Another quirk in an already strange NHL schedule had Detroit playing the Anaheim Ducks on the road twice in a span of three days. And the Red Wings handed the team with the second-best record in the league back-to-back losses in regulation for the first time this season.
Jimmy Howard made 33 saves, Dan Cleary and Drew Miller scored first-period goals, and the Red Wings won a 2-1 nail-biter Sunday night after Friday’s 5-1 rout — a game highlighted by Justin Abdelkader’s first NHL hat trick.
”We knew tonight was going to be a totally different game than Friday,” Howard said. ”It was a very different style game, but we found a way. It’s a huge four points for us. We have to continue to make the push for the postseason. We have teams coming up on our heels, so we have to continue to get points.”
The Ducks, who trail idle Chicago by three points for the league’s best record, have stumbled a bit following a 22-3-4 start that was the best in franchise history. They also had back-to-back shootout losses on the road against the Phoenix Coyotes earlier this month.
”When Chicago lost one, they lost two and then they started to get back into the swing of things,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said of the Blackhawks, who set a league record by getting through their first 24 games without a loss in regulation.
”There’s a little different situation here — but at the same time, as long as we don’t dwell on it to the point where we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, we’ll be fine.”
Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf scored on a power play with 46 seconds left in the second period, ending his 13-game goal drought against Detroit. Jonas Hiller stopped 21 shots after going 8-0-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in his previous 10 starts.
The Ducks took the ice knowing that if the playoffs started on Sunday, their first-round opponent would be Detroit. And they got off to an inauspicious start, falling behind 2-0 in the first period in front of their eighth sellout crowd of the season.
”These were two different hockey games,” Getzlaf said. ”The way we played in the first game, we weren’t going to beat anybody. … But tonight I thought our guys did a better job of responding and battling and playing the way we wanted to play in the last two periods.”
Getzlaf received a 10-minute misconduct and two extra minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct after getting a tripping penalty with 34 seconds left in the game. Corey Perry simultaneously got a 10-minute misconduct and Teemu Selanne also was hit with a 10-minute misconduct, along with a game misconduct.
”I can tell the frustration in their voices because it was a pretty ticky-tack call with 34 seconds to go in the game,” Boudreau said.
Getzlaf acknowledged that it was ”extremely” difficult for him to suppress his anger while addressing postgame questions.
”I’m not going to comment like I want to. It’s not my place right now,” he said. ”I’m trying to stay composed. It’s just the nature of the game, so we’re going to bite our tongue. … And I don’t want to take anything away from the Detroit Red Wings. They played hard tonight and their goaltender played great.”
Cleary opened the scoring on a power play at 4:14, tipping Jakub Kindl’s snap shot from the top of the right circle past Hiller, while Francois Beauchemin was off for tripping Valtteri Filppula. Cleary’s seventh goal extended the Red Wings’ streak of consecutive games with a power-play goal to seven, following a six-game stretch in which they were 0 for 13.
”That was a big win for us,” coach Mike Babcock said. ”I thought we were fantastic at the start. … We stopped skating a little bit, but we were able to get the points.”
Miller, who began his six-year NHL career with the Ducks, scored at 8:46 when he beat Selanne to a loose puck at the edge of the crease and scored his fourth goal after Ian White shot a one-timer into a crowd in front of Hiller.
Howard stopped Anaheim’s first 21 shots before giving up Getzlaf’s 12th on a screened 30-foot wrist shot from the right circle while Cleary was serving an interference penalty.
Howard stopped Getzlaf’s bid for the equalizer with 8:07 remaining as he came through the right circle and went for the short side.
”We were all over them,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said. ”… It was just a matter of putting the puck in. You did so much to get chances. There were a lot of different looks we had and it didn’t go in. But you’ve got to give some credit to their D and their goalie.”
Notes: After the game, the Ducks announced that they had signed right wing Radek Dvorak to a one-year contract. Anaheim will be the 16-year veteran’s seventh club. … The Red Wings will return to Joe Louis Arena from their four-game road trip to host the Blackhawks next Sunday — which is Gordie Howe’s 85th birthday. … Selanne played in his 1,372nd regular-season game, tying D Teppo Numminen for the most by a Finnish-born player. Numminen retired after the 2008-09 season, his 20th in the league. … Perry has just one goal in his last 10 games against Detroit.