DETROIT – Worst met first when the Red Wings hosted the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.
It was a recipe for disaster – a trap game if you will -- for the league-leading Wings.
Goals in the first-minute of the first and final periods, and a career-high four-assists for defenseman Niklas Kronwall, helped propel the Wings to a 6-2 win at Joe Louis Arena.
“Of course it feels good; it was one of those days when everything bounces your way,” Kronwall said. “I think we came out with good speed from the start and really showed everyone that we really wanted to win this game.”
The Wings’ offensive machine, which featured six different goal-scorers, got revved up early on. Just 22-seconds into the game, Detroit got a lift when its league-leading power play unit went to work after Kings center Michael Cammalleri went off for holding.
The Wings got their first power play goal on Henrik Zetterberg’s team-high 25th goal less than a minute into the period. The goal was made possible when Nicklas Lidstrom managed to keep the puck in the zone, gloving an attempted Kings’ clearing pass at the line. The captain then spotted Zetterberg streaking through the slot, who then whistled a wrist shot low to goalie Jason LaBarbera’s glove side.
The Wings scored twice with a man-advantage, improving their league-best power play to 41-for-168 (24.4 percent).
Jiri Hudler gave the Wings a 2-0 lead when he banked in a rebound off of Kronwall’s slap shot from inside the right point at 7:37 of the first.
Niklas Kronwall (55) had a career-high four assists. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)
Before the period ended, Los Angeles had cut the Wings’ lead in half. The Kings got a lucky break when on their first power play, Lubomir Visnovsky’s point shot ricocheted off Lidstrom’s skate right to Dustin Brown, who swept it past Dominik Hasek at 18:32.
Hasek stopped 18 shots for his career win No. 372, which ties him with Andy Moog for seventh on the all-time wins list.
The start of the second was dicey when the Kings pulled even with the Wings just 12 seconds into the period. Center Patrick O’Sullivan cruised into the offensive zone and cranked a shot from the top of the circle that beat Hasek high on the glove side.
The Kings’ threat was shorted lived, however, as the Wings (25-6-3) settled down, and reverted to their dominating ways, out-shooting Los Angeles, 18-5 in the second period.
The Wings had a 35-20 shots-on-goal advantage for the game. They have out-shot their opponents in 29-of-34 games this season.
LaBarbera gave up a bad goal when he failed to cover up a loose puck in the crease on Zetterberg’s backhanded attempt from off the near boards. As the Kings’ goalie tried to cover the loose puck inside the crease, Tomas Holmstrom nudged the puck over the goal line lifting the Wings to a one-goal edge, 3-2, at 3:35.
The Wings built their second two-goal lead, 4-2, with another power play tally when Dan Cleary redirected a Kronwall shot from the inside the blue line.
“The last couple of games we haven’t played as well as we want to,” Kronwall said. “I think it really doesn’t matter what team we play, when we’re on we’re a hard team to beat. I think we got the puck deep in their zone and that’s when our forwards went to work, throwing pucks at the net.”
Though his name didn’t appear on the scoresheet, center Kris Draper, who missed the last nine games with a sprained left knee, figured in the Wings’ fifth goal. With a face-off deep in the Kings’ zone, Draper won the draw to Kronwall, who cycled the puck around the point before Johan Franzen slapped home a rebound into the net off of Andreas Lilja’s shot.
“I’ll be honest with you, I felt a little nervous and some pressure coming in to this,” said Draper, who logged more than 14 minutes on Wednesday. “The guys have been playing unbelievable since I went out and you just want to get into things. I had a good few couple of shifts, and you just don’t want to get tired out there. Everything felt good. I had some battles in our end, but it all felt good.”
Valtteri Filppula finished the scoring when his shot from the left circle deflected off of Visnovsky’s stick and through LaBarbera’s legs.
The Wings continue their three-game stretch in four days when they travel to St. Louis for a game with the Blues on Thursday night. Detroit plays in Minnesota on Saturday.
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