DETROIT – A five-day break in the schedule allowed the Detroit Red Wings a chance to regroup and focus on their porous defence.
The extra work helped pay off as Marian Hossa scored two goals to lift the Red Wings to a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. Kirk Maltby also scored for the defending Stanley Cup champions (9-2-2) and Chris Osgood made 24 saves.
Despite having the Western Conference’s second-best record, the Red Wings’ defence wasn’t good in the season’s first 12 games, allowing 39 goals. But a scheduling quirk gave the team an opportunity to concentrate on keeping the puck out of its own net.
“We’re getting back to the way we usually play. We gave it away a few times, and we have to get away from that on a regular basis,” said Osgood. “It was good for us to practice for a week and get back to the basics. We did a lot better job tonight defensively than we have in the past.”
Detroit had also relied on it’s power play, which had scored on a third of its chances coming into the game. But the Red Wings had been outscored 23-22 during five-on-five play. They were 0-for-3 on the power play Saturday night.
“We didn’t rely on our power play tonight, which is really nice,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock.
The layoff didn’t cool down Hossa, who has been held without a point in only two games this season. He leads Detroit in scoring with 17 points.
“We had a lot of rest, obviously,” said Hossa. “First couple of shifts we were a little rusty, but then we got our legs going.”
Zach Parise had New Jersey’s lone goal, and Kevin Weekes stopped 28 shots for the Devils (7-4-2).
“We played hard here tonight,” said Devils’ coach Brent Sutter. “I know it was a 3-1 game, but we did a lot of good things.”
Parise tied it 1-1 at 4:15 of the second period when he tipped in Johnny Oduya’s shot for his eighth goal, but Hossa’s second of the game and eighth this season restored Detroit’s lead. Hossa beat Weekes with a wrist shot from the left circle after taking a pass from Pavel Datsyuk in the neutral zone and skating in on a two-on-one with Tomas Holmstrom.
Maltby added his first goal, 4:11 into the third period, by putting in a loose puck from the bottom of the left circle.
Hossa opened the scoring 3:30 into the game when his quick shot from the bottom of the left circle squeezed between Weekes’ pad and the short-side post.
“I saw the puck coming toward the corner and just shot it, hoping for a rebound,” Hossa said. “And surprisingly, it went in.”
Weekes thought he should have stopped it.
“I would have liked to have the first one back,” he said. ” … Credit to him. That’s why players like him are superstars. They put the puck on the net.”
Notes: Detroit D Brian Rafalski faced his former team for the first time since he signed as a free agent with the Red Wings in July 2007. He spent his first seven NHL seasons with the Devils, helping them to two Stanley Cup championships. … Detroit RW Johan Franzen missed his fifth game with a knee injury. … New Jersey D Paul Martin missed his third game because of upper body soreness. … Devils forward Brian Gionta was helped off the ice after being checked into the boards by Derek Meech with a little under eight minutes left in the second period. He didn’t return. Sutter said, “he had the wind knocked out of him,” and that Gionta would be re-evaulated on Sunday. D Bryce Salvador was also forced out of the game after blocking a shot with his skate. Salvadore was walking on it after the game and said he didn’t think he would miss any time. … New Jersey play-by-play broadcaster Mike Emrick will be honoured with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award at the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Toronto on Monday. … It was Osgood’s 369th career win, which ties him with Tom Barrasso for 14th all time.