By Michael Caples –
DETROIT – This one might have been over before it even started.
The Red Wings posted five goals in the first period of their game against the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night. Yes, five goals, in the first 20 minutes.
They didn’t score any more goals in the second or third period, but with their offensive outburst, it didn’t really matter. The Wings cruised to a 5-2 win, snapping their two-game losing streak in the process.
Valtteri Filppula, who returned to the line-up after missing one game with a cut on his leg, said it was important for the Wings to get back in the win column.
“It’s really important,” said Filppula, who had a goal and an assist on the night. “I think we’ve been playing pretty well, and obviously it’s good when you lose a couple to bounce back and get a win. I thought today we skated real well and were able to get great chances that way, and score some goals too.”
Todd Bertuzzi opened the scoring just 1:16 into the game, and then Filppula scored 53 seconds later. Twelve minutes later, Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm added goals 43 seconds apart, and Jiri Hudler finished the period off with a goal of his own at the 19:17 mark.
Phoenix starting goaltender Mike Smith was pulled after the Wings’ fourth goal – he allowed four goals on 11 shots. Hudler’s goal was the only shot back-up goaltender Jason LaBarbera saw in the first period.
Filppula said the five tallies in the first – the Wings and the Coyotes both had 12 shots on goal – was something he hasn’t seen very often.
“I think we were able to create some chances, but normally the pucks won’t go in that much. Today, we had a little bit of luck with us, and you always need that.”
A Phoenix goal in the second period and another in the third was enough to make the fans in attendance shift positions in their seats, but not enough to change the outcome.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who made 30 saves to earn his 16th win of the season, said that the Wings’ penalty kill needs as much credit as the offensive units. The Wings were on the wrong end of a five-on-three situation for 49 seconds at the 7:30 mark of the second period, but managed to keep the Coyotes off the scoresheet.
“I thought the five-on-three kill in the second period was huge,” Howard said. “That could have given them momentum, it was early in the second period and that could have jumpstarted something for them. We remained tough out there, killed it off, and that was a good momentum shift.”