Before they turned their full attention to the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings
added a final two points to their NHL-leading total.
scored a pair of goals Sunday as the Presidents’ Trophy winners concluded their regular season with a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks
at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings finished with 115 points and will face the eighth-seeded Nashville Predators
in the Western Conference quarterfinals. It marks an early improvement travel-wise over last year’s grind that took them to Calgary, San Jose and Anaheim during their three playoff series.
“It helps that the travel isn’t too far. It helps our team not to have those long flights out to the west coast right away,” Lidstrom said. “We’ve seen them a lot. We know their tendencies and I think we know what they're good at, too.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock joked: “The thing I like best about them is that they’re an hour and 15 minutes away.”
tuned up for his expected Game 1 start with 27 saves, while Jiri Hudler
and Mark Hartigan
Even better news for Detroit was the return of Tomas Holmstrom
, who missed the previous 13 games with a lower abdominal injury. The veteran winger’s play in the corners and in front of the net is never more important than when playoff time rolls around.
“I thought it was very important to get Holmer back and have him get a game in before the playoffs. He hasn't played for over a month,” Lidstrom said. “I thought he looked good out there. Before the game, he was really chirping and wanting to get into the games again. He was ready for it.”
Hudler’s one-timer past Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin opened the scoring 7:21 into the first period and Lidstrom scored what proved to be the game-winner with 1:31 left in the second with Detroit enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage.
Hartigan notched his third of the season at 6:28 of the third and Lidstrom struck again on a power play with 5:58 remaining, giving the defenseman 10 goals this season. Blackhawks rookie Patrick Kane broke up Hasek’s shutout bid by scoring his 21st goal on a power play with 2:20 left.
“Anytime you play the Red Wings, you’re going to be motivated to play. But it’s tough when you know you're out of the playoffs,” Kane said. “It’s not an excuse, they didn’t have anything to play for either.”
Detroit survived some injuries and a stretch of 10 losses in 11 games during February, and has gone 12-3-1 since. Chicago forward Jason Williams, a former Red Wing, likes their chances as they gun for a fourth Stanley Cup in the past 11 years.
“Obviously, they’re talented, they've got four lines and can put them out there at any time. Got a solid defense and two great goaltenders,” he said. “If they can stay healthy, I don’t see why they can’t win it all. But you have to stay healthy.”
Stars 4, Sharks 2 | Video
Mattias Norstrom’s rare goal put Dallas ahead to stay and the Stars scored four unanswered to beat San Jose at HP Pavilion in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Antti Miettinen, Stu Barnes and Steve Ott added goals for fifth-seeded Dallas, which will start the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, the fourth seed.
Second-seeded San Jose, which opens at home against the No. 7 Calgary Flames, was staked to a 2-0 lead by Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo in a physical game that featured 160 total penalty minutes, 95 for the Sharks.
“The physical element is a huge part of what’s coming up,” Stars defenseman Philippe Boucher said. “We showed we’re willing to hit hard and play physical. It was good to see.”
So was Norstrom’s second goal of the season, which came with 13 seconds left in the middle period and gave the Stars a 3-2 lead. During a delayed penalty, Toby Petersen found Norstrom with a cross-ice pass and he fired it into a wide-open net.
“It was a great pass by Toby to set me up,” said Norstrom, who now has 18 career NHL goals in 14 seasons. “We didn’t have a lot going for us early, but coming back from two goals down, it’s great to have that character in our team.”
Ott, who spent the early portion of the game getting under San Jose’s skin, capped the Dallas rally on a power-play blast with 1:22 remaining.
“It got heated,” San Jose’s Jody Shelley said. “Once the playoffs start, all that stuff that happened today will be forgotten. Of course, if we play (Dallas) in the second round, it will all resurface.”
The Sharks took advantage of an extended 5-on-3 and got on the board with 2:27 left in the first period on Marleau’s 19th of the season. Cheechoo scored his 23rd on another power play 5:46 into the second.
Marty Turco was flawless after that, finishing with 32 saves, and Miettinen got the Stars back in the contest with 8:25 left in the second by one-timing a pass from Mike Modano past Brian Boucher. Barnes tied the score less than five minutes later.
