DETROIT — Brian Rafalski was left staring at the rafters of Joe Louis Arena.
Detroit was leading 2-1 and on the power play after just giving up a goal to the Vancouver Canucks. Rafalski had the knockout punch within reach. Goaltender Roberto Luongo lay flat on his back, with no one between the puck, Rafalski and the open Vancouver net.
Rafalski’s shot clipped the crossbar.
“He had at least half of the net open,” Red Wings goaltender Dominik Hasek said. “Almost I had to laugh on the other side how it could happen.”
But Rafalski was even less lucky on the subsequent shift. On a Canucks' rush down ice, Henrik Sedin slid a backhand pass to Markus Naslund, who spun around Kirk Maltby and threw a shot toward the Red Wings’ net. Instead of going wide, the puck banked off Rafalski’s skate behind Hasek to tie the game.
“When we didn’t score on our second power play — we hit the post, we had so many chances,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Luongo was good. I thought we tightened up for a little bit and I thought they got better, and they got the lucky goal when they threw it to the net.
"And then the game was on.”
Henrik Zetterberg goes 5-hole on Roberto Luongo to seal the shootout win. (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
It stayed 2-2 for the rest of regulation. In overtime, Luongo stopped Pavel Datsyuk’s scoring attempt, but batted the puck into the crowd, eliciting a delay-of-game penalty. Vancouver killed off the advantage to force a shootout.
But Vancouver’s lucky breaks ended there. Henrik Zetterberg scored on Detroit’s second shootout attempt, deking once before slipping the puck five-hole on Luongo. Hasek only needed to stop Trevor Lindon, as both other Canucks' shots sailed over the net.
With the 3-2 victory, Detroit broke a three-game winless streak, which tied its longest of the season.
“It’s a good thing to happen,” Babcock said. “You have to go through some tough times in your season to know how to respond to a little adversity, otherwise it comes to playoff time and you’re not prepared for it. It’s a battle every night.”
Henrik Sedin, the lone Vancouver All-Star representative next weekend in Atlanta, factored in the Canucks’ first goal, too. Defenseman Sami Salo’s point shot hit a Red Wing in front, ricocheting right to Sedin parked in front of the net. He easily swiped the puck into the empty side at 15:21 of the second period.
Dominik Hasek stops Ryan Kesler in the third period. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Dan Cleary had built the 2-0 lead for the Red Wings. Cleary deflected Andreas Lilja’s point shot between Luongo's arm and pad with just 1:44 left in the first. The Wings hadn’t scored the first goal of any game since Dec. 27 against the Colorado Avalanche — 10 games ago.
On the second tally, Valtteri Filppula wrestled the puck free along the boards before finding Cleary alone in front. The Red Wings' second-leading goal scorer awkwardly knifed a backhand by Luongo.
“He should have four (goals),” Babcock said. “He was unbelievable. He had two point blank chances and Roberto Luongo made huge saves to keep the game even.”
Cleary’s second goal gave Detroit a seemingly commanding 2-0 lead 1:51 into the second. The Canucks had mustered just five shots on Hasek.
But slowly the Canucks got back in the game as the period wore on. Vancouver responded with 12 shots, two that beat Hasek.
GAME NOTES: Markus Naslund became just the 226th player in NHL history to play 1,000 career games … Detroit’s power play continued to struggle, going 0-for-3 against the Canucks. The Red Wings are 3-for-33 with the man advantage in their last 10 games … Detroit recorded 45 or more shots for the second consecutive game, throwing 49 shots at Roberto Luongo … Dan Cleary is just two goals short of tying a career-high set last season (20).
1 - 0 DET
2 - 0 DET