The Detroit Red Wings accomplished something they haven’t done in over 12 years during Monday night’s 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. After a scoreless first period, Red Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson experienced dizziness and had to be replaced by Jimmy Howard at the start of the second period.
Howard denied all 16 shots he faced and the two goaltenders recorded the Wings’ first combined shutout since Manny Legace and Dominik Hasek did so on October 27th, 2001 against the Nashville Predators. Hasek closed out Detroit’s 1-0 victory after Legace was carried off of the ice on a stretcher.
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Howard was credited for his third shutout of the season after making 16 saves in a difficult situation. It didn’t appear that Gustavsson was hit in the head on any particular play, but was forced to leave the arena to receive medical attention after the first period came to an end.
Within just five minutes of Howard taking over between the pipes, Canucks forward David Booth, a Michigan native, was awarded a penalty shot after being held by Jakub Kindl on a breakaway. Howard denied Booth’s five-hole shot attempt; a shot that Howard has struggled to save during shootouts.
The scoring was opened up by Mike Babcock’s top line once again. Just over a minute into the second period, Justin Abdelkader fired a top-corner laser past Canucks goalie Eddie Lack. Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist each recorded an assist on Abdelkader’s seventh goal of the season.
With just seconds remaining in the third period, Abdelkader sealed the deal with an empty-net goal out of sheer determination. The Wings forward blew by two defenders and scored off of his own rebound, after he originally misfired at the open net from center ice.
This victory wasn’t just a result of the top line providing scoring opportunities and spectacular goaltending efforts, this victory was due in large part to the Red Wings’ efforts in successfully killing all five of Vancouver’s power play opportunities.
With just two games remaining until the Olympic break, the Red Wings are currently in fifth place of the Atlantic Division with 62 points. Detroit will look to maintain control of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as the Philadelphia Flyers have the same amount of points as they near the break.
After missing the past 14 games, Pavel Datsyuk is expected to play in the Wings’ final two games before serving as Team Russia’s captain for the Olympics. Detroit has two divisional foes remaining on their schedule as they will face the Florida Panthers (Thursday at 7:30) and Tampa Bay Lightning (Saturday at 7:00).