Cam Talbot and Jimmy Howard put forth a brilliant goaltenders' duel Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena, one that was decided on a power play goal in overtime as the Rangers dropped a 2-1 decision. Despite the loss the Rangers moved into a first place tie with the Islanders in the Metropolitan Division.
Defenseman Marek Zidlicky chipped a puck up and over Talbot during a goal mouth scramble 1:09 into overtime, scoring the winner in his Red Wings debut. Talbot had already made two solid stops in the extra session before Zidlicky's goal. Talbot finished with 29 saves on the night.
"It was a scramble in front and I don't even know how it ended up in the net," said team captain Ryan McDonagh. "It's unfortunate for sure. We had good possession in the game, good speed, good looks. Their goalie played pretty well for them. It was a good, hard-fought game."
The Rangers controlled much of the game, but Howard was terrific, stopping 39 of New York's 40 shots.
"The story for me was out not burying our chances," explained defenseman Dan Boyle, who played in his 1,000th NHL game. "We missed a lot of opportunities, especially in that second period. We had Grade A looks and unfortunately we couldn't find the back of the net."
Talbot was sharp, but Howard down at the other end of the ice was the difference-maker as the two teams skated into the second intermission tied 1-1. New York outshot Detroit 27-16 through two periods of play, and Howard not only had 26 saves, but he stopped all 16 shots he faced in a fairly dominating second period by the visitors.
Detroit Justin Abdelkader and New York's Dan Girardi traded goals in the first period before the scoreless middle stanza. Marc Staal came the closest to snapping the 1-1 draw, but his one-on-one scoring chance down low at 5:50 of the second--following a brilliant keep at the blue line by Kevin Hayes--clanged off the post.
The Red Wings scored first, 6:12 into the opening period, on a goal upheld by video review. Henrik Zetterberg--back from a four-game injury absence--zipped a pass past an out-of-potion Talbot--to Abdelkader by the crease, and the puck caromed off the Red Wings forward and into the cage. At first it had appeared the puck hit his skate and went in, but video review showed that he did get a stick on the puck, as well, and he was credited with his 14th goal of the season.
Talbot kept the deficit at one making his two best saves of the night in a rapid-fire sequence in which he lunged to his right and denied Tomas Jurco twice on the doorstep with his outstretched right pad along the post with six minutes to play in the period.
After a terrific shift by the Rangers fourth line--consisting of Dominic Moore, Jesper Fast, and newcomer James Sheppard in his New York debut after being acquired from San Jose at the trade deadline--pinning the Red Wings in their own end of the ice for an extended period, Fast was held behind the net by Zidlicky, drawing a penalty. The Rangers then converted on the power play, tying the score 1-1.
With time running out on the man advantage some strong work by Boyle and Derick Brassard helped keep a broken play alive in the offensive zone. Rick Nash then zipped a pass into the low slot, with the puck hitting a Detroit skate, and Girardi reached out to poke the puck past Howard for his third goal of the season at 17:02--one that came with four seconds remaining on the power play.
After the game Boyle said of appearing in his 1,000th NHL contest, "It's pretty amazing. Seventeen years ago when I started none of us would have thought I'd be standing here today. Pretty amazing to come from where I came from to where I am today. I am just thankful and grateful."
The Rangers carried their strong finish in the opening period into the second, and several times set up residency in the offensive zone as the Red Wings failed to clear their zone. Four and a half minutes into the second the Rangers ripped off four quality scoring chances during the same shift with defenseman Keith Yandle setting up the first three of those opportunities with alert passes.
Nash had a particularly strong second period with five shots on goal, and Boyle was consistently in the middle of good things offensively, himself with three shots on goal through 40 minutes.
The tide turned early in the third period when it was Talbot's turn to make the big saves, including a very sharp pad stop nearly five minutes into the period on a shot that came through heavy traffic.
The Rangers avoided putting the league's top power play to work for more than 45 minutes Wednesday, but Yandle was whistled for a hooking minor at 5:57 of the tie third period and Detroit seemingly had New York exactly where it wanted. However Talbot made a pair of saves, and the Rangers did a terrific job killing off Yandle's penalty, denying a Red Wings power play which entered the game having converted on 25 percent of its opportunities this season.
New York had a power play, too, at 12:59 of the third period, but could not convert, and the game continued on, tied 1-1.
"Ideally we would have generated more opportunities there," McDonagh said of the late power play. "Ultimately their power play gets a goal and we can't get one there and we lose the game."
Derek Stepan took a holding penalty with 46.2 seconds remaining in regulation--with Brassard and Abdelkader already in the penalty box--to give Detroit a 4-on-3 power play, but Talbot helped get the game to overtime and give his team at least one standings point with a brilliant glove save through traffic with just 10.4 seconds left to play.
Stepan was still in the box when Zidlicky was credited with the game-winner in overtime.
The Rangers are off until Sunday when their road trip continues in Chicago against the Blackhawks.