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DETROIT — Late last week, Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist expressed his hopes of joining the squad that would represent Sweden in the Winter Olympics.
His Red Wings teammate, Johan Franzen, withdrew from the Sochi Winter Games because of concussion symptoms and Nyquist acknowledged that, no, it wasn’t necessarily the most fitting way to earn an Olympic roster spot.
Still, Nyquist went out and performed at a colossal clip — he has six goals and three assists in his last six games, including an assist Monday night in Detroit’s 2-0 win against Vancouver.
His third assist in that stretch came only a few hours after Sweden made the announcement on Monday afternoon that Nyquist would join Team Sweden in Russia.
“He’s well-deserved,” Red Wings (and Team Sweden) defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “He’s played unbelievable for us ever since he was called up [from Grand Rapids of the AHL], and he’s been a big part of the team staying afloat here with all the injuries. And he’s been crazy hot. I’m really happy for him.”
Following Nyquist’s 11th-hour inclusion, 10 Red Wings head to Sochi for the Winter Olympics, and both the Red Wings’ and Canucks’ Olympic contingent were honored prior to the start of Monday’s game at Joe Louis Arena. It was Detroit’s final home game before the NHL’s Olympic break.
Justin Abdelkader scored both goals for the Red Wings, and Detroit goalies Jonas Gustavsson and Jimmy Howard combined for the shutout — they became the first Red Wings goaltending tandem to combine for a shutout since Manny Legace and Dominik Hasek shut out Nashville on Oct. 27, 2001.
“You’ve just got to be ready to the best of your capabilities," said Howard, who made 16 saves. "Sometimes it’s easier just to go out there, and you don’t have a chance to think about anything. You just go out there and rely on instincts.”
Howard replaced Gustavsson (eight saves) in goal at the start of the second; an announcement in the press box said Gustavsson was experiencing dizziness and remained in the locker room at the start of the second.
Less than a minute after that announcement, Abdelkader gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead when his wrist shot got by Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin and Alexandre Burrows and beat goalie Eddie Lack at 1:08 of the second.
Howard stopped David Booth’s penalty shot five minutes into the second, and Vancouver did not put its first shot on goal of the third period until nearly 15 minutes in, as Howard stopped Sedin, and the Red Wings killed off a late penalty for too many men on the ice before Abdelkader’s empty-net goal with 15.7 seconds left.
“Lack of offense,” said Canucks coach John Tortorella, who was behind the bench in his first game back after serving a 15-day suspension for his role in a brawl last month during a game in Calgary. “Lack of people creating offense. … It was set up for us to push back [in the third period] and we didn’t. We didn’t get enough big plays from big people right on through our lineup. We’ve got to crawl out of this hole somehow.”
Penguins 2, Senators 1
PITTSBURGH — James Neal scored at 3:05 of overtime, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators.
Neal netted his 18th of the season and scored his first goal in nine games for the Penguins, who won for the 16th time in 17 home games and are now 23-4 at Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh also avoided back-to-back regulation losses for the first time since dropping three straight in early November.
Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson stopped Robert Bortuzzo from the slot in overtime, but the rebound popped out to Neal, who dragged the puck around a Senators' defender before dumping a shot past an out-of-position Anderson and into an empty net.
Ottawa's Stephane Da Costa and Pittsburgh's Brian Gibbons scored in the first period.
Avalanche 2, Devils 1
NEWARK — Ryan O'Reilly scored a power-play goal 28 seconds into overtime as Colorado rallied past New Jersey.
The Avalanche tied the game with 1:47 left in regulation on a goal by PA Parenteau after they pulled goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere with 2:30 remaining.
Devils defenseman Andy Greene was called for a penalty shortly after Parenteau's goal, and the man advantage carried into overtime. O'Reilly ended it by tipping Matt Duchene's pass by goalie Cory Schneider.