DETROIT – It was another game of firsts against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Despite dropping a 4-3 shoot-out loss, Wings forwards Tomas Tatar and Drew Miller each registered their first goal of the season. For Tatar, his first-period goal was his first at the NHL level since he scored in his Wings’ debut on New Year’s Eve 2010.
“I feel way better than I did last time when I was called up two years ago,” said Tatar, who gave the Wings a 1-0 lead at 2:17 of the first period. “I’m more experienced and I’ve played way, way more games. So I felt pretty good out there. I think I skate pretty well out there. It’s just that I have to do the job that coach asks me for, and I have to do it 100 percent every game.”
Tatar has played in five games since being called up earlier in the month. He has played on the third line since being back with the NHL team, and on Wednesday, he skated with center Joakim Andersson and forward Patrick Eaves, who had been a healthy scratch lately.
Playing in his first game since Feb. 2 at Columbus, Eaves made a key contribution on Tatar’s goal. Off of Andersson’s face-off win to the right of the Blues’ crease, Eaves tied up St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, which allowed Tatar to get to the puck in the low slot.
“I beat the guy off the wall in a puck battle and got it to Tats, and he did the rest,” said Eaves, who drew an assist on the play.
From there, Tatar made a pretty backhand/forehand move before lifting the puck past Blues goalie Jake Allen, who was making his first NHL start.
Tatar and Allen have crossed paths many times in the American Hockey League. Having spent much of his playing time in Grand Rapids, Tatar has learned some of Allen’s tendencies. Allen has played most of the season for the Blues’ farm club in Peoria, where he’s posted a 2-1-0 record with one shutout against the Griffins.
But Tatar's goal Wednesday was more reactionary than anything, the rookie forward said.
“I’ve played against him a couple of years down there,” he said. “But it’s not about if I know him or not. It’s just that the puck popped out pretty well for me and I did a move and it was a pretty good fake, I guess. He just bit at it.”
The Red Wings built a 2-0 lead 5 ½ minutes later when Miller and Jordin Tootoo worked a nifty give-and-go play when he dug the puck out from behind the Blues’ net. Miller than zipped a shot past the rookie netminder.
Miller became the sixth Red Wings’ skater to score his first goal of the season against St. Louis.
After being shut-out by the Blues in the season-opener for both clubs at Scottrade Center, four other Wings have victimized Blues’ goalies this season for goal numero uno. Cory Emmerton, Daniel Cleary and Jakub Kindl potted their firsts against goalie Brian Elliott during the Wings’ 5-1 win last Thursday. Jonathan Ericsson scored his first, also against Elliott, in a 5-3 win at The Joe on Feb. 1.
Strangely, six Blues also scored their first goals of the year against the Wings. Forwards Patrik Berglund, Chris Stewart, T.J. Oshie and Vladimir Tarasenko scored in the opener. All but Berglund’s tally came against Jimmy Howard, before he was lifted for backup Jonas Gustavsson in the third period.
After spotting the Wings a 2-0 lead, the Blues’ defense was spectacular in front of their 22-year-old goalie. The Blues blocked more shots (24) than they allowed overall (18). Detroit had just seven shots on Allen in the final 44-plus minutes of the game.
“We kind of peppered him at first, got some goals and then didn't get a lot of shots after that,” Miller said. “You got to credit their D and forwards for helping him out and getting blocked shots for him.”
THREE STARS: 3, Pavel Datsyuk, DET (1 Goal); 2, Chris Stewart, STL (1 Goal, 1 Assist); 1, Alex Steen, STL (1 Goal).
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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