What a game.
Monday night at Joe Louis Arena saw one of the best played games of the playoffs thus far, and Detroit was able to take home the win. It took them four periods and an all-rookie line to end it, but it was more than worth it when all was said and done.
The game was highly contested from the start, although Anaheim may have had the jump on Detroit from the first puck drop. Andrew Cogliano‘s line was very aggressive in particular – him and Matthew Belleskey teamed up to make the Wings pay just 5:07 into the game. Cogliano dumped a puck behind Detroit’s net that was mishandled by Brendan Smith and Kyle Quincey in Three Stooges-like fashion, and Belleskey was able to steal the puck and hound it until he rocketed in a shot from his own rebound to make the game 1-0. Detroit started to panic after that, both the players and the coaching; Datsyuk and Zetterberg, who were together to start the game, were being shuffled throughout the lineup along with other key players as Mike Babcock tried to find a way to make his team calm down and stop chasing the puck around. It turns out that the answer to his problem lied in a crushing body check on Nick Palmieri from none other than Niklas Kronwall. The hit was done in classic Kronwall fashion, as Palmieri made himself vulnerable skating up the right wall with his head down…honestly, you would think the rest of the NHL would have learned to avoid this situation by now. Good thing they haven’t though, because the hit