The Red Wings have never gone four games in a row without earning a point since Mike Babcock was appointed coach - and they kept that stat in place tonight with a 5-4 shootout victory over the Blue Jackets.
The game had a weird feel to it from the beginning - I think it was seeing the Wings in their home reds while being away at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. It started out a little worrisome, especially given the last few, when Chris Osgood, who got the start yet again tonight, let in a power play goal from Duvie Westcott. Considering the Blue Jackets' PP was 27th in the league going into tonight, this wasn't the best way to inspire confidence early on.
Fortunately the Wings got some timely help from Aaron Downey who looked great again tonight. I'm a big fan of the kid - he's a good player and excellent at getting under opponents' skin and drawing penalties without getting too hotheaded and creating problems. He managed to get Blue Jackets goalie Pascal Leclaire called for roughing, which led to Jody Shelley taking a delay of game penalty for deliberately knocking the net off its moorings. The Wings took immediate advantage of this 5 on 3 - Nick Lidstrom scored fifteen seconds in, and then set up Tomas Holmstrom to score again on the continued PP. Later in the game Downey was asked if he'd fight with Shelley and he remarked "I'd rather leave him on the ice." True to his word, Shelley tried to start something and Downey backed off and headed back to the bench smiling.
With 43 seconds left in the period, the Jackets ended up with their own two minute 5 on 3. The Wings killed it off to end the period, but fell prey early in the second to a shot from former Wings Sergei Fedorov who, Redmond remarks, has to like playing the Wings far better at home without the jeers from the crowd. The Wings killed off the rest of the penalty and directly after Val Filppula fed Brett Lebda a nice shot that went in to put the Wings up again.
A whistle after the goal, the Jackets pulled goalie Leclaire and put in Frederick Norrena - FSN Detroit marvels over this for five or so minutes, since Leclaire remains on the bench talking to Hitchcock in full gear, and then resumes his place in net a few minutes later. As it turns it, it seems like a technique Hitchcock uses when he wants to talk to the goalie, but it perplexed Redmond for quite a while.
After another couple penalties, Rick Nash rounded out the scoring for the period, getting one past Osgood on yet another 5 on 3. The Wings went back to the lockerroom where Lebda was interviewed - he promised the Wings would be looking to "try to make bounce for ourselves" in the third.
Period three started off slow, but with around six minutes left a good forechecking effort by Columbus led to a pretty flip in goal by Nikolai Zherdev who, despite falling far short of expectations last season and in training camp has come out strong and looked great so far this year. He definitely made his presence known tonight and had several great plays and scoring chances. The big line fought back, however, with a highlight reel-worthy goal from Henrik Zetterberg to Pavel Datsyuk, who played the puck between Jan Hejda's legs and stepped around him to tap it in from a difficult angle to tie the game up again with four minutes left to play, proving that he is the superior #13. Columbus had a nice flurry of shots at the end of the third, but Osgood stood strong.
The OT was some of the best hockey I've seen played all season and by far the best OT effort. Both teams nearly gave me heart attacks, and both goalies robbed the opposition multiple times. Most notably the 13s were at it again; Datsyuk nearly ended the game but unfortunately couldn't get the puck up high enough and Zherdev had a great chance on a semi 2 on 1 but Osgood gets his glove on it. Johan Franzen, Dan Fritsche and Rostislav Klesla all nearly scored as well before the five minutes were up. Before the end of the period there was a really great shot of Leclaire bouncing to the music playing in the arena.
Reminiscent of a particular Wings/Jackets game last season that went to extra shooters and eventually resulted in Sergei Fedorov scoring the gamewinner, the shootout was almost as exciting as the OT. Datsyuk (who took a shot straight on) and Jiri Hudler (who, as I predicted, notched a top shelf right backhander, his usual) scored for the Wings, while Zherdev and Nash scored for the Jackets before Franzen won in by scoring while David Vyborny missed. Fedorov did take a shot for the Jackets, but he was stopped by Osgood this time.
The Wings' next game is this Wednesday; another division matchup against the Blues. I'm getting as sick of seeing the same teams as you are, but if it promises to be as good a game as tonight's I'll gear myself up.