DETROIT – Like others around the NHL, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is impressed with the collection of talented young players for the Colorado Avalanche.
Following the Wings' morning skate on Tuesday, he talked about the speed, skill and overall talent of the Avs – whom he said, "have done everything 100 percent opposite of the way we do it."
Babcock's reference was to the Wings being built almost exclusively with talented veterans, which further emphasized a young vs. old backdrop to Tuesday night's game between the old Western Conference rivals.
"Their kids are playing real well," Babcock said. "They're on the puck. They make good plays. I just look at their whole group and they've got a good team. They look like a real exciting to team watch. They get up and down the rink very well."
As it turned out, Babcock looked prophetic in a game won by Colorado 5-4 in a six-round shootout off the stick of 25-year old Brandon Yip at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit's Johan Franzen and Mike Modano both hit the crossbar on their attempts in the shootout, but Yip buried his top right past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard for a big two-point pickup by the Avs on the second of back-to-back road games.
Colorado, which lost 4-2 at Philadelphia on Monday, battled back three times against the Red Wings in regulation to send the game to overtime. That included erasing a deficit of 3-1 almost midway through the second period and 4-3 midway through third.
"It's an important win for us," Avs coach Joe Sacco said. "We're still young, but I think having that energy and playing with that type of enthusiasm that we do … certainly it allows us to get back into games where you think, 'Well, maybe we'll get 'em another night.'"
Colorado actually outshot the Wings 38-28 in regulation and overtime, which really made Sacco happy.
"Even being down (3-1) at that particular part of the game, we kept pressing and kept pushing," he said. "To have that many shots in this building against that team, I think it's a good hockey night for us."
It was also a good statistical night for several guys on both teams.
Johan Franzen scored twice for Detroit and David Jones scored twice for Colorado – with his second tying the game 4-4 at 11:24 of the third on a backhander. Jones added an assist for a three-point night and first-star honors, while Nicklas Lidstrom, Todd Bertuzzi and Franzen finished with two points each for the Wings.
Jones, a 26-year old forward in his fourth season with Colorado, said the win was a good example of the Avs' youthful exuberance and drive.
"We've got a lot of fight in us," he said. "We had Philly last night and tonight we're in Detroit, which is a tough place to play. To come back from two goals down against a team as talented as them is great."
Just over three minutes before Jones tied it in the third, Detroit's Patrick Eaves one-timed a pass from Darren Helm past Avs goalie Peter Budaj on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush for a 4-3 lead that had the feel of a game-winner.
Sacco was not pleased his team allowed the shorthanded goal, but it more than made up for it by continuing to push the action at Howard. In so doing, the Avs proved that Babcock wasn't just paying an opposing team courtesy respect earlier in the day.
Jones also tied the game 16:56 into the first on another backhand shot that got past Howard and kicked off the back of his pad into the net. Detroit retook the lead on Pavel Datsyuk's second goal of the season 2:50 into the second and Franzen made it 3-1 on his second marker of the game 13:02 into the period.
Franzen one-timed a pass from Valtteri Filppula past Budaj, while Datsyuk's came just 17 seconds into a power play when he redirected a pass from Henrik Zetterberg into the net.
Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly cut the Wings' lead to 3-2 with just 49 seconds left in the second by stealing a puck near the Wings' blue line and blasting a shot past Howard from inside the left circle for his first goal of the season.
Franzen's first goal gave the Wings a 1-0 lead just 2:34 into the game when he collected a puck shot by Bertuzzi that bounced off the half wall and wristed a shot low far side into the goal.
Howard stopped 34 shots in regulation and OT, while Budaj stopped 24 of the 28 he faced. In the shootout, Budaj was beaten twice by Modano and Franzen, but both times the puck skipped off the crossbar – which Budaj tapped after Franzen’s shot and kissed after Modano's.
"I was lucky a couple of times," Budaj said. "The puck went up, so it's a fortunate thing. Sometimes they go in. Sometimes they don't. This time I was a little better than them. It's good to know that, and that's a big one."