Ex-Spitfire Zach Kassian attracted a large following Sunday when the Vancouver Canucks lost 8-3 to the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
DETROIT — This is not quite how Zack Kassian had it drawn up in his mind when he looked across the Detroit River as a kid and dreamed of playing a National Hockey League game at Joe Louis Arena.
Kassian thought about goals and assists, maybe even a fight, but not two-minute minors.
But on Sunday the Windsor, Ont., native took three penalties and the Detroit Red Wings scored on two of them as they embarrassed the Vancouver Canucks 8-3.
Not the kind of hat trick he had imagined.
The sad part is that Kassian probably didn’t deserve either of the two minors the Wings scored on. At 1:45 of the second period, Kassian was called for goaltender interference on Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard when he drove hard to the net. But it was actually Detroit defenceman Kent Huskins who made contact with Howard.
“I didn’t even touch the goalie, I thought,” Kassian said. “I didn’t see the replay but I didn’t think I even touched him. I thought it was their player. I was just making a play at the net.”
Dan Cleary scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game 3-3.
Late in the second, Kassian was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after he was elbowed near the Vancouver bench by Henrik Zetterberg.
“That was kind of the whole bench going,” said Vancouver winger Dale Weise. “I wouldn’t pin that on him.”
Damien Brunner scored on that power play to make it 5-3.
“Those calls happen, you have to play through those and tonight we didn’t and they scored some big power-play goals,” Kassian said.
Kassian took another minor in-between those two when he went after Jordin Tootoo for a big hit on Vancouver defenceman Chris Tanev. But Tootoo, who received a charging minor, turtled and Kassian’s roughing call nullified what would have been a Vancouver power play.
“You never want to see a player on your team get hit like that,” Kassian said. “I thought it was a good time ... he obviously didn’t want to fight.
“He (Tootoo) hit the ground, I would have liked to have fought him but what can you do? I am not going to pound him when he’s on the ground with his helmet on. There’s nothing really to do there. I thought he’d fight. That’s why he is the agitator he is, he can suck you in.”
All in all it was a frustrating game for Kassian, who had about 50 friends and family in the stands to watch him play his first game at The Joe.
He had aunts and uncles, brothers, a sister and a grandmother at the game. Almost everyone except his mother.
“My mom is actually on vacation,” Kassian said before the game. “She booked it during the lockout so I guess she was counting us out, figuring we weren’t going to play.”
There was one moment Kassian can savour from Sunday’s game. Head coach Alain Vigneault had him out on the ice for the opening faceoff.
“It was nice,” he said. “I watched a lot of hockey games here. It was nice to finally play here. We didn’t have the outcome we wanted, but it’s still a dream come true.”
EIGHT IS ENOUGH: The eight goals the Canucks surrendered Sunday were the most given up by the team since April 1, 2010, when it dropped an 8-3 decision to the Kings in Los Angeles.
DAY-TO-DAY: Defenceman Kevin Bieksa sat out Sunday’s game with a groin injury suffered in the second period of Friday’s game in Nashville. Vigneault described Bieksa’s status as day-to-day.
“He was evaluated Saturday and again this morning,” Vigneault said. “So it’s just day-to-day and we’ll see how he’s doing tomorrow.”
Bieksa is the first Canuck defenceman to miss a game because of injury this season.
“I’m amazed we have gone this number of games without having an injury to our back end already,” Vigneault said. “Usually that’s a position where you are rotating players in and out. We have been very fortunate for those top six guys to stay healthy the way that they have.”
Andrew Alberts filled in for Bieksa and acknowledged it has been frustrating to sit and watch the team’s first 17 games as a healthy scratch.
“It’s a unique situation, but that’s part of the business,” he said. “You come in and you work hard every day and hopefully things pay off.”
Alberts was paired with Keith Ballard on Sunday, logged 15:09 of ice time and was minus-one.
DOWN ON THE FARM: Canuck general manager Mike Gillis would not comment Sunday on reports the Calgary Flames are considering moving their American Hockey League affiliate from Abbotsford to Utica, N.Y., for the 2014-15 season.
The Canucks’ agreement with the Chicago Wolves expires at the end of this season. The Canucks would dearly love to have their farm team in Abbotsford, but would likely have to buy a team and move it there to make it happen.
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