That number, of course, hangs in the rafters at Joe Louis Arena because of "The Captain," Steve Yzerman, – who wore it proudly on his back in the Motor City for 22 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. Yet, that number is also the reason why a game on Friday night at "The Joe" just seemed like it had to end with the host Red Wings winning.
Well, because the 2-1 shootout win Detroit earned after a thrilling third period and overtime against the Anaheim Ducks was the Wings' 19th straight on this sheet of ice. The Ducks were also on the wrong
end of the first win in this impressive stretch back on Nov. 5, when Detroit ended a six-game winless skid with a 5-0 triumph.
It also sets the Wings up for a chance to tie the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers as the only teams in NHL history to win 20 straight games at home -- they can reach the milestone by beating the Flyers on Sunday night.
Not that they're worried about the record.
"It really hasn't come up at all," said Todd Bertuzzi, whose slow-down backhand goal in the shootout gave Detroit the edge and the extra standings point. "We're in a tough race right now in our division, so we're trying to get the two-points as much as possible and kind of go from there."
Truth be told, the Red Wings (36-17-2) were outhustled, outmuscled and outplayed for most of this game by a hungry Ducks team that had won 11 of its previous 15 games. Anaheim (21-27-6) also has designs on making an improbable run to a playoff spot despite coming into this game 10 points back of the final playoff position in the Western Conference.
The Ducks got seven power plays against the Wings and didn't score once – managing to get just six shots on goal combined during the man-advantage situations. Detroit wasn't any better, going 0 for 6 on
the power play – with Anaheim's Jonas Hiller (23 saves) stopping all six shots that he faced in those situations.
All told, it was a crazy game with odd twists and turns – not to mention Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom both reaching career milestones. Holmstrom played his 1,000th NHL game – just the sixth red Wing in franchise history to do so – while Lidstrom tied Hall of Famer Alex Delvecchio for the second spot all-time in games played with his 1,549th game played wearing the Winged Wheel.
Yet, in the end it was Bertuzzi's super-slow approach on his shootout goal, the yeoman's work of a journeyman goalie in the Detroit net and Justin Abdelkader's goal in the first period that highlighted this win for the Wings.
Pavel Datsyuk also scored a pretty goal to open the shootout, but it was two big saves at the other end of the rink by Joey MacDonald that clinched victory.
MacDonald started for the third straight game and made his fourth straight appearance in place of injured Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. He stopped 29 of 30 shots before surviving in the shootout to earn
what he called the biggest victory of his career.
"You got a bit of everything [in overtime]," MacDonald said. "You got 4-on-4, 3-on-3, two breakaways in the mix and Hiller played good, too. They're fighting for their lives in the playoffs. We're just trying to keep building and just keep this streak going."
Speaking of which, does the thought cross a goalie's mind in overtime and then a shootout that such an impressive winning streak largely rests on his shoulders?
"Of course it does," MacDonald said. "Eighteen straight and you're in a shootout and you know you have three shooters [to face]. We scored. [Pavel Datsyuk] got a nice one and when [Bertuzzi] got that one, it
put a little more pressure on me. I didn't want to go into any extra shooters. I just tried to stay out and stay big and made the save."
That's exactly what he did, too – with the only Ducks shooter to beat him in the shootout the legendary 41-year old Teemu Selanne in the first round. Not long before overtime came to a dramatic finish – with
two Ducks in the penalty box, no less – Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler also rang a shot off the right post that would've ended it.
Fowler is from nearby Farmington, Mich., but not even that kind of karma could keep the Wings from making 19 a special number once again.
"With 19 [straight wins] now, it's a streak that only a few teams ever in the NHL have done," said MacDonald, who made saves in the shootout against Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. "Just to be part of it … [Howard's] been in for 17 straight and that's just incredible. Just to take part in it and chip in a few myself, it feels good."
It wasn't quite as fun in the visitors' locker room, where the Ducks knew they let one slip away. The power-play woes were chief among their concerns.
"It's tough to watch that," said George Parros, the only Duck to beat MacDonald in regulation -- he opened the scoring at 16:17 of the first period, only to have Abdelkader tie the game with a deflection 2:25 later. "We had a lot of opportunities. We certainly played hard, we just didn't capitalize on some of them. You let a good team like that hang around, they'll burn you eventually."
Parros' goal, by the way, was his first in 84 games dating back to Dec. 1, 2010 of last season – when he scored twice against the Florida Panthers. It would've been nice for him to celebrate his latest marker
with a victory, but has to settle for a well-played game that came up just short.
"Shootouts are anybody's game, but they definitely have a lot of skill in that area," Parros said. "We lost that battle, but we're happy with the point, I guess. Disappointed we didn't get two."
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