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Power play gets early-season start

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Tomas Tatar was among a trio of Detroit forwards who had a team-high three shots on goal in Thursday's season-opening win over Boston. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – The Red Wings did something they haven’t done in the past four opening-night games – score on the power play.

“That obviously feels real nice for the power play. I thought it was OK tonight,” forward Gustav Nyquist said about his game-winning goal. “We could have done some things better but we still got some chances. (But) it worked a little better than it had in the preseason.”

Nyquist’s power-play goal made the difference Thursday, lifting the Red Wings to a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins, who eliminated Detroit in an opening-round playoff series last April.

“Our power play wasn’t good early but managed to score a goal so good night for us,” said Babcock, whose only criticism of the special-teams unit was its breakouts.

The power-play goal, which came at 14:46 of the second period, was set up by Henrik Zetterberg, who was celebrating his 34th birthday Thursday. Though the captain didn’t pick up an assist on the play, his effort to keep the puck in the zone as Bruins center Patrice Bergeron served a minor penalty for slashing Johan Franzen, was key.

Franzen, who picked up assists on both Wings’ goals, made a centering pass to Darren Helm, who whirled around and dropped a pass in front of the net where Nyquist buried the puck behind Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.

“That was all his play, he started that whole thing,” Nyquist said of Zetterberg. “Somehow, I don't really know how he did it but he got the puck to Mule there.”

Last season, the Wings’ power-play began the season at 0-for-13 before ripping off three man-advantage goals in a 5-2 win over Philadelphia in the fifth game.

Under Mike Babcock’s coaching staff, the team’s power play has finished in the top half of the league in each of the past nine seasons. They even led the NHL at scoring goals with a man advantage in 2008-09, but since then the power play has slowing been in decline. Even worst, the power play has gotten off to slow starts in each of the past four campaigns.

But Thursday, the power play managed to do something it hasn’t done since Oct. 2, 2009, and that’s score in a season opener. While it’s encouraging to see them get the first power-play goal of the season out of the way, Babcock would like to see improvement.

“We couldn’t get into the zone,” he said. “We had no deception, so we talked about deception. Go back to our power play goal, (Niklas Kronwall) did a real good job of bringing it up one side, looking everybody off and then going to Zetterberg who had easy access. We weren’t getting any control. When you think about their power play, except the four on three, they didn’t have a ton of control. That’s what good penalty-kill teams do, they make you chase it around the whole time, they keep you on the wall. So we were finally able to make a play.”

Despite out-shooting Boston 10-5 through the opening 20 minutes, the Bruins took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission when they capitalized on a costly mistake. Jonathan Ericsson’s turnover inside the Wings’ blue line put Bergeron in an ideal spot near the top of the slot where the Bruins’ center wired a blast over Jimmy Howard’s catching glove. Detroit had held an 8-0 edge in shots before Bergeron’s goal at 12:01.

The Red Wings controlled much of the play through the first two periods, and they finally broke through on the scoreboard when Danny DeKeyser’s point blast was tipped first by Franzen, then by Justin Abdelkader, who was credited with the goal that snuck behind Rask at 3:52 of the second period.

The Bruins, who opened Wednesday night at home against the Flyers, are one of the teams many believe will serious contend for the Stanley Cup next spring. So getting a win against a quality team is a big confidence boost for the Wings, who begin the season without Pavel Datsyuk, who is still recovering from a separated right shoulder.

“We have to follow that up. Can’t be content and happy,” Abdelkader said. “We have a good team coming in Saturday. We need to build off this win. It’s a great divisional win. Good win coming off the bitter taste of last year’s playoffs.”

The Red Wings have another difficult challenge coming up when they welcome the Anaheim Ducks to Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night.

For tickets to Saturday’s game, CLICK HERE.

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