DETROIT – On a night when Todd Bertuzzi scored a pair of goals in his season debut, it was a Swiss import with a lofty reputation for possessing a wicked fast release that helped get the Red Wings’ special teams back on track.
“He’s got Brett Hull-ish kind of release and quickness with his shot,” Bertuzzi said, referring to Damien Brunner, the Red Wings’ rookie forward. “Now it’s just getting adjusted to our game over here. The rinks are a little bit smaller and all of that, he’ll find his spots, but that was a very big goal.”
Brunner’s goal put an end to a special-teams drought for Red Wings, whose power play struggled mightily through the first three games of the compressed season. Even in the first period, the power play unit failed to convert on a 5-on-3 opportunity that lasted for 1:30.
But power-play goals by Brunner and Pavel Datsyuk eventually propelled the Wings to a 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night at Joe Louis Arena. The goals were the first power-play tallies of the season for the Wings, who were 0-for-17 with the man-advantage.
It was Brunner’s quickness that revved up the Wings’ anemic power play 13-seconds into the second period. With Henrik Zetterberg charging through the middle of the neutral zone, Brunner wheeled down the right wing, blasting past Wild center Kyle Brodziak and across the blue line where he took a perfect pass in stride from the Wings’ captain.
“That was perfect,” Brunner said, of the pass. “I finally got some speed going. I went underneath Kronner. He knows that I'm coming there and it was perfect. He beat the defenseman with the pass so it was perfect pass.”
Then, without skipping a beat, Brunner ripped a wrister to the opposite corner over the catching glove of Wild goalie Josh Harding that gave the Wings a 1-0 lead. It was Brunner’s second career goal.
“Today he got a huge goal and got us going,” said Zetterberg, who played with Brunner in Switzerland during the NHL lockout. “I think it’s good to have some chemistry, but that was a different league, a different ice surface. It will take a little time to adjust here, but hopefully we can keep playing like we did tonight.”
Zetterberg and Brunner combined on 41 goals in the Switzerland’s National League A this season before returning to North America for the start of the 48-game NHL season last week.
After taking a 2-0 lead, then a 3-2 edge, the Wings managed to restore their two-goal cushion on the power play again. In the waning minutes of the second period, with Johan Franzen parked in front of Harding, Datsyuk scored his second goal of the season to give the Wings a 4-2 lead late in the period.
Seventeen seconds after Niklas Kronwall came out of the penalty box for hooking, Zetterberg jumped over the boards and was left alone on the left wing where Datsyuk spotted him and delivered a cross-ice pass to the captain, who slid a shot underneath Harding for a 3-2 lead.
The Red Wings welcomed the return of Bertuzzi and center Darren Helm to the lineup on Friday. The two certainly added some much needed energy to the Wings, with Bertuzzi collecting five shots on goal, and Helm delivering a game-high four hits.
“We just needed a win, man,” Bertuzzi said. “We need wins. I don’t think it’s anything other than that. I think our power play kind of got us going and it’s a momentum-builder, and it’s also a drainer when it’s not going, so I thought the first unit did a really nice job of getting it going.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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