It's Wild's night in Detroit
The combined 10 goals represented the most scored at JLA this season. The previous high was eight in the Red Wings’ 6-2 win over Los Angeles on Dec. 19.
Marian Gaborik beat fellow Western Conference All-Star Chris Osgood to clinch the shootout for the Wild. Minnesota right wing Brian Rolston and Wings center Jiri Hudler traded goals prior to Gaborik’s five-hole winner. Gaborik had a goal and two assists.
“It’s a lot of goals of course. It is exciting hockey for the fans,” said Gaborik, the game’s first star.
Goalie Josh Harding played extremely well in relief of Niklas Backstrom, who started in net for Minnesota. Harding stopped 26 of 27 shots, including 17 of 18 in the third period and overtime and many key glove saves with the game on the line.
It was a tale of two separate games with eight goals scored – four apiece - in the first 28 minutes. The game took an abrupt defensive turn with both goaltenders trading saves for almost 21 minutes until Dan Cleary’s goal with 1:08 left in the third put the Wings up, 5-4.
Minnesota wouldn’t go away, however, and tied the game 19-seconds later when Eric Belanger’s extremely low angle shot found the inside of the goalpost behind Chris Osgood.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said about the effort, “We didn’t play very well in our own zone and we couldn’t keep the puck out of our net. We felt we had made enough good plays to win the game and then once again we weren’t very good defensively in the last 50 seconds in our own zone again.
“Those are things that haven’t happened to us very many times this year, but tonight we weren’t very solid in our own zone – didn’t trust one another, didn’t talk much.”
Osgood made 18 saves in his first game since being named a Western Conference All-Star. He was twice victimized by deflected shots early but was solid when it counted in the third, keeping the Wild at bay until late.
“We usually win when we score five goals," Osgood said. "The way we did, though, we just kept fighting back constantly tonight just to give ourselves a chance to win the game, so that was a positive.”
Down 4-2 midway through the second, the Wings got a shorthanded goal from Dallas Drake which seemed to catch Backstrom by surprise. Shortly after, Niklas Kronwall tied the game - forcing Wild coach Jacques Lemaire to pull Backstrom in favor of Harding - and Minnesota seemed to be on its heels.
But in a game defined by quick scoring spurts – there were four two-minute periods during which more than one goal was scored – neither team was able to capitalize on its opportunities until late in the third.
The Wild came out of the gate blazing with Martin Skoula scoring an early first period goal and Gaborik and Todd Fedoruk adding two more by the end of the period. The Wings had not given up three goals in a period since their Nov. 17 loss to Chicago.
“We didn’t have our ‘A’ game and we were sluggish," Osgood said. "The puck was bouncing a ton in our own end but we managed to fight back twice and take the lead. We’re mad about (giving up a goal in) the last minute. We usually don’t do that."
Typically a team known for its ability to hold a lead, Minnesota is now 13-2-0 when leading after the first period and 20-2-1 when scoring first, in spite of the Red Wings’ comeback. It was the Wild's first shootout win in three attempts this season.