The first period was dominated by penalties and both teams’ ineptitude scoring on them. Both teams were awarded five on threes and could not score. Jonas Hiller and Jimmy Howard both played well, Howard especially, as he made 13 stops in the first 20. No score after one.
The Ducks began to flex their muscles in the second, picking up the physical play and relying on Hiller to keep it scoreless. The Wings didn’t generate great tries, but some were good enough to beat Hiller, so give some credit to him. The game changed permanently at 15:11 of the period, when Justin Abdelkader leveled Toni Lydman. Abdelkader left his feet on the hit and (perhaps unintentionally) generated contact with Lydman’s head, which warranted an automatic major penalty and dismissal. Eighteen seconds into the power play, Nick Bonino jammed one past Howard for the game’s first goal. Anaheim led 1-0 after two.
Detroit held Anaheim to just one goal on that five-minute power play and got a man advantage of their own early in the third. A goal was scored on it, but not by Detroit. At 6:33, Ryan Getzlaf caught Damien Brunner fumbling with the puck in front of Howard and poked it past the Red Wings netminder for a 2-0 Anaheim lead. Emerson Etem would score less than two minutes later, and Matt Beleskey would cap the scoring with a power play goal at 13:34. The Ducks would “hold on” for the blowout win.
After all the offensive promise the Wings displayed in Game 2, to fall apart like this in a crucial game is humiliating. Two-thirds of the teams that win Game 3 end up winning the series, and if the Wings play like this again, the Ducks will win this series and win it quickly. The ill-advised Abdelkader hit changed everything, and for the worse. The Ducks had the upper hand before, but that inexcusable charge swung the pendulum for good. If you manage only 20 shots the entire game, go 0-5 on the power play, and consistently fail to generate a good rush while fumbling with the puck and relying on Howard to do more than he needs to (leading to his inflated and somewhat-misleading goals against average), you will lose every time. The questions I posed in the Game 2 recap were answered this evening, and in emphatic fashion. The defense was chasing Anaheim’s scorers throughout the night and were bailed out by Howard until the third period. Howard played an ok game, but he’s allowed ten goals in the three games (not all of which have been his fault but goals are goals). The Red Wings still cannot win at home in the playoffs; they’ve lost three in a row. Game 4 on Monday becomes a must-win, and with an Abdelkader suspension likely, it’ll be interesting to see how Babcock juggles his forward lines.