clifford, ended up being called for roughing after taking his hand off his stick and getting it over Clifford’s shoulder/neck. During the penalty kill, Pavel Datsyuk was called for an illegal puck movement with his hand off of a faceoff and put the Wings on another 5-on-3, which the Kings would end up converting on. Jeff Carter got the tip-in on Jimmy Howard at 10:26, tying up the game at 1 apiece. Anze Kopitar would end up scoring the game winning goal for the Kings at 15:12 of the period, with a wrister flung past Howard, making it 2 - 1, which would be your final score, despite a desperate 6-on-5 final minute for the Wings.
I’m not generally one to play the blame-game one way or another in either a win or a loss, but the non-calls in this game were blatant. Daniel Cleary was ridiculously boarded roughly halfway through the third, sending him to his knees and eventually the bench to be looked at, where it was discovered his eye was cut during the play. (Last I remember, drawing blood was, not technically an automatic double-minor, but is called as such 9 times out of 10, no?) And Brendan Smith, his first game back in 11 games after a shoulder injury, had a non-called interference committed against him, and took a borderline elbow to the head.
The Good: Pressure. Pressure pressure pressure. Both the forechecking and backchecking in this game were phenomenal. Even with all the line changing that’s been occurring with injured players leaving and returning, the Wings have found a way to keep consistent pressure throughout the whole game from all four lines. If they can keep up this kind of play, I have no doubts they’ll keep a playoff spot this season.
The Bad: Turnovers and power play still continue to plague the Wings. I can tell already we’re going to get tired of hearing/reading this. Until every aspect of your special teams can produce, whether being on the road or at home, you will continue to play from behind in most of your games. Howard can only stop so much.
The Ugly: I think we can all agree the officiating in this game was uglier than Michigan roads in Winter; (until today, I had no idea that was possible). So many blatant non-calls, almost exclusively for the Kings, but a few on the Wings’ side as well, and a large number of questionable penalties that WERE called (again, against the Wings). Like I said, I’m not one to whine and point the finger in a loss, but the game was easily robbed from the Wings in this case.
All we can do now is shake it off, regroup, and take it to the San Jose Sharks tomorrow night. Jonas Gustavsson, barring another injury-induced setback, is slated to be in net. He’ll need to channel his inner-Howard to stand on his head then, too.