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Datsyuk never ceases to amaze

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Pavel Datsyuk scored his league-leading 31st career shootout goal in the Red Wings' 2-1 win over Florida on Sunday. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
DETROIT – It was a play that didn’t amount to anything on the score sheet.

In fact, Pavel Datsyuk, the play’s technician, was more interested in minimizing the crafty sequence than relishing in its wizardry after the game.

“It doesn’t matter now, right?” he said. “That play if it’s no score, no assist it’s a bad play.”

In some ways, Datsyuk is correct, but it just might have laid the groundwork for what he did in the shootout of Sunday’s 2-1 win over the visiting Florida Panthers.

In the third period of a 1-1 game, Datsyuk found himself alone behind the Panthers’ net. With goalie Scott Clemmensen making his first start against the Wings in 2 ½ years, Datsyuk went to his bag of tricks in hoping to put Detroit ahead.

The Wings’ center flipped the puck over the net, just missing the back of the goalie’s helmet. Had it struck the helmet, the puck likely could have banked into the net. Instead, the puck landed in the crease where defenseman Brian Campbell swiped it into the slot and onto the tape of Nicklas Lidstrom’s stick. Unfortunately, Lidstrom didn’t get a good shot off and the puck slide harmlessly back to Clemmensen who covered it up.

However, Clemmensen drew on past experiences. Datsyuk scored on him the last time he faced Detroit.

“I knew he was doing it,” the Panthers’ goaltender said. “I watched him do it the whole way. It could have hit one of our guys. It could have went off of my head.”

For his Wings’ teammates, Datsyuk’s play isn’t anything unusual.

“Yeah, we, I think everyone saw that was coming when he stands and stop there and had a little extra second,” Wings center Henrik Zetterberg said. “It almost went in, too, when Nick shot it, so that would've been pretty cool.”

Jiri Hudler, who had the Wings’ lone goal in regulation and also scored in the shootout said, “Well, there’s no surprise, right? Pavel does that – not a lot – but when you don’t expect it, and when you don’t know what he’s going to do he does something like that. I think it’s a great play, it confuses their D and their goalie as well. Too bad there wasn’t one more guy in front of the net and the puck is going in and he’s on TSN for a week … again.”

Coach Mike Babcock was asked if he was somehow amazed by Datsyuk’s craftiness from behind the net. “I don't chuckle when it's 1-1, ever. I like when it goes in. It didn't go in. The puck was coming on its way around the net, the other guys didn't know what he was doing, as long as it's not a turnover going the other direction it's good.”

The Wings were fortunate to pick up the win and two vital points in their race against Nashville and Chicago for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference standings. With three games remaining, the Wings have 99-points, which is one more than the Predators and two more than the Blackhawks, who are playing Minnesota Sunday night at home.

Clemmensen stymied Datsyuk in the second period, stopping them on a Wings’ power play with the All-Star center on right doorstep. But Clemmenson made a spectacular diving save, reaching out with the paddle of his stick to deflect the puck over the net.

But in the shootout, Datsyuk got his revenge, victimizing Clemmensen, who made the first move when he tried to poke-check the puck away from the Russian center. The move backfired as Datsyuk let a quick shot go to Clemmensen’s stick side before the goalie could recover.

“It was good win,” said Datsyuk, who now leads all active NHL players with 31 career shootout goals on 63 attempts. “Now we go back in front (of Nashville), it’s a good win and now we get the day off and go to St. Louis. It’ll be fun to play the first-place team in the division.”

Hudler's third-period goal tied the game when his intended pass to Valtteri Filppula was re-directed in front off the stick of Panthers center John Madden.

“I saw Fil there, but there were three guys in front of him and I tried to pass it as hard as I could on the ice, that happens,” Hudler said. “The hard passes are some times better than soft shots.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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