Eaves’ confidence builds with super effort
Despite playing two games in less than 24 hours, the Red Wings still managed to battle the Central Division-leading Blackhawks to another shootout on Sunday. Although Chicago triumphed in a 4-3 shootout – with the winning goal by Patrick Sharp – Eaves played a vital role in getting his team a much-needed point to bolster their playoff hopes.
He had a memorable fight with the Blackhawks’ Kris Versteeg, then scored the game-tying goal at 10:10 of the third period to force overtime.
“Eaves is a gamer. He wasn’t afraid to drop his gloves and get the team going,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It was great to see him get that tying goal in the third as well. I thought he played real well for us today.”
Prior to Sunday’s game, Eaves had eight penalty minutes. But on Sunday, he added seven-minutes in penalties, including a high-sticking minor, also in the first.
“I didn’t know Patrick could fight, I knew Versteeg could, so I was a little nervous,” joked Wings coach Mike Babcock. “It was a good scrap.”
The fight was evenly matched, but Versteeg managed to leave a welt on Eaves’ face.
“He got me early on, it just kind of stunned me for a second,” Eaves said. “But you know, I don’t really feel it. I think it’s a little mouse, just another nick in the Picasso.”
Eaves said he wasn’t thinking about recording a Gordie Howe hat trick, which is when a player collects a goal, an assist and gets into a fight all in one game.
“We wanted to win the game,” he said, “that’s the main priority.”
SHOOTOUT EXCITEMENT: The Wings came off a disappointing shootout loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday, where a sixth-round shot by Steve Ott was ruled a goal although the video replay appeared to be inconclusive. While that shootout went scoreless for five rounds, every goal in Sunday’s shootout was ESPN Top 10 play-worthy.
Pavel Datsyuk started with an unorthodox deke to softly flip the puck past Chicago goalie Antti Niemi, and Todd Bertuzzi scored on a spin-o-rama move. Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary didn’t connect on their shootout attempts.
Lidstrom couldn’t decide whose move was the best.
“That’s hard to pick,” he said. “Two great goals, but just too bad we didn’t get away with the win.”
Sunday’s game was goalie Jimmy Howard’s second shootout in about a 24-hour span. He gave credit to the Blackhawks’ shooters who found the back of the net, saying, “every single one that beat me, you know, was just good stuff.”
BIG NAMES, BIG PLAYS: While Eaves had a memorable game, the Wings’ top players gave a solid effort. The Wings’ Big Three: Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Datsyuk, all had two-point efforts.
Lidstrom scored at 19:11 of the first period, giving the Wings some momentum and erasing the Blackhawks’ two-goal cushion. Zetterberg connected on a power play goal at 8:45 of the second to tie the game at 2-2.
Datsyuk assisted on both of those goals, and Lidstrom assisted on Eaves’ game-tying tally.
“We battle for everything we get right now,” Eaves said. “With Nick leading the way, he scored that huge goal for us. We went down two goals quite quickly, but we battled back and Nick got our big goal and got us going.”
Lidstrom’s goal ended the Wings’ scoreless streak against Chicago this season, which had reached 142 minutes and 11 seconds. Detroit’s previous goal prior to the streak came on Oct. 8 when Johan Franzen scored the game-winner. The Blackhawks blanked Detroit twice with shutout victories on Dec. 20 and Dec. 23.