Speed can kill, but in the NHL, you simply have to finish. On some nights, goaltending and grit win out, and that was the case for the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday night.
With 32 saves, Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, in his first game of the season, put on a show in a match that at times resembled a shootout for the speedy Rangers, who fell to Detroit 2-1 at Madison Square Garden.
Drew Miller scored the winner for the Wings 59 seconds into the third period when Luke Glendening stole the puck from Henrik Lundqvist behind the net and fed Miller in front.
The Rangers outshot the Wings 33-18, but they couldn’t outscore them.
“It’s a game we should put away in the first forty minutes, but it came down to that play [the deciding goal],” Lundqvist said. “For the most part, I do that play and find our ‘D.’ It happens and it’s tough when it’s the difference. We had enough chances to get probably four goals.”
On Mika Zibanejad’s second goal of the season, a tip of Ryan McDonagh’s point shot that eluded Howard, the Blueshirts took a 1-0 lead at just 1:09 of the first period. Chris Kreider’s secondary assist gave him seven points, just one behind San Jose’s Brent Burns for the league lead, and a four-game point streak.
That was the way the period ended, but the Rangers could have had at least one more, outshooting the Wings 14-7. Mats Zuccarello knocked the puck away from Xavier Oulette near the blueline, and fed Kevin Hayes on the resulting 2 on 1, but Hayes missed wide right with Howard woefully out of position.
Zibanejad continued to be a magician at the dots, winning seven of eight faceoffs, and Henrik Lundqvist, who made his best save in gloving Tomas Tatar’s rising shot from the left circle early, wasn’t really tested.
The Red Wings allowed several shorthanded breakaways on their first power-play of the second period, but were bailed out by Howard.
With Zuccarello in the box for tripping Jonathan Ericsson while he was curling around his own net, the Rangers just missed extending the lead.
First, Howard stoned Grabner shorthanded, deflecting the former Islander’s backhander with his pad. On the same kill, Howard denied Rick Nash’s wrister and kicked aside McDonagh’s low shot from the right circle.
“I felt like we played a good game, but it came down to special teams: On the power play, we couldn’t get the job done when we had the chances,” Nash said.
The Wings then cashed in on their second man-advantage in the waning seconds of Clendening’s boarding penalty at 4:29. After spending much of the power play in the Rangers zone, McDonagh couldn’t clear and Thomas Vanek’s fourth of the season tied the score at 6:15.
Before long the Rangers had yet another opportunity to forge ahead. Dylan Larkin was down behind the net and didn’t get to the bench on time, and Detroit was assessed a minor for too many men on the ice at 10:55.
Glendening’s hook triggered a 5-on-3 for 55 seconds, but to no avail. The Rangers just couldn’t connect again with Brendan Smith off for holding Kreider driving to the net at 13:54, making them 0-for-3.
“It felt like we deserved more than what we got,” Marc Staal said.