TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. - You could tell that something was going to be different on Monday night when the Red Wings prospects took the ice against the prospects of the New York Rangers.
It began after Monday's morning skate when several of Detroit's players vowed their team would deliver its best effort of the tournament and they made good on their vow.
Led by an aggressive forecheck, impeccable goaltending and an opportunistic mindset, Detroit beat New York, 4-1, to claim its first victory of the NHL Prospect Tournament at Centre Ice Arena.
Most of the Wings thought they played much better than their 0-2 record indicated; they felt they were too emotional during their first two games and keeping their emotions in check was the key to victory, which is exactly what they did.
After the game, Detroit's coach Todd Nelson was extremely pleased with his team's performance.
"They were more in game mode," Nelson said. "Hockey players are some of the proudest people in the world. They played hard, they played for each other, they played aggressive. It was good to see us respond."
1. Matej Machovsky: On Friday, Machovsky was in net when Carolina defeated the Wings, 6-2. It was evident early on against the Rangers that Friday's game was an ancient memory. Machovsky was completely focused and played a solid game. He controlled his rebounds, made several point-blank saves and whenever it appeared the Rangers were gaining the upper hand, he calmly froze the puck to allow the Wings to catch their breath. Machovsky stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced, making several quality saves to preserve Detroit's victory.
Quotable: "On Friday night, he was anxious. He was excited to be here and wanted to play well and sometimes it doesn't work in your favor when you get all hyped up. Tonight, he was super calm in net, he controlled his rebounds; any pucks that did come in, he swallowed them up and didn't allow second chances." -- Nelson
2. Axel Holmstrom: Early in the second period, Holmstrom picked up an assist on Detroit's first goal, scored by Jordan Sambrook, which broke a scoreless tie. Several minutes later, Holmstrom gave the Wings a 2-0 lead when he showed his skill and soft hands by deking Rangers goalie Chris Nell, who thought Holmstrom was aiming for the top corner of the net. Instead, Holmstrom beat Nell through the five-hole. It was a pretty goal. Holmstrom finished the game with two points and was plus-3. He played both ends of the ice and showed good speed and instincts when attacking the Rangers zone.
Quotable: "(Luke) Esposito made a really good play. I don't know how he got the puck to me. I just tried to open him (the goalie) up and put it in there. I wanted him to think I was going to go top shelf backhand; once he opened up that hole, a lot of times you have (to make) a quick move and I guess that's my move (going five hole)." -- Holmstrom
3. Dennis Cholowski/Michael Rasmussen: Detroit's last two first-round picks didn't figure in any of the scoring, but each player finished the game plus-1. Cholowski logged a ton of ice time and controlled the tempo of the game with his speed and the ability to hit his forwards in stride with his accurate passing. Rasmussen used his big body to establish his presence in front of the net and didn't show any rust considering he has not played much competitive hockey since last February when he was sidelined with a broken wrist.
Quotable: "I like both players. I didn't know what to expect from Rasmussen, but having that big presence on the ice when he can find that next extra step which he will as he matures and gets older, he'll be a force to be reckoned with. I like the way he uses his body down low to protect the puck. As for Dennis, he put on 10-12 pounds of muscle this summer and you could tell with his wall battles, he's stronger in those areas. In tonight's game, he was just floating on the ice, making simple plays but the right plays. Dennis is playing the game like a pro." - Nelson