DETROIT — When Zack Kassian went from centre ice to the penalty box, his game went from dream to nightmare.
Really, it was a homecoming for Kassian, who grew up in nearby Windsor, Ont. He had 50 friends and family at the game. The Canucks made sure he was on the ice for the opening faceoff. It was a sweet gesture. What a good feeling it must have been.
“It was nice. I watched a lot of hockey games here. It was nice to finally play here,” Kassian said. “It was a dream come true, definitely.”
Yeah, but it didn’t last. At least, the Kassians will have lots to talk about after seeing Zack end up in the centre of an 8-3 loss.
Kassian was on the ice for two goals against, and in the penalty box for two others. From there, he watched the Red Wings take over the game, scoring two power-play goals.
“That’s not fun,” he said.
It didn’t seem fair either.
The Canucks were leading 3-2 at 1:45 into the second, when Kassian came charging at the net with the puck and an impressive power move. He managed to bowl over Kent Huskins as he rammed his way toward goal. He got a shot on net, while avoiding contact with Jimmy Howard. If you could control Kassian like he was in a video game, this is how you’d have him play.
“He’s a big guy, we’re power forwards, me and him,” Dale Weise said. “You have to take pucks to the net like that. Booth does that well too. I just don’t understand. Huskins went over the top.”
Huskins managed to crumble into his goalie and push the net off its post. Somehow, in all of that, the ref managed to give Kassian a goalie interference penalty.
“I didn’t even touch the goalie, I thought,” Kassian said.
His coach agreed.
“His first penalty was a little bit mind-boggling to anyone who watched that,” Alain Vigneault said. “I mean, their guy hit their goaltender and we got a penalty.”
On the power play, Daniel Cleary made it 3-3. That hurt.
There was nothing wrong with what Kassian did. The same could be said for his second penalty, when he saw red after Jordin Tootoo lit up Chris Tanev with a huge hit. Tootoo got a charging call.
Kassian turned into a bull with horns, and Tootoo turned into a turtle. Not much happened otherwise.
“He hit the ground, I would have liked to fight him, but what can you do?” Kassian said. “I’m not going to pound him when he’s on the ground. There’s nothing really to do there.
“I thought maybe he’d fight. That’s why he’s the agitator he is, he can suck you in.”
But Kassian got the roughing penalty.
“I don’t think a clean hit deserves a fight but when a guy (Kassian) comes over and drops his gloves, I think it’s pretty unbelievable (Tootoo) turtles,” Weise said. “That’s the tough thing. You want to go over and stand up for your teammates but you take the power play away from us.
“Lots of the time, referees will use discretion and we’d be on the power play.”
The officials weren’t into discretion on Sunday.
Later in the second period, Kassian was elbowed near the Canucks bench by Henrik Zetterberg. The Canucks exploded at the officials for not making a call. Kassian ends up in the box for being unsportsmanlike. The Wings end up with another power play goal. Some homecoming.
But Kassian wasn’t the only Canuck feeling like he got screwed.
It what was maybe the most critical part of the game, Weise checked Huskins with a high, but legal, hit. With the score tied at 3, Weise ended up getting called for head-checking without ever hitting a head.
“I even let up on him a little bit,” Weise said. “He was in a vulnerable position and I let up. I made sure I just made contact with his shoulder. That’s an unbelievable call at that point.”
Maybe it was fortunate Kassian’s mom wasn’t at the game.
“My mom is on vacation,” Kassian said before the game. “She had it booked, Cabo, during the lockout so I guess she was counting us out. We weren’t going to play.”
Turns out, she was right.
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