The Detroit Red Wings have now won a staggering 18 games in a row on home ice, but the more impressive streak may belong to Sam Gagner, who now has eight goals and six assists in his last four games.
As the Detroit Red Wings continue to adjust to the tandem of Joey MacDonald and Ty Conklin, it's clear that one of their goals is to keep as much pressure off their netminder as possible, whomever it might be. With the Edmonton Oilers in town, the home team took advantage of matchups and line changes to implement that strategy. Minimizing the impact of Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, the Red Wings found that most of the damage (and most of the focus from NHL media) came from #89 in White, who continued his fabulous February.
Despite Detroit surrendering the first power play of the game after a Justin Abdelkader crosscheck brought retribution from Ryan Jones, the Wings held the Oilers off the shot clock through the penalty and much of the first period. By contrast, when Eric Belanger found himself called for a stick infraction, the Wings' power play cashed in thanks to Johan Franzen, who redirected an Ian White shot from in front of the net.
Detroit extended their lead early in the second period when Cory Emmerton found a loose puck in the crease and backhanded it past Nikolai Khabibulin. Despite the speed and aggressive style of the younger team, Detroit's experience and size was on full display as they pushed the Oilers to the perimeter, frequently out muscling them for pucks and punishing attempts to break around the D.
It took a turnover at the top of the Edmonton zone to help give the Oilers a chance to score, with Ryan Jones picking Drew Miller's pocket and sending a long stretch pass to Sam Gagner, who went one on one with MacDonald before firing a vicious backhand to extend his scoring streak.
Despite another late series of Detroit penalties, the Oliers were unable to draw even, but another Justin Abdelkader in the third period would give them another opportunity.
Midway through the man advantage, Magnus Paajarvi cut across the zone and fired a shot through the Detroit PK, and the rebound off MacDonald popped right to the stick of Gagner, who put it into the net on a quick rising shot that bounced in and out almost before it could be noticed.
With the game tied, it was natural to wonder if Gagner's spark might light Edmonton's way past the Wings, but Drew Miller avenged his earlier mistake with a little help from Khabibulin. Moving across the crease after an Abdelkader shot, the Russian netminder lost track of the puck's location and actually skated away from it as he searched, leaving Miller to tap it into an essentially empty net.
Henrik Zetterberg added an insurance goal with a top shelf wrister late in the third period, and Detroit had its18th straight win on home ice, while Gagner and the Oilers had to console themselves with the fact that their young center continued to contribute on a night where the rest of the Edmonton offense found themselves bottled up.