ST. PAUL, Minn. – A groin strain is exactly the type of injury that most goalies dread. The type that lingers. The type that can derail a season in a heartbeat.
For Detroit goalie Chris Osgood, his groin strain couldn’t have come at a better time.
After sitting out for two weeks to let it heal, Osgood made 33 saves through overtime and then two big ones in the shootout to lift the Red Wings to a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.
“It was a good break for me mentally and physically so I feel like I’m ready to go for the second half of the year,” Osgood said.
Pavel Datsyuk scored the lone goal in the shootout. Osgood denied Krys Kolanos and Mikko Koivu, and Brent Burns didn’t get a shot off before the puck trickled off his stick.
In his first 19 games this season, Osgood managed a mediocre 3.19 goals-against average and .876 save percentage. The struggles were masked by Detroit’s vaunted offence, but Osgood didn’t look like the goaltender that teamed with Dominik Hasek to win the Jennings Trophy last season and led the Wings to another Stanley Cup.
“With the start that Ozzy had this year, he’s no dummy, he knows he’s got to get rolling and he played like he did last year,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We need him to be on top of his game and get a good rotation going this week and get both goalies playing the best they can and you’ll see our goals against go way down.”
Mikael Samuelsson and Johan Franzen scored in regulation for the Wings. Franzen’s tying goal in the third period initially was disallowed by a high stick. After a lengthy review, the ruling was overturned.
Josh Harding made 35 saves for the Wild, who played their first game since getting the news that star winger Marian Gaborik will be out at least 10 weeks because of left hip surgery.
Gaborik will have surgery on Monday. In the final year of his contract, he might never wear a Wild sweater again.
As bad as that news is, the Wild can be encouraged by their last two games. One of the worst offensive teams in the league, Minnesota beat San Jose on Wednesday and then went toe-to-toe and shot-for-shot with the high-flying Red Wings.
“I can say that I feel better with what the team can do,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “Now it shows that we’re playing better as a team and that means we have a chance to win.”
Owen Nolan and Antti Miettinen scored in the first 51 seconds of the third period to wipe away Minnesota’s 1-0 deficit before Franzen’s controversial goal with 4:37 to play in regulation.
“I was praying that they would call it off,” said Harding, who has been the loser in his last five starts backing up Niklas Backstrom. “But the way the luck’s been going lately, it didn’t happen.”
Aside from a couple of big rebounds, Osgood looked sharp. He made a brilliant glove save on a breakaway by James Sheppard with 12 minutes to play that kept the Wings in it and then stopped Nolan on the doorstep with 55 seconds to play to send the game into overtime.
“You’ve got to give Osgood credit,” Harding said. “He kept them in it.”
It was yet another game the Wild sorely missed Gaborik. He has been out most of the season with the injury, so the Wild are used to playing without him. But it’s been a struggle.
Minnesota went 4-9-1 in December and entered the night with more total goals than only two teams in the NHL – Tampa Bay and Ottawa.
Offence has never been a problem for the mighty Red Wings, who outscored Chicago 10-4 in a home-and-home series with the Blackhawks that included an outdoor game at Wrigley Field on Thursday.
The Red Wings entered the game averaging more than 36 shots per game and have only been outshot three times this season. Yet the Wild held a 33-31 advantage in that category heading into overtime before the Wings finished the game ahead 37-35.
Notes: Nolan’s goal was his 144th career power-play tally, tied for eighth among active players with Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour. … Babcock scratched D Brett Lebda so he could get Derek Meech some playing time on the blue-line. Meech had not played D since Nov. 11. … Minnesota D John Scott made his NHL debut.