Big Red Machine gathering steam

The Wings stormed out to a two goal lead and never looked back, winning their second straight and dispatching the visiting Minnesota Wild. Though it lacked the same passion and intensity of yesterday’s game against a Nashville squad that is quickly climbing the ranks among the Red Wings top rivals, it was a similar gritty effort that got the job done for the Wings. The win clinched the Central division for the Wings, as the Chicago Blackhawks can now only tie them in points, but would lose out on the tie-breaker.

Red Wings 4 Wild 2

The Wings were without the services of Niklas Kronwall for the second straight day, as he continues to sit out with a sore shoulder that has apparently been bugging him for some time. Now that the Red Wings are fully healthy, they can afford to give him some time off.

Pavel Datsyuk made his triumphant return to the lineup, picking up one assist and at times putting on a dazzling display of stick handling. Mike Modano was given the day off, since he has been feeling tightness in his groin lately. No need to push him if he’s not 100% healthy. Kris Draper was the other healthy scratch, as he and Drew Miller continue their rotation in and out of the fourth line.

The Wings fourth line, which has seen a rotation of moving pieces this season, got them on the board early. Patrick Eaves was strong on the puck behind Jose Theodore’s net, and his centering pass hit a Wild skate and came right onto Darren Helm’s stick. He rifled one high into the left side of the net for his career high 12th goal of the season.

Ten minutes later, a penalty parade started that didn’t end until the buzzer sounded on the first, with the teams combining for 10 penalty minutes, and spending a good chunk of time playing with less than a full compliment of skaters. It was Nick Lidstrom rifling home Henrik Zetterberg’s team leading 55th assist that gave the Wings the two goal lead heading into the first break.

Another day, another blown call

The pandemic of blown calls against the Wings continued tonight, as Brad Staubitz was credited for a goal after it appeared to have been covered by Jimmy Howard with his right arm. The Wings lead was cut in half momentarily, but they regained the cushion before the second was over when Tomas Holmstrom showed off some Datsyukian dangles and sniped five hole on Theodore. It was a rare goal for Holmstrom, in that his back was not facing the net when the puck hit the twine.

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The Wings were weasled out of another goal in the third period, when Justin Abdelkader was shoved into the Wild net. He got out as soon as he possibly could, and then Brad Stuart fired a slap shot into the net. It was immediately waved off by referee Greg Kimmerly, citing that Abdelkader had impeded Theodore’s ability to play the puck. It really should have been an interference minor against the Wild, but luckily the no-goal didn’t come back to haunt them tonight.

Johan Franzen scored his team best 28th goal to give the Wings a 4-1 lead, by going to the net and poking one home. Coach Babcock must have been shaking his head in frustration, because that’s exactly what the Wings have been trying to get him to do all season long. He has been far too passive, but playing on a line with Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi seems to have sparked something in him. Maybe he can keep this going and get on another patented Franzen playoff run.

Carson McMillan closed out the scoring in the game by notching his first career NHL goal, in his first career NHL game. Congrats kid.

The Off Wing View’s Three Stars

3. Darren Helm 1G – Pretty goal from the grinder to put the team in business

2. Jimmy Howard 27 saves – Nothing flashy from Howard tonight, just a solid effort between the pipes. Probably should have only been one goal against due to a whistle never coming on the Wild first goal.

1. Brian Rafalski 2A – The old man quietly goes about his business putting up another two helpers. No one ever really notices his contributions on the ice until he starts coughing the puck up in the defensive zone, but his absence was really felt in the games he missed.

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