Power-play goals by Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall vaulted the Detroit Wings to a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in a penalty-filled afternoon affair at the Joe Louis Arena on Hockey Day in Canada.
Making his first start since Mar. 30, 2012 vs. Los Angeles, Nikolai Khabibulin gets the call between the pipes for the Oilers.
Detroit's Damien Brunner got the game's first scoring chance when he scooped up a loose puck in the slot and slinged a backhand shot on goal. Khabibulin, however, was sound in kicking aside that one and three others before the game was four minutes old.
Furious pressure continued from the Red Wings and it nearly resulted in a goal when Joakim Andersson raced in on the near side and whistled a shot from close in -- but, once again, the veteran netminder was up to the task.
Still with only one shot on goal as the 10-minute mark passed and with Ryan Smyth and Lennart Petrell driving the net, Ben Eager snapped a shot from the near faceoff dot, but the close-range missile caught iron and stayed out.
At 14:48, Smyth was sent off for hooking. Detroit's power-play, which came into this afternoon's contest ranked 26th in the League with only a 12 percent success rate, couldn't penetrate some key blocks by Petrell and Chris VandeVelde and the game remained scoreless.
The Oilers came right back and peppered Jimmy Howard with multiple scoring chances as the reformed top line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Teemu Hartikainen created all kinds of havoc. Howard, however, stopped them all.
Moments later, ex-Oiler Dan Cleary picked up an interference minor. The Oilers came up empty in the first 1:17 of the power-play, but still had 43 seconds with which to work in the middle frame.
Detroit led 9-8 in shots after one.
With four seconds left in Cleary's minor, the Red Wings kept the Oilers on the man-advantage was a too many men penalty was assessed. But it, too, was a brief one as Nail Yakupov picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty 43 seconds into the power-play.
After arguing the call, Smyth was given a 10-minute misconduct as well.
The penalties all expired without incident and the scoreless game continued.
The Red Wings continued to press near the six-minute mark, crashing the crease hard and generating several opportunities in close, but Khabibulin shut the door. Seconds later, a half-slap point shot by Jakub Kindl deflected off the crossbar and out of play.
With 13:38 on the clock, Ryan Whitney was assessed an elbowing minor (on a horrible call) after robbing Brunner of a sure goal at the doorstep. With 28 seconds remaining in Whitney's penalty, Corey Potter was sent off for delay of game when his clearing attempt bounced up and over the glass near the blue line.
Just as Whitney was exiting the box, a cross-crease pass found Pavel Datsyuk at the lip of the crease and the Russian made no mistake, sliding the puck past Khabibulin to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
The Oilers didn't sulk, but Howard was ready for the response. Whitney, Eager and Justin Schultz all got great scoring opportunities moments later, but the goaltender came up big.
With 6:46 to play, Justin Abdelkader was charged for holding in the offensive zone. Once again, the power-play came to a halt when Taylor Hall took a tripping penalty a minute into the advantage.
Just as the infractions all expired, Nikolai Khabibulin came up a ridiculous left pad save when Johan Franzen spotted Brunner driving the net on a dangerous 2-on-1.
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg was assessed a hooking penalty at 16:34. This time, the visitors made made no mistake. Rookie defenceman Justin Schultz cashed his fourth game of the season when he collected the puck at the line, changed his shooting angle and wired a wrist shot past Howard 17:55.
With 40 minutes in the books, the Oilers and Red Wings were tied 1-1. Detroit held a slim 22-18 edge in shots.
The Red Wings almost regained the lead seconds into the period when Zetterberg was the recipient of a similar play to the one Brunner was set up on play. But, also like the chance earlier, Khabibulin came up with a great pad save on the odd-man russh to keep the 1-1 score intact.
Joakim Andersson was sent off for hooking at 1:51. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was clipped by a high stick 53 seconds into the power-play, giving the Oilers a 1:07-long 5-on-3. Unfortunately for the Oilers, nothing of consequence was generated and the opportunity passed without a shot.
The parade to the penalty box continued as Chris VandeVelde was sent off for tripping at 5:34. Just 34 seconds into the Red Wings power-play, Niklas Kronwall blasted one a slap shot glove side on Khabibulin to give Detroit a 2-1 lead.
With 12 minutes to play, Khabibulin came up a sensational glove save when he robbed Datsyuk's wicked one-time shot from the slot.
The Oilers went back to the power-play at 12:31 when Zetterberg was sent off for hooking, but they couldn't quite cash. Once his penalty expired, Zetterberg raced out of the box and was sprung on a breakway. Hall charged back and lifted the sniper's stick at the last second, canceling the opportunity.
Johan Franzen was assessed a penalty for closing his hand on the puck late in the game. The Oilers pulled Khabibulin to make it a 6-on-4 with over two minutes to play. The orange and blue pressed hard for the equalizer, but couldn't find the net.
As a result, the Oilers lost their fifth straight as the Red Wings skated away with a 2-1 win.
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