NHL

KELLEY: Avs take advantage while Wings sputter

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Jim Kelley

 
   
 

DENVER

Rule No. 1 in the National Hockey League: The team with the most goals at the end of the game wins. For all the minutes of domination the Detroit Red Wings put forth Saturday, especially in keeping the puck in the Colorado end, they didn't score nearly enough. They didn't score early when they outshot the Avs 16-8 in the first period. The Red Wings only scored one (short-handed at that) when they outshot the Avs 10-4 in the second. They didn't score on the power play (0-for-5). They didn't score an even-strength goal until Brett Hull slipped a shot past Avs goalie Patrick Roy with just three seconds to play and the Avs already in celebration mode. Now that's all understandable when facing the likes of Roy, the winningest goaltender of all time and the player who these days defines the term "money goalie." It's also understandable if your team is peopled with muckers, grinders, wannabes and the leftover scraps allotted to expansion clubs like Minnesota, Columbus and whatever the Buffalo Sabres might be next season. But when your lineup reads Hull, Steve Yzerman, Luc Robitaille, Sergei Fedorov, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Igor Larionov, Brendan Shanahan et al., you have to expect more offense. The Red Wings haven't been getting it. Not in this game, not even in the one in which they eked out a 2-1 overtime win Wednesday. Sure they scored five in the opener at Detroit, but that came off the strength of their grinders, not their stars. They didn't get much from the big names in the second game either, the game that prompted their coach, Scott Bowman, to call out his big names for more production. Bowman resisted that Saturday, saying he thought his team played well and that the goaltending has been excellent on both sides. He's right, but the lingering problem for the Red Wings is that it doesn't matter how well you skate if you don't score, and the Red Wings' big guns aren't scoring. Through four games, Hull has two goals, but none on the power play. Fedorov got his first of the series in this game, but he too has none with the man advantage. Yzerman has yet to score a goal in this series and Robitaille has one, but it came off a play when Colorado defenseman Greg de Vries threw the puck into his own net. The backline hasn't been much better as Chelios and Lidstrom, two finalists for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defensemen have combined for one goal (Lidstrom, off the power play). Throughout the game, the Wings skated the Avs into the Pepsi Center sub-floor Saturday, but they never finished the majority of their plays. That left the door open to the Avs who, as they did in Game 2 at Detroit, hung tough long enough to figure out how to win. When Sakic blew a 20-footer past Hasek just 15 seconds into the third period, the complexion of the game started to change. "I think it helped to get the early goal and get the lead (in the third period)," Sakic said. "Just seeing that and the jump was there for everybody after that and then we got it to 3-1 and that was it. It was a good boost for our hockey club, and we know it's 2-2 now, and it's the best two out of three. We want to go out and build off that third period." A fact not wasted on Detroit, for as Yzerman pointed out, it's not just a question of scoring goals. It's also a question of when they are scored. "I thought the first two we played very well, but then they scored right off the bat in the third and that really energized them and they started to carry the play," said the Wings captain. "He (Roy) made some good saves. I don't know that we really dominated that much to say the that the goalie had to make that many great saves. He did make some great saves, but the ineffectiveness of our power play is what really hurt us. Which brings us back to the big-name scorers again. "It's something to both teams," Bowman said. "They can shut you down pretty well. Goaltending has been very strong on both sides. There have been some miraculous saves and, you know, fortunately, today, Sergei got back on track, he got a goal. He's been playing well, he hasn't been scoring, but (he) got a goal today and four or five other scoring chances. And Brett Hull had another half dozen himself. Those guys, I feel confident if they keep getting those chances, the goals will go in. Perhaps, but the clock is ticking and so are the Avs. They were widely outplayed in the first two periods, but they got the first goal when Steve Reinprecht made a goal-scorers move to get around the Red Wings defense and lift a nifty backhand over a fallen Dominik Hasek. They looked bad when Peter Forsberg gave the puck away to Fedorov while the Avs were on the power play (part of a continuing resistance to just shooting the puck in rather than trying to make one-on-one plays). They got the lead again when Sakic cranked a white-hot shot past Hasek from about 20 feet away after the Red Wings turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Forsberg later redeemed himself by feathering a saucer pass over two Detroit defensemen's sticks right onto the blade of Drury's stick for what proved to be the game winner. Those were about the best chances the Avs had. They converted them. The Red Wings played better, but did not convert. "A lot of things we did tonight we want to do again regards energy, hustle and work ethic," said Shanahan. "But I think our power play needs to improve. ... We threw everything at the net we could and we couldn't get one past Patrick. Our power play seemed to function OK once we got it set up, but we had a lot of trouble setting it up. We seemed to waste a lot of energy trying to set it up. We have to come together faster and support each other better." "I think we dominated some parts of the game, but when they needed to score a goal, they have players who can score a goal," added Hasek. "I think we dominated the second period, but Sakic came with some speed (at the start of the third) and he scored a goal." So did Drury and Reinprecht and despite all their speed, hustle and execution, the Red Wings weren't able to match. In this game, it cost them. Jim Kelley can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Sabres, Red Wings, Avalanche, Dominik Hasek, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Luc Robitaille, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull

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