|With Blues' Chris Stewart off of an instigator penalty, Pavel Datsyuk (above) scored for the Red Wings, who won their 17th straight game at home with a 3-1 win over St. Louis. |
– Physical isn’t usually the Red Wings’ style, but with first-place on the line Monday night, they answered the bell when the St Louis Blues flexed their muscle.
“It appeared to me like they felt they could be physical, I thought we were physical right back,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I didn’t think that that was an issue, it’s not going to be an issue with this group.”
The Wings used a hit by defenseman Brad Stuart
late in the first period as a wake-up call to over take the Blues en route to a 3-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena. The win – the 17th straight at home – gave the Wings an NHL-best 67 points and a three-point cushion for the overall league-lead over Central Division rivals St. Louis and Chicago.
Despite a slow start, momentum turned in the Wings’ favor after Stuart delivered a clean, crushing check on Alex Pietrangelo, as the Blues’ defenseman skated the puck into the Wings’ zone. Moments later, Stuartsaid that has he tried to get off the ice following a long shift, Blues forward Chris Stewart grabbed them and began throwing punches.
Both players received fighting majors, but Stewart was also given an instigator penalty and a 10-minute misconduct. And as hockey justice usually has it, the Wings scored on the ensuing power play for a 1-1 tie.
“I guess he thought it was a dirty hit,” Stuart said. “Seems to be now (with) big hits there’s got to be a fight, which is unfortunate, but it seems that a lot of teams are going that way. I don’t agree with it, but we took advantage of it and stayed disciplined.”
The Wings’ discipline certainly prevailed as the Blues added four more roughing penalties, and David Backes and Pietrangelo also got 10-minute misconducts – all in the third period.
“You really don’t expect any hits like that but anytime that happens it definitely gets everyone involved and fired up,” said Niklas Kronwall
, of his defensive partner’s hit. “I thought they played much better than us in the first period. They stayed on top of the puck and I don’t know what we were doing, kind of just looking at each other, hoping that another guy would do it.
“But after that hit I felt that guys really took control, stayed strong on the puck and we were able to get it deep and get some more o-zone time than we did in the first.”
However, the Blues indiscretions weren’t limited to the first period. With the game’s outcome still in the balance and the Wings clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Blues’ Carlo Colaiacovo took an ill-advised roughing penalty against Darren Helm
Just 32-seconds after Colaiacovo went to the box, Kronwall scored his 11th goal of the season, giving the Wings a league-best 33 goals-scored by a defensemen.
“Instead of them being able to pull the goalie early and really going after it I think that gave us some momentum back and we were able to hold onto the puck,” Kronwall said. “I’m just glad that we were able to take advantage of it and slow some things down a little bit.”
But emotions were far from slowing down, in fact, Stuart’s first-period hit was like lighting a fuse to a tinderbox as the physical ante was raised with big hits in the open-ice that followed, like Helm’s on T.J. Oshie and Roman Polak’s hit on an off-balanced Kronwall.
In all, the teams combined for 60 hits, including 29 by the Wings, who were led by Helm (6) and Justin Abdelkader
(5). But in the end, it was the team that remained disciplined that took home two big points.
“You know, we stayed disciplined and they didn’t and I think that was a big part of the turnaround,” Stuart said. “Their emotions got a little too high and ours weren’t high enough to begin with, but we keep them in check and took advantage of some undisciplined play from them and I think that was the difference.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill