Traverse City — You would have thought the game meant something.
Normally in the Red Wings’ annual Red-White game that wraps up training camp, the contest isn’t very hotly contested.
But all the players participating acted like they really wanted to win the two-period match.
In the end, Team Red was the better group, earning a 5-3 victory over Team White Tuesday afternoon at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the pace and the execution,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought it was good.”
Brendan Smith, the defenseman from Wisconsin, scored the first goal of the game for Team Red at 8:50 of the first period. Mattias Ritola had the assist.
Jan Mursak tied the score at 17:38 of the first. Brad Stuart and Kirk Maltby had the assists.
In the second period, Jordan Owens scored unassisted at 11:21 to give Team Red a 2-1 lead.
Jamie Tardif scored 50 seconds later as Team Red had a 3-1 lead. Joakim Andersson assisted.
Just 1:01 later, Dan Cleary beat Thomas McCollum to cut the Red lead to 3-2. Travis Ehrhardt and Logan Pyett had the assists.
Jakub Kindl tied the game with 4:47 to play with a shot from inside the blue line. Mursak and Maltby assisted, giving each two points for the game.
“It’s always good, helps the confidence a little bit,” Maltby said. “I’m just kind of rolling with the punches and letting things happen as they may. If you can help on the scoreboard with points whichever way, I’m not expected of it. But it is definitely nice from a personal standpoint to contribute.”
With an overtime period looming, Team Red’s Henrik Zetterberg snapped the tie with a shot from the slot that beat Joey MacDonald at 22:30. Doug Janik and Pavel Datsyuk picked up the assists.
Then, Jonathan Ericsson had trouble clearing the puck out of the zone and turned it over to Darren Helm, who put Team Red ahead by two with an unassisted goal at 23:37.
In the first period, Chris Osgood saved 10 of 11 shots and Jimmy Howard saved 14 of 15.
“It was fun,” Howard said. “It was very up-pace compared to last year. Guys had a little bit more jump out there. The first period, it was a good time out there.”
Howard wasn’t too upset that his team lost.
“No, I think I’ll be able to sleep tonight,” he said, laughing.
Overall, Babcock was pleased with the effort.
“Obviously some turnovers at the end I didn’t like,” Babcock said. “I thought good goaltending out of both Ozzie and Howie. Some kids that I continue to like — (Brian) Lashoff and Smith in the back. I thought Andersson was good up front. I thought he’s done a good job for us. (Cory) Emmerton’s had a pretty solid camp for us. We got some kids there that look like they’re on their way to being players.”
Captain Nick Lidstrom didn’t score but he had his chances in the first period when he joined the rush a couple of times.
On one chance, he curled around the net but his shot from the left circle just missed. He looked upward in mock disgust.
“At 40 I don’t expect him to join the rush all the time,” Babcock said. “That’s what E (Ericsson) and (Niklas) Kronwall are for, they’re supposed to be in the rush every single time. We encourage our ‘D’ to be involved. Nick, he’s a patient guy, he does it when it’s appropriate.”
Smith makes an impression
After the game during the team/volunteer picture, Babcock was seen speaking to Smith, who scored the first goal of the game.
“I could tell by his body language he was upset with the turnover he made,” Babcock said. “I said you don’t have to show anybody what you’re thinking. You’re going to turn the puck over sometimes but trying to do too much all the time isn’t the right way. Be patient. He’s going to be a really good player and I like his disposition and I like he’s pushing himself, he wants to be a player. He’s got a lot of upside. I’m very impressed.”
Smith had 15 goals and 37 assists in 42 games with Wisconsin last season. His 52 points were more than double what he scored the previous season. He is from the same hometown as former Wing Brendan Shanahan, Mimico, Ontario.
Lineup for Pittsburgh
Here are the players traveling to Pittsburgh for Wednesday night’s first exhibition game: