In the first home game of 2013, EHC Red Bull München welcomed no other than top of the table Adler Mannheim. A season high of 5,345 hockey enthusiasts turned out at Oberwiesenfeld for what promised to be some of the best hockey ever on Munich ice with a total of five NHL players in action.
Mannheim arguably has the most complete playing squad in the DEL including German NHL players M. Goc (Florida Panthers), D. Seidenberg (Boston Bruins), J. Hecht (Buffalo Sabres) and Canadian Jason Pominville (Buffalo Sabres). Supported by one of Germany's finest goaltenders D. Endras, Mannheim are once again one of the favourites to win the DEL title.
After two successive losses (5-1 v Hamburg, 4-2 v Wolfsburg) to end a colourful 2012, München welcomed back their own NHL heroes, Paul Stastny and Blake Wheeler. EHC sporting director Christian Winkler said before the game, "I am excited about tonight's game like a little kid at Christmas. Two world class keepers and plenty of NHL flair on the ice will cater for a great night of hockey", he added.
The game had everything that the fans had hoped for - entertainment, passion, skill and drama. Both teams displayed high-speed hockey as scoring opportunities were created at both ends. Wheeler had München's loyal home supporters on the edge of their seats when his crafty wrist shot beat Endras in goal only to be denied by the left post.
In the 13th minute, München struggled to clear the puck out of their defensive zone and Mannheim's M. Glumac scored to give them a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission.
München never gave in to Mannheim's pressure and had plenty of scoring opportunities of their own. Mannheim collected plenty of two-minute minor penalties throughout the game (10 in total), which left München with chances to make use of the numerical advantage. As they have done before though, the home side failed to put it to good use and found themselves caught out again in the 35th minute when M. Plachta added a second goal for Mannheim.
In the 37th minute, M. Buchwieser gave his side new hope when he scored on a power play to close the gap to one. Mannheim didn't take long to extend their two goal lead though. Having found themselves back at full strength, Seidenberg's goal only gave them the lead seconds before the second intermission.
München struggled to increase the pressure and their poor composure in front of goal proved fatal as Mannheim added an additional two goals in the final period to run out clear 5-1 winners. MacDonald scored with a perfect wrist shot from close range into the upper left corner (4-1, 53rd min.), before DEL top scorer Lehoux scored with an absolute peach two minutes before the final siren (5-1). Carrying the puck out of the defensive zone across ice, he dipped and weaved before going wide past J. Reimer. From an almost impossible angle, he lifted the puck right under the crossbar skating backwards.
Mannheim's coach Harold Kreis highlighted the importance of his special teams, saying they did an outstanding job screening München's impact players and hailed their efficiency in front of goal too. München's Pat Cortina spoke of an entertaining game of hockey with plenty of skill, but could not speak as highly of his special teams as his counterpart. "Tonight was a step backwards for us. We relied too much on Stastny and Wheeler to bring in the goods for us, but they can not do it all alone."
Mannheim's 5-1 win allowed them to move back up to the top of the DEL standings (63 points), while München remain in 9th overall (47 points). The Red Bulls now face two tough road games in Cologne (Tuesday January 8th) and Nürnberg (Friday January 11th), before returning to home ice on Sunday January 13th at 16:30 CET against a strong Krefeld Penguins outfit, one that includes NHL player Christian Ehrhoff.