Detroit held their end with a strong victory over their Original Six rivals Thursday. Darren Helm’s pair of goals on the night helped the Red Wings beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena. While they moved their points streak to a dozen games, they ended a seven game losing streak to the Habs in the process.
The Red Wings hoped that they could out play the Canadiens as they find themselves in a struggling situation. Without Carey Price, and a fatigued Mike Condon, the Habs had to go to their third string goaltender Dustin Tokarski getting his first start of the season. Tokarski was recalled from AHL St. Johns when it came to the point that Condon needed a break. The 25 year old took his third straight loss last night against the Boston Bruins allowing three goals straight.
Detroit got to be on the lighter side of things as the Habs played back-to-back games. With much on their minds, the Canadiens would need plenty of work to come from the rest of their lineup. Detroit continued an 11 game points streak despite losing in a shootout Tuesday. With the start of a six game home stand, the Red Wings looked to have a solid run.
Detroit came out in the first period with good chances on Tokarski but none to make a mark just yet. The same was said for Montreal who brought the puck to goaltender Petr Mrazek but didn’t get one through him either. The Habs were caught on the wrong end of a penalty giving the Red Wings their first power play of the game. Though they had great opportunities from Mike Green and Gustav Nyquist, the Red Wings were stopped by traffic in front of the net.
Montreal saw a similar ending to their man advantage, as they didn’t seem to have the power needed to get ahead on Detroit. In the late stages of the period, Montreal went on an offensive rush getting in front of the Red Wings to strike against Mrazek. Tomas Fleischmann went in on the Detroit netminder only to lose his shooting line.
The scoring chances continued to come for the Red Wings when they got their second power play, but like the period it came to a close with no such luck to get out front on the scoreboard. They did outshoot Montreal 10-6 while showing skill on the faceoff winning 11 of 17 indicating that the Canadiens were struggling.
The second had both teams fighting from end to end with the puck but even though pucks were making their mark near the net, the pressure was high on either side. Detroit showed they were more than hungry for a goal against the Canadiens and pressed after killing off a penalty in the seventh minute.
Four minutes later their hard work paid off with Helm who already had three shots on net, scored his second of the season a centering wrister top shelf. The Habs were running hot to score a goal and did it three minutes later to tie the game.
The shot came off the stick of rookie Charles Hudon but he wouldn’t be getting his first goal of the season. Instead, Mrazek stopped the shot before he dropped behind him where Sven Andrighetto tapped it across the goal line scoring his fourth. With things even on both sides, the last seven minutes were some of the edge of your seat moments to occur. The Habs gave Detroit a third chance on the power play but nearly made them pay for it with a shorthanded scoring chance from Tomas Plekanec. Mrazek who was clutch at the critical moments ultimately stopped him. When Montreal had the puck, they were all over the Detroit zone trying to get the edge before time ran out. It looked like another serious third period for the Red Wings where a goal would determine their fate.
The Habs came into the third with a mission on their minds to take a step in the right direction while leaving Detroit in their dust. After four and a half minutes, the Montreal third line with Fleischmann in tow made it 2-1 with the 31 year old scoring his eighth of the season a snapped shot that beat Mrazek who was without defensive coverage.
Detroit knew they had to get back in it quickly and near did so with an opportunity on a loose puck in the Montreal crease. The puck never found its away around Tokarski as Detroit’s best scoring chance went unanswered. The Red Wings special teams went on their fourth power play of the night hoping that they could end the woes that have them in danger of losing with ten minutes left.
A fifth chance on the power play came for the Red Wings, as they weren’t giving up on tying the game while they could. A shot from Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg went off the skate of Justin Abdelkader before crossing over the goal line ending the long drought. Abdelkader earned his tenth goal on the play that had them back in it with six minutes left in regulation.
A bad giveaway from Montreal resulted in the Red Wings regaining the lead on a second goal from Helm as he quickly gain possession to fire the puck through Tokarski. He was looking for his third while there was still time to do it coming close on two occasions with 3:44 left.
The Habs looked sluggish but pressured Mrazek when they had time to fire the puck on him. Though they took five shots on net through 16 minutes, all that mattered was forcing overtime or dropping a fourth straight. A delay of game penalty cost the Canadiens dearly with 1:44 to go as they had little chance of covering the margin.
Tokarski left the net to give his team an even strength chance and work out an opportunity. In the end it was the Red Wings who were able to conduct the final minute of play to maintain their points streak to 12 games. The third star of the night was clearly deserved by Mrazek who has been the reason for Detroit’s consistency of staying in the top three of the Atlantic Division. He made 25 saves for a .920 save percentage in what was his ninth win so far this season.
Although he was on the losing end, Tokarski made a valiant effort against the Red Wings stopping 26 in his return to the NHL. He will try and brush off the loss before his next opportunity, which would come Saturday against the Ottawa Senators. Detroit couldn’t rest long as they move into Friday to visit the New Jersey Devils who like Montreal, have the energy to strike at any point.