– It’s been an unexplainable season of sorts for the Red Wings away from the friendly confines of Joe Louis Arena.
But on Tuesday, the Wings managed to get a shot in the arm, turning around an otherwise sloppy game against the Calgary Flames, into a much-needed 3-1 win on the first leg of a four-game road trip.
With an emphasis on correcting their road woes, beginning with this trip following a five-day All-Star break, the Wings turned in a solid defensive effort and built on tremendous energy from the third and fourth lines to score two key third-period goals to seal the win at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“Just getting off to a good start in this game and on this trip, too, playing better defensively in that first period, I thought we came out with a good push,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom
said. “We tried to keep the shifts short to try and get everybody into it after a long break, and I thought we had a good first period.
“This is the kind of win that we want to try and get, especially on the road, grinding it out, tied going into the third period and waiting on opportunities and capitalizing on them, too.”
The Wings, who are now 14-14-0 on the road, haven’t enjoyed a road record north of the .500 mark since a 4-1 victory at Buffalo on Dec. 2 put them at 6-5-0 away from JLA. But at home, it’s a different, much happier story for a team that is currently riding a franchise-best 17-game winning streak.
Slow starts have plagued the Wings at times on the road this season. But Tuesday, though they went nearly six-minutes before registering their first shot on goal, the Wings scored on their first big chance.
Rookie forward Jan Mursak
, playing in just his third game since returning from a fractured ankle, blasted a shot from the right wing with 14:04 showing on the clock. Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff made the initial save, but kicked a big, juice rebound out to the opposite side where another rookie, Cory Emmerton
was waiting to slap the puck back into the open side of the net.
The third line of Darren Helm
, Danny Cleary
and Drew Miller
also got into the scoring act when they combined for an insurance goal at 15:58 of regulation.
“It’s important, obviously, anytime you’ve got young guys playing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “ I thought Emmerton, Abdelkader and Mursak were a real good line for us, made a real nice play on the entry there, and then so did Cleary, Helm and Miller for two big goals from the third and fourth line to win you the game.”
The Wings got the eventual game-winner on a play set up by Valtteri Filppula
at 11:29 of the third period. With the score tied, Filppula dashed around Flames defenseman Chris Butler on the right wing and raced into the offensive zone before dumping a backhand effort into the side of the net next to Kiprusoff. The puck took an advantageous bounce for the Wings and ended up on Hudler’s stick in the low slot.
“Fil was flying on the right side and I was just coming late down the middle,” said Hudler, who last recorded a game-winning goal on opening night. “Just ended up on my stick, I got lucky, again.”
But with both teams coming off a lengthy break , the Wings broke out of their doldrums quicker than the home team as the two clubs appeared to be handcuffed by the layoff.
“You just had four days off and a lot of guys haven’t touched their gear,” Wings defenseman Mike Commodore said. “So I think that’s totally natural that pucks are going to seem like they are bouncing a little bit and passes maybe are a little bit off, not receiving them as smoothly as they would have five days ago. But it comes back quick and I thought the game got better as it went on.”
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