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Blues give Wings own medicine on New Year's

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Puck control has been the name of the game for the league-leading Red Wings this season.

But the leaders in practically every statistical category received a bit of their own medicine Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.

The St. Louis Blues rolled into Hockeytown and handed the Wings their first shutout loss of the season, blanking the hosts, 2-0, before a disappointed sold-out New Year’s Eve crowd. It was the Blues’ first win in five games.

“We had no juice in the tank, and it was pretty obvious,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we did alright for about 10-minutes at the start of the game. We didn’t have any jump. Give them credit, I thought they played good.”

With traffic in front of the Wings’ net, St. Louis got the winner when Erik Johnson’s blast from the point found its way past goalie Dominik Hasek at 5:47 of the third period. Hasek made 21 saves.

The Blues (19-14-4) scored an unassisted, empty net goal from Lee Stempniak with 22-seconds left.
The Wings (29-8-3) had chances to score the equalizer, but Blues goalie Manny Legace was spectacular. The former Wings’ netminder came up with several key saves, including two consecutive stops of Jiri Hudler with little more than eight-minutes left in regulation.

Legace made 31 saves in earning his 14th win of the season and third against the Wings.

“I think we stopped getting pucks behind them,” Wings center Kris Draper said. “I don’t think we paid the price enough to make it tough on Legace, and that was the difference. We had some good chances late . . . but I don’t think we had sustained pressure through the game to win. It’s over and done with.”

St. Louis controlled the tempo for much of the game, and limited scoring chances for the Wings by working the puck out of its defensive zone. With Tomas Holmstrom sitting out his fourth straight game with a knee injury, it was apparent that the Wings missed his services from in front of the opposition’s net.

Detroit was also without the services of leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg (back spasms) and Krik Maltby (lower back), who has been out of the lineup since late November.

“Sure, we’ve had injuries, but they didn’t have Andy McDonald tonight," Babcock said. "It’s not like the teams you play don’t have injuries too. But the game is real simple: the team that works the hardest wins 95 percent of the games.”

McDonald, who was acquired from Anaheim earlier in the month, has missed three games with a pulled chest muscle.

The Wings had gone 65 games, dating back to last season, without suffering a shutout. In fact, the last team to hold the Wings scoreless, were the Blues. Legace and Curtis Sanford combined to blank the Wings, 1-0, on Feb. 8, 2007 -- snapped a streak of 176 straight games that Detroit hadn’t been held scoreless.

It was the first time that the Wings have lost on New Year’s Eve since 1998 when Toronto claimed a 4-2 victory.

St. Louis had the two best scoring opportunities. The first came when center Keith Tkachuk was robbed by Hasek – sprawled face-first on the ice – snatching the puck out of the air in the first period. The Blues were denied again in the second when Stempniak missed the mark, clanging a blast off a post.

Still, the Red Wings, who reached the Western Conference finals last season, closed out the calendar year in fine fashion, posting a 65-18-11 record in 2007.

The Wings finished the month of December with a 12-2-1 mark. Both regulation losses came at the hands of the Blues, including a 3-2 decision in St. Louis on Dec. 20.

The Wings’ next game is Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. (ET) when they host the Dallas Stars.

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