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Cavalry arrives late for Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Joey MacDonald gave the Red Wings a chance to win Monday, making 20 saves and keep his team in the game. (Photo by Getty Images)
GLENDALE, Arizona – Monday morning Joey MacDonald said the mission in his first-ever NHL game in the desert was to, “Just hold the fort down,” until the cavalry arrived.

Unfortunately, the Red Wings’ troops were late for duty, and despite MacDonald’s performance, Detroit had difficulty matching the Phoenix Coyotes’ intensity, and closed out its four-game road trip with a 3-1 loss at Arena.

“I think last game was a great example, get right in there and give the team a chance to win,” said MacDonald, who turns 32 on Tuesday. “Same thing tonight. … You know these guys are going to come out hard.”

Team defense played a big role in helping out MacDonald in the first period with six different players combining on nine blocked shots, including defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom, Ian White and Niklas Kronwall, who each had two bocks through the first 20-minutes.

The Wings’ block party finished with 19, and was led by Kronwall and Drew Miller, who four blocks each.

“I think he showed tonight again he's a great goaltender,” Kronwall said. “He was able to keep us in the game, made some huge saves for us and gave us a chance and that's all you can ask for.”

With All-Star goalie Jimmy Howard (index finger) likely sidelined for two weeks, MacDonald made his first Wings’ start of the season Monday. Veteran Ty Conklin started Saturday’s game in Edmonton, but gave way to MacDonald after the Oilers to out to a two-goal lead by the first intermission.

However, while MacDonald’s game was clearly on Monday, he didn’t get much help containing the Coyotes on their first goal when eight-year veteran Boyd Gordon skated in a long on a short-handed breakaway and buried his first career goal against the Wings. The Coyotes’ center picked off Henrik Zetterberg’s cross-ice pass and raced through the neutral zone to put Phoenix up 1-0 when White slipped on the play.

It was a slow start to the game for the Wings, who were without defenseman Brad Stuart who was back at the team hotel with the flu. It was the first missed game this season, which leaves six players – Zetterberg, Kronwall, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson, Justin Abdelkader and Danny Cleary – who have played in all 54 Wings’ games.

But MacDonald continued to keep the Wings in the game, making saves like the splendid grab he had on Taylor Pyett’s shot from the slot, reaching far to his left to snag the puck out of mid-air at 2:44 of the second period. The Wings’ goalie made another tough second-period save when he gloved a shot by Adrian Aucoin from the right point that worked its way through traffic at 11:50.

“I thought we did an absolutely great job of blocking shots,” said MacDonald, who stopped 20 shots. “They had a lot of chances and we blocked a lot of shots. D was boxing out, forwards even, in that case at getting in shooting lanes and blocking shots. I thought we did a great job that way, but it’s been a long road trip, the guys have been on the road for a long time and they’re ready to get home and get back to work there.”

The Coyotes went up 2-0 when they scored on a 5-on-3 power play with White and Pavel Datsyuk serving minor penalties for tripping and hooking, respectively. In fairness, MacDonald didn’t have much of a chance on the play as Ray Whitney’s point shot went in off of Martin Hanzal, who was screening in front. Hanzal also scored an empty-net tally with 29-seconds left.

“The first period or so we had a few turnovers in our end,” MacDonald said. “But you know what, they got a power-play goal and we got a power-play goal and it was a hard fought game. But they didn’t give us a lot of room.

“We came out a little slow and they had a couple chances in the slot there, but as the game went on I think we played a little better, but like I said, it’s been a long road trip, and guys are anxious to go home.”

The Wings got one back before the end of the second when Franzen scored his team-leading 20th goal of the season. Detroit’s power-play goal – just its second power-play tally in the last 15 road games – was setup by a nice play by Zetterberg who fired a shot from the right half wall and Franzen poked the puck underneath Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.

“We didn’t execute as good as we’d like to in our own zone,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “But you have to give them credit, I thought they played hard and I thought we played hard. After two periods we had given up 14 shots and I thought Mac gave us a chance, yet we didn’t score enough goals for him.”

The Wings finished their western road trip with five-points and a 2-1-1 record, claiming victories at Calgary and Vancouver.

The remaining schedule certainly favors the Wings, who have 18 of the final 28 games at Joe Louis Arena, where they are currently riding a 17-game home winning streak. They’ll look to extend that streak when they host the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday at JLA.

“Now we have to get re-charged, get some home-cooking and get playing and get everyone skating again,” Babcock said. “You still have to play, we have to get playing and get playing at a high-level. I liked the way we played tonight, I wasn’t concerned with our energy level, I wasn’t concerned with our effort, (but) I thought our execution in our own zone could have been better.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @ RooseBill

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