|Hands up, who thinks the Habs could have won?|
They could've won, had they played the first two periods like they did the third.
They would've won, had they played the first two periods like they did the third.
They should've won, but they didn't play the first two periods like they did the third.
Unfortunately, after a good start to the first period which included a Travis Moen goal banked off of Wing goalie Jimmy Howard from behind the net, the Habs got into penalty trouble (not all their own doing) which took all of the flow out of their game. And against a veteran, skilled team like the Red Wings, that's lethal.
Six straight penalties, including an almost full 5-on-3 to end the period, was just what the doctor order ordered for the Wings to swing the momentum in their favour.
The refereeing was inconsistent at best. A call against Tomas Plekanec that led to the 5-on-3 and the Wings' first goal was a prime example: called for holding, Plek's biggest offence was what would have more appropriately been deemed a slash, and a light one at that. Rafalski went down easy, and the ensuing penalty being called a hold would lead you to believe that the referee didn't see the initial infraction and instead ruled on the result of the play. The guys in stripes simply need to be better than that.
To the Habs credit, they didn't give up. Faced with a 2-goal deficit going into the third period and playing a divisional rival the following evening, it would have been easy for them to mail in the final 20 minutes and look forward to Saturday's game against the Leafs. But then a funny thing happened: they kicked the Wing's asses.
Montreal dominated one of the strongest teams in the league for long stretches of the final frame, outshooting the Wings by an 18-2 margin... and one of those two shots was an empty net goal by Detroit. To their credit, the Habs served noticed that this isn't the same team that might have (read: would have) packed it in under the same scenario just a couple of seasons ago.
It's tough to feel bad about a loss like this one. Could they have played more responsibly to help keep the Wings from grabbing momentum, and a 3-1 lead? Yes, but as a Hab fan I still have to feel good about what transpired over the final 20 minutes.
On the strength of their third period, and the overall level of their play to this point in the season, we'll leave the mood-indicator at "fist pump", and bump the loss-severity indicator to just "rickrolled".