MONTREAL – The scourge of injuries that has hit the NHL this season continues to victimize the Detroit Red Wings.
Pavel Datsyuk scored a goal and added the shootout winner as Detroit downed the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Saturday but may have lost star defenceman Niklas Kronwall for a significant amount of time in the process. Kronwall left the game at 8:52 of the first period after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Habs enforcer Georges Laraque.
The Wings, already missing defenceman Andreas Lilja and forwards Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula and Jason Williams to injury, watched as Kronwall had to be helped off the ice while putting no weight on his left knee.
“Well, he’s hurt,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s something that shouldn’t happen in hockey. A guy shouldn’t hang his leg out there and hurt another guy. It’s unacceptable and it’s disappointing, obviously we just lost a good player for a period of time. Our doctors will look at him, but he’s out for a chunk for sure.”
Laraque – who was already being called for high-sticking Darren Helm on the same play – received only a tripping minor for the hit on Kronwall in addition to a double-minor for the high stick. Laraque said the hit was an accident and the reaction of referees Dave Jackson and Marc Joannette proves it.
“There were four refs on the ice and they didn’t call anything,” Laraque said. “If they called a match penalty it would be different. There was no intent, there was no reason why I would try to go and hurt him. It was a pure accident, that’s why they called it tripping, so I’m not worried at all.”
Brad Stuart also scored and Henrik Zetterberg added one in the shootout for the Red Wings (11-6-4), who have won four of their last six games.
“I thought we played well,” Babcock said. “We gave up 18 shots on the road. We did a good job and had the puck for a lot of the game, but we have to give them credit.”
Mike Cammalleri scored twice in the third period for the Canadiens (11-11-1), who lost for the first time in nine games this season that went past regulation.
Montreal still came away from back-to-back games against the Washington Capitals and Detroit with three out of four points while missing several key players to injury.
“There was a definite sense of desperation in our room, a sense of must-win and a whatever-it-takes attitude,” Cammalleri said. “That’s a positive thing to see from this group. It was a character weekend for us with the lineup we have.”
Price made 32 saves in the Canadiens net and he has allowed only two goals in each of his last five starts. Over his last seven, Price has a 4-2-1 record, a .941 save percentage and a 1.94 goals against average.
But Habs coach Jacques Martin warns that Price still has work to do to become a dominant goalie.
“He’s playing in a groove, he’s playing well, and we like that,” Martin said. “He’s got to keep working at getting better, but I like his determination and passion to win.”
Andrei Kostitsyn had two assists for the Canadiens, giving him four points in his last three games. Kostitsyn had five points through his first 20 games this season.
“He’s been playing well the last few games, he’s turned things around,” said his centre Tomas Plekanec, who logged over 25 minutes of ice time. “He’s playing with confidence, and that’s all he needs. He can be dominant in a game when he plays like that.”
Jimmy Howard made 16 saves for the Red Wings and stopped Cammalleri’s shootout attempt before Plekanec shot one off the post.
Trailing 2-0 entering the third period, Cammalleri quickly got Montreal back in the game.
He took a feed from Kostitsyn and fired a wrister high glove side on Howard for his 10th of the season at 0:09 of the third.
A rare Nicklas Lidstrom turnover led to the tying goal, as Plekanec picked off the clearing attempt and fed Kostitsyn in the corner. He found Cammalleri alone in front for his 11th at 8:45 of the third to make it 2-2.
With both teams having played and travelled a night earlier, it was the Canadiens who came out of the gate with more jump, controlling the play until Laraque’s three minor penalties opened the door for Detroit.
“I thought in the first 10 minutes of the game we had good momentum going, we were playing four lines, we had good tempo, we were controlling the play,” Martin said. “The number of penalties we took gave them the two goals, and then you’ve got to battle back.”
Stuart scored his second of the season on a long slap shot that eluded Price at 12:41 of the first, just 11 seconds before Laraque’s second minor was to expire.
Paul Mara took another penalty for cross-checking Tomas Holmstrom in front of the net, and Datsyuk tipped home a beautiful slap pass from Brian Rafalski for his sixth of the season at 14:42, one second after the two-man advantage ended.
The Canadiens gave Detroit another 5-on-3 power play one minute later, but managed to kill it off to keep the score 2-0 after a period.
“They were penalties, there’s no doubt about it,” Cammalleri said. “We talked about it and we will talk about it again. It’s not OK for us.”
Notes: The Canadiens played without C Scott Gomez, who suffered a lower body injury in the third period of Friday night’s 3-2 win Washington. He joins defencemen Andrei Markov and Hal Gill and wingers Brian Gionta and Matt D’Agostini on Montreal’s injured listaDefenceman Jay Leach was scratched for Montreal, while Detroit defenceman Derek Meech and winger Brad May were also scratcheda Datsyuk’s shootout goal on Price broke a string of 35 straight saves by Montreal goaltending in overtime and the shootout this seasonaZetterberg saw his five-game point streak come to an endaWith just one power play Saturday, the Canadiens have drawn three or fewer in nine straight gamesaThe Red Wings, who entered the game leading the NHL in shots per game with 34.2, have failed to reach the 30-shot mark only five times in 21 games this season.