Blues 4, Blue Jackets 1 | Video
What had otherwise been an uneventful final game between two teams without postseason plans became something special when Keith Tkachuk scored into an empty net with 1:34 remaining. It was the 500th NHL goal for the St. Louis forward, a 16-year veteran.
“About half way down it looked like it was going in,” Tkachuk said of the shot he took from beyond center ice. “Trust me, I wasn’t looking. I was just shooting. I got a little lucky bounce.”
Brad Boyes capped what has been a career season with his 43rd goal, David Backes and David Perron also scored and Hannu Toivonen made 35 saves for the Blues. But the day ended up belonging to Tkachuk, who finished with 27 goals this season and scored three times in the final two games against the Blue Jackets to reach the milestone.
“You’re just trying to survive and make it in the NHL,” said Tkachuk, drafted 19th overall by Winnipeg in the 1990 Draft. “Sixteen years later, you look back at a number, a lot of hard work by your parents, and the people around you ... and all the great players I played with, they're the reason why I’m in this situation.”
Tkachuk’s coach, Andy Murray, had a great view of the historic goal, one he would have liked to see get more recognition at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
“It was exciting watching that puck go down the ice into the empty net,” Murray said. “I wish they’d inform the people right away what was going on here. That’s a special moment. They should have said that’s Keith Tkachuk’s 500th goal. It’s something special.”
The Blue Jackets, who have yet to make the playoffs but finished with 80 points, the highest total in their seven NHL seasons, went up 1-0 on a Michael Peca power-play goal at 4:50 of the first period. Team captain Rick Nash picked up the assist for his 69th point of the season.
“Obviously, we wanted to have a better season,” Nash said. “I don’t think people expected us to do what we did. We’ve got to move on, look at it as a positive and start worrying about next year.”
Backes tied the score with 5:14 left in the first and Boyes put the Blues ahead to stay with the only goal of the second. Perron’s power-play goal extended their lead to 3-1 with 9:48 remaining.
Toivonen won for the first time since Dec. 7 as St. Louis concluded a season that started promising, with a 22-14-5 record, but ended without a playoff berth for the third straight year.
“We won the series against Columbus. That’s what we had to play for today,” Murray said. “We got the job done today, but we didn’t get the job done for the year.”
Ducks 3, Coyotes 2, SO | Video
The season is over for Phoenix – which seems an awful shame given the way Daniel Carcillo has been playing.
Carcillo scored a pair of goals, giving the physical rookie five in the final two games, but he was denied by Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller in the fourth round of the shootout, clinching a Ducks victory.
Ryan Getzlaf had the winning shot in the tiebreaker for Anaheim, which will begin its defense of the Stanley Cup as the fourth seed in the Western Conference and host the fifth-seeded Dallas Stars in the first round. The Ducks are 32-12-4 since the return of defenseman Scott Niedermayer and 20-5-1 since Teemu Selanne returned to the lineup.
“We recognized that we’ve got some special players in our room, and we’ve played to a high level at times. But we’ve also come out and played some poor hockey, too,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “We think that we have the ability to get to the next level that’s required, but we have to go out and prove it.”
Trailing 2-0 midway through the third period, the Ducks rallied on goals by Chris Kunitz and Bobby Ryan just 43 seconds apart. Kunitz and Selanne staked them to an early lead in the shootout, but this time it was the Coyotes’ turn to come back as Kyle Turris and Radim Vrbata scored.
Turris, an 18-year-old who was the third-overall selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, was playing in only his third NHL game and ripped a shot over Hiller’s catching glove. Turris also recorded his first career point by assisting on Carcillo’s power-play goal that gave Phoenix a 1-0 lead with 4:49 left in the second period.
Carcillo made it 2-0 four minutes into the third with his 13th goal of the season. He was coming off his first career three-goal game against Dallas on Friday.
The Coyotes missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season and third under coach Wayne Gretzky, but they made a serious push this year after acquiring goalie Ilya Bryzgalov off waivers from Anaheim on Nov. 16. Bryzgalov stopped 41 shots against his former team Sunday through regulation and overtime.
“We are not where we want to be,” Gretzky said. “Obviously we’d like to be playing Wednesday or Thursday, but we are one of the younger teams in the League. When you miss the playoffs, changes are made, and obviously some moves would make us better next season. The difference now is that we have a core group of guys who we know are going to be part of this franchise for years to come.”
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.