DENVER – Jonas Gustavsson stopped just about everything, including the Colorado Avalanche’s six-game winning streak.
The backup goalie turned in a 38-save performance and Johan Franzen broke a third-period tie with his second goal of the game as the Detroit Red Wings beat the Avalanche 4-2 on Thursday night to hand Patrick Roy his first loss as a coach.
“He had a heck of a game for them,” Matt Duchene said of Gustavsson.
Had a little motivation, too. This rivalry—pretty much dormant of late—just got a little more heated.
The Red Wings played inspired hockey after a hard hit knocked defenceman Niklas Kronwall out of the game early in the first period. Seeing him carried off on a stretcher shook up his teammates.
“Looked bad,” Franzen said.
Once they learned he was all right—a cut on the ear and a concussion—they went back to dispatching the Avalanche.
The Red Wings later announced on their Twitter account that Kronwall “has a concussion; cuts to the ear but he’s moving all extremities, being treating in locker room.”
Cody McLeod received a 5-minute penalty for boarding and a game misconduct.
Pavel Datsyuk also had two goals and Daniel Alfredsson added three assists for the Red Wings.
But the chatter after the game centred around the hit delivered by McLeod.
“I don’t know how much time he had to actually slow down there, but he’s got to be able to at least lower his point of impact,” Franzen said. “He’s got to find a way to not hit (Kronwall) in the head.”
Kronwall was momentarily knocked out.
“It was really scary. He was out. He didn’t really know what happened there,” fellow defenceman Jonathan Ericsson said. “We found out pretty early he was fine and he was going to recover fine.”
Roy is withholding his judgment of the play, preferring to see what NHL vice-president of player safety Brendan Shanahan has to say.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t look at it because I didn’t want to look at it,” Roy said. “I didn’t want to make a comment on it. From the bench, I thought Kronwall turned his back at the last minute.
“Does that make it dirty? I guess Shanahan has to make a decision. From the bench I saw a defenceman turn his back at the last second. For anyone who knows the game it’s hard for a player to stop.”
Erik Johnson and Gabriel Landeskog scored for the Avalanche as they finished a win short of matching the franchise record for best start (7-0) set by the 1985-86 Quebec Nordiques.
Still, it’s been quite a beginning to the Roy era on the bench.
“We’re 6-1. We still have the best or second-best record in the league,” Duchene said. “It’s unfortunate we couldn’t have kept it going against these guys, but we played hard and played really well.”
The Avalanche simply ran into a hot goaltender as Gustavsson bottled up Colorado’s potent offence most of the game.
Even when the Avalanche pulled Semyon Varlamov for an extra skater with more than 1 minute remaining, they couldn’t sneak anything past Gustavsson.
“That was a tough one,” Paul Stastny said.
Franzen’s game-winner came on a power play when he took a pass from Justin Abdelkader and lined a shot over Varlamov’s shoulder. Franzen also scored in the first period—his first two goals of the season.
Datsyuk sealed the game when he scored off his own rebound 13:35 into the final period.
Varlamov had a rough night against the rival Red Wings, allowing four goals. He had allowed just six in five starts entering the game.
Landeskog and Johnson scored in the second period to tie the game at 2. Johnson took the puck from behind his net, skated up the ice with little interference and lined a shot over Gustavsson’s right shoulder. It was Johnson’s first goal since Feb. 17, 2012.
The opening period was dominated by a fired-up Detroit team following that hit on Kronwall along the boards. The hit sent his helmet flying as he crashed to the ice.
This rivalry may just be heating back up. It used to be a bitter and bloody one during Roy’s playing days, but it’s tapered off a bit, in large part due to the slide of the Avalanche, who have missed the playoffs the past three seasons.
Can this rivalry get heated again?
After all, the two teams meet just twice this season as the Red Wings switched over to the Eastern Conference.
“We’re a long way before we’re getting to where the Red Wings are,” Roy said. “It’s amazing what they’ve been doing over the years. They’ve been there (playoffs) every year.”
NOTES: Gustavsson made his third straight start with Jimmy Howard bothered by a sore hand. … Varlamov had an assist on Johnson’s goal. … The announced attendance was 18,101, which topped the season opener (18,007). A good portion rooted for the Red Wings.