– There was a time in his career when Brad Stuart
was asked to be more assertive in the offensive zone. But roles change and Stuart is quite comfortable in his capacity since joining the Red Wings at the 2008 trade deadline.
“For me it’s not about scoring goals,” Stuart said, “it’s about being hard on the defensive side of the puck and killing penalties and all of that. The goals are a nice bonus.”
While scoring goals come at a premium for him now, it’s still gratifying to get involving in the scoring, said Stuart, who netted two goals – including the game-winner – in Sunday’s 4-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.
“It’s nice,” Stuart said. “I think I went the first 15 games of the year without any points so it was nice to get a couple at some point.”
Sunday’s offensive outburst was Stuart’s fifth two-goal game of his career, but his first since Dec. 2006 when he scored a pair of third-period goals that helped the Boston Bruins defeat Montreal.
Stuart’s winning goal
, his second of the season, put the Wings up 3-0 in the second period. But his empty net
tally with 48-seconds left in regulation was a source of relief for the Wings, who were feeling the heat from the Ducks who were pressing to tie game, and they had back-to-back power plays to try to do it.
“They were coming hard, they don’t stop,” said Wings goalie Jimmy Howard
, of the Ducks.
The Ducks’ pressure made Stuart’s empty-netter ever so important, though the goal looked more like a billiard shot that Howard jokingly compared to the old Michael Jordan/Larry Bird TV commercials.
Stuart’s shot toward the half wall between the team benches caromed off the boards and stayed far enough ahead of Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler, who couldn’t catch up to the puck as it crossed the goal line just inside the right post.
“I kind of felt like I was at a curling rink just watching it slowly turn,” Stuart said. “I had a good view point of it, and I was just hoping that it would keep turning and it did. It was nice not to have that pressure to defend them right to the end.”
Moments earlier, as the Wings were killing off a two-minute penalty to Jonathan Ericsson
, Stuart helped Howard on a dangerous shot by Ducks forward Teemu Selanne. With the two Wings on their knees after Howard covered up the puck to get a stop in the action, the Wings goalie patted his defenseman on top of his helmet as a sign of solidarity.
Asked what Howard communicated to him afterwards, Stuart said, “Nothing really. It’s just unspoken. He did a good job and I tried to tie up the stick coming through and he covered it up, so it was just a good combination of plays.”
And they’re the kind of plays that Stuart prefers to make now in his career.Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill