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Cleary contributes in season debut

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Tomas Tatar reacts to Jakub Kindl's second-period goal that cut the Red Wings' deficit in half Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Getty Images)

NEW YORK – Two and a half years.

That’s how long it had been since the Red Wings last scored a goal on New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

The unlikeliest of Wings – defenseman Jakub Kindl and forward Daniel Cleary – put a dent in King Henrik’s armor, helping Detroit rebound from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to force overtime Wednesday. But in the end, the Red Wings were sent home from Madison Square Garden with a disappointing 4-3 loss.

It was the Wings third straight difficult loss, finishing their three-game road trip at 1-0-2.

“It’s not good enough. We needed to get a win here tonight and we’d go 1-1-1,” coach Mike Babcock said. “But I thought we had the stinker of a period in Ottawa and started slow tonight, but I knew we were going to start slow tonight, so that’s not a concern for me. I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. We could have found a way to win tonight.”

In recent years, Lundqvist had been impenetrable for Detroit skaters, shutting out the Red Wings in two starts last season, and through the first half of Wednesday’s game, extending his personal shutout streak to 211:08 minutes.

Lundqvist’s shutout stretch against the Wings began after Henrik Zetterberg’s first-period goal on March 21, 2012, but the captain doesn’t give credence to such numbers.

“We don’t notice stats like that,” the Wings’ captain said.

Trailing 2-0, the Wings finally solved Lundqvist, not once, but twice in the latter half of the second period when Kindl and Cleary ended their own scoring droughts 13-seconds apart.

Making his season debut, Cleary’s tying goal at 12:18 was his second career goal against Lundqvist, his first since he scored the game-winner on Dec. 6, 2009.

Cleary’s goal wasn’t immediately recognized by the referees as play continued after the puck bounced out of the net. But at the next whistle the play was reviewed in Toronto where it was deemed a goal, Cleary’s first since Jan. 11 at Los Angeles.

Cleary knew all along that he scored.

“Yeah, yeah, I did. I celebrated early, I don’t know if you saw it,” he said. “We had a long shift there. We were exhausted but anybody will tell you it’s good to score, to help, to contribute. You want to play well all over the ice, both ends. It’s not the easiest to step in and play, but certainly feel that I put the work in to keep myself ready.”

It’s been a difficult start to the season for Cleary, a 17-season veteran, who was a healthy scratch in the first 12 games.

“I think it’s all attitude, really,” Cleary said. “I think it’s important to have a good attitude and I make sure of that and worked hard. Listen, it’s not easy to play in the NHL. There are good players and once you get into the mindset that if it doesn’t go the way you want it to do you’re the only one that can change it. I felt that I was positive and worked hard, got a chance to play and you want to make the most of your opportunity.”

Babcock inserted Cleary and rookie Andrej Nestrasil into Wednesday’s lineup after the team’s less-than impressive performance in Tuesday’s loss at Ottawa. And both were rewarded. Nestrasil assisted on Tomas Tatar’s tying goal with 7.7 seconds left.

Cleary and Nestrasil replaced forwards Tomas Jurco and Joakim Andersson, who were scratched from the lineup.

“Clears is just a good veteran,” Babcock said. “We had no life the other night and he came in the other night and talked in the room and talked on the bench and helped us get organized and get going. That’s what he’s supposed to do. I thought Nestrasil had a strong game as well, made a key play there at the end with the pass.”

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