Game 23: Red Wings-Carolina Enotes

So that’s what the Red Wings needed? A shot of Nyquist?

Gustav Nyquist, making his season debut, wasted no time making his mark on the game, scoring 17 seconds into it, then added a breakaway goal late in the third period that ended up being the game-winner, and the Red Wings finally skated off the ice with two points in their back pockets, beating the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-3 at JLA.

It wasn’t easy. Breaking a seven-game losing streak (and eight straight at home) never is.

Nyquist banged home a rebound on the game’s first shift, and even when Darren Helm gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead about five minutes into the second period, you knew that there was going to be hand-wringing before the night was through.

Sure enough, the Canes scored twice in the second period to tie the game. It was looking like so many games in the losing streak: early promise, late heartbreak.

A two-minute 5-on-3 power play seven minutes into the third period provided the Red Wings with a chance to go ahead, and even though it took them 1:45, Niklas Kronwall was credited with a goal when Jordan Staal accidentally kicked Kronwall’s rebound a puck’s width past the goal line. 3-2 Detroit.

Then the Swede Nyquist, blocked from the Red Wings out of training camp because of depth and salary cap concerns, squirted loose at center ice, took a deft pass from Henrik Zetterberg off the boards, skated in alone on Carolina goalie Justin Peters and deked into a backhand, slipping the puck between Peters’ pads for a 4-2 lead. The goal came at 15:58.

Even with a power play and a two-goal lead with less than a minute to play, the Red Wings still managed to give the crowd a scare.

Andrej Sekera scored a shortie with 16 seconds to play, his second goal of the game.

But the Hurricanes couldn’t get set up in the Detroit zone after the ensuing face-off, and the Red Wings (10-6-7) survived.

Nyquist, if he plays one more game, cannot be sent back to Grand Rapids unless he clears waivers, which is highly unlikely. He’s got a scorer’s knack of being around the puck and depositing said puck into the net, and other NHL teams know that. So it looks like Nyquist is with the Red Wings to stay.

Nyquist was called up due to the placing on long-term IR of D Danny DeKeyser with a separated shoulder, which freed up cap space. DeKeyser is expected to miss 3-6 weeks.

Nyquist skated on a new no. 1 line with Zetterberg and Danny Cleary, as coach Mike Babcock split up Z and Pavel Datsyuk.

The Red Wings fired 47 shots at Peters, and even though they blew a 2-0 lead, they never lost composure nor did they cough the puck up very much, even when the Canes pressed after falling behind 3-2.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: It was amazing how much the insertion of one different player (Nyquist) made the Red Wings look more confident and more crisp.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: Jonas Gustavsson started in goal for Detroit, and was quite competent, as he’s been whenever he’s seen spot duty this season. He found himself out of position on Sekera’s second goal, but for the most part Gustavsson was sharp. Babcock shuffled his lines like a deck of cards, and for one night, he drew mostly aces.

Spotlight on the Opponent: Jimmy Rutherford

What: Carolina at Detroit
When: Thursday, November 21, 7:30pm (TV: FSD)

Jim Rutherford

Before goalies were the size of basketball players and as wide as garage doors, there were little guys in net, like Jimmy Rutherford.

Rutherford was the beleaguered goalie for the Red Wings throughout most of the 1970s, a chilling decade of hockey in Detroit otherwise known as “Darkness with Harkness,” in reference to the terrorism inflicted by first coach, then GM Ned Harkness.

Harkness was only with the Red Wings from 1970-73, but his destruction was felt for years. Kind of like the damage Dick Vitale did to the Pistons’ future in a mere 18 months, from May 1978 to November 1979.

But one of the good things Harkness did was bring Rutherford back, two years after shipping Jimmy to Pittsburgh in 1971 after Rutherford’s rookie season.

Rutherford tended net in 1970-71 for Detroit, then again from 1973-80, certainly earning the league’s version of the Purple Heart in the process.

On countless nights, Rutherford was left hung out to dry by a Swiss cheese defense. yet somehow, Rutherford still holds the Red Wings record with three consecutive shutouts, pitched in the 1975-76 season.

After Rutherford retired, I met him in his new role as hockey executive. He was the GM of the OHL’s expansion Detroit Ambassadors, who would eventually become the Jr. Red Wings (and who would become the Plymouth Whalers).

The cable company I worked for was commissioned to televise a handful of Ambassadors games in their maiden season of 1990-91, on a tape-delay basis. So it was that I met Rutherford over lunch one day in 1990, to discuss the deal.

We forged a relationship, and later that season he allowed me to wear a mike and stand behind the bench during a game against Windsor at Cobo Arena as a de facto assistant coach while a camera guy recorded it all for a special piece for our viewers. More on that night in a future blog post. You won’t want to miss it.

The next season, the team, owned by Pete Karmanos’ Compuware, became the Jr. Red Wings and moved to Joe Louis Arena. It was during that season that GM Rutherford fired coach Andy Weidenbach and took over as coach himself.

We happened to be televising Jimmy’s first game as coach. But there was a hellacious snowstorm that night, and Detroit’s opponents were late to JLA. The game was delayed by over an hour.

I saw Rutherford pacing outside the dressing room as I did some last minute technical specs checking. I sidled over to him.

“You look like a nervous wreck,” I said. “Of all nights for the game to be delayed, eh?”

He gave me a tired smile. “Yeah. I just want to get this over with.”

We spent a few minutes alone, in the hallway, as I tried to give him some encouragement.

“Have a good game,” I said as I headed back to the production truck.

“Thanks. You too,” he said.

I can’t even remember if the Jr. Wings won that night. I bet Jimmy does, though.

Of course, we all know that Rutherford has carved quite a niche in the NHL as an executive with the Carolina Hurricanes, also owned by Karmanos. Jimmy put together the Stanley Cup-winning team of 2006.

A side note: one of Weidenbach’s assistants the night I stood behind the bench was Paul Maurice, who would one day coach the Hurricanes and also the Toronto Maple Leafs.

After Jimmy Rutherford left Detroit and moved to Hartford (Karmanos bought the Whalers and then moved them to Carolina in 1997), we spoke on several occasions. Once, in 1994, he was going to hire me for a job in the organization but couldn’t work me in. That was fine. It was an honor to be considered.