It was an action-packed battle that had both teams trading rapid fire to the sum of 84 shots (45-39 for Detroit) as the Red Wings edged out the visiting Canucks, handing them a 5-4 overtime loss and bringing their winning ways to an end.
Both teams came prepared for battle Wednesday night at the Joe Louis Arena. The energy was high and the pace playoff-quick from the the opening face-off.
Heading into the game, the Canucks, 8-1-1 in their last ten, were facing off against the Red Wings team that was 4-4-2 in their previous ten. Both groups waged in a war with Dallas for top spot in the West. Vancouver was rolling, looking to extend their streak of four consecutive road wins – their first since the 2006/07 season– and the Red Wings, eager to right the ship.
The stage was set for a fast, intense game.
Armed with a simple game plan Detroit came out of the gates, peppering Roberto Luongo who had to be sharp. They struck first, a cross ice pass from Todd Bertuzzi connected with Danny Cleary, who buried his 15th of the season at 8:12 of the first frame. With the Red Wings up 1-0, the Canucks didn't waiver, closing out the period with 17 shots to Detroit's 14.
Vancouver stormed back with a memorable second period effort from their special teams that likely made Alain Vigneault glow with joy. The Canucks killed two penalties and went 2-for-3 on the man advantage in the middle frame. Henrik Sedin was first, making the Wings pay for a cross checking penalty just over a minute into the period. His seventh of the season from Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin.
Detroit responded, but another powerplay goal this time from Daniel, his second point of the night and 40th on the season, evened the score at 2-2. Mikael Samuelsson followed up, beating Jimmy Howard with 20.2 seconds left before the buzzer sounded to the send the Canucks into the third with the lead.
"We're moving the puck really well and we're winning face-offs which is key against this team," said Daniel of the team's impressive man advantage play in the second. "Overall this season we're playing with a lot of confidence when we're out there as a group."
The third opened with just as much speed and grit as the first 40 minutes. Henrik Zetterberg's bad angle shot shoveled at the net slipped past Roberto Luongo, before Jeff Tambellini responded for the Canucks with a zinger. His seventh of the season came at 12:10, making it 4-3 and restoring Vancouver’s lead.
The elation was short lived however. With Alex Burrows in the penalty box late in the third, Nicklas Lidstrom made no mistake, scoring to push the game to overtime, where Zetterberg struck again, serving the Canucks a bitter defeat and snapping their winning streak.
Despite coming up on the losing end, Kesler continued his incredible play of late. He won't be happy with the result, but you can't knock his effort. With points in five straight games, including two game winners, the Michigan native, who had 50 friends and family out to support him tonight, finished the game with three assists, four shots, and team-leading six hits.
While it is hard to think of a recent off-game for the speedy centre, Kesler seems to have a lot of success against the Red Wings. In 21 match ups he has registered six goals and 16 points.
Tambellini also has a connection to the state, as a University of Michigan alum. Playing alongside Kesler and Jannik Hansen, a line that is certainly clicking, the winger's goal tonight brings his season point total to 12 (7-5-12), and extends his point streak to three games.
Mikael Samuelsson who called the Detroit home for four seasons seemed to find some inspiration in Hockeytown as well, as he notched a goal, his 22nd point of the season.
Despite a rousing effort, the makeshift home advantage unfortunately wasn't enough to give the Canucks the extra edge over the Red Wings.
The Canucks iced the same lineup that faced the Blues on Monday, seventh defenceman Andrew Alberts sat out as a healthy stretch, while Aaron Rome dressed; only four players from both teams (goalies excluded) didn't register a shot tonight; the Vancouver team heads straight to Columbus where they'll play tomorrow; Cory Schneider is expected to start.