DETROIT – Fans at Little Caesars Arena were enjoying a 2-0 Detroit Red Wings lead on Saturday night when defenseman Niklas Kronwall decided to absolutely destroy New York Islanders forward Anders Lee with an open ice hit in the neutral zone.
There was blood on the ice as the place was buzzing on a Saturday. This seemed like a positive thing, but the events that followed really made the Kronwall hit feel nothing short of regrettable.
There was no penalty on the play -- not that there should have been -- as Kronwall put his shoulder into Lee's chest. However, there was some speculation that the NHL's Department of Player safety might be reviewing the hit, as they do now to decide if a player should be fined for head contact or downright head-hunting. It's Monday now, and that doesn't appear to be happening.
Anyway, that hit woke up the Islanders. Coach Barry Trotz let loose his fourth line as Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck and Johnny Boychuk started taking runs at Red Wings players. There were hits being exchanged as energy was breathed into the Isles. Eventually Josh Bailey decided to slew foot Kronwall in the corner as some sort of revenge. It was an obvious penalty, and that's when Dylan Larkin dropped the gloves with Bailey.
That happened at the end of the 1st period and due to the lack of a whistle at the beginning of the 2nd period, Larkin and Bailey served more than 5 minutes in the box. That means the Red Wings went without their best player for an extended period of time to start that 2nd frame, and then they sort of lost control of the game. They started to get hemmed in their own zone and suddenly they were fighting off an Islanders two-man advantage. It was 2-2 in the blink of an eye.
Soon it was 3-2 and Detroit had successfully given away the game. That was the final score of what seemed like the type of game the Red Wings would win. They had just beaten the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-4, in overtime on Thursday night and were riding high into that game back home on a Saturday night. It's amazing how one play -- a play that might be considered a positive for your team -- can change an entire game.
Every little decision matters in a hockey game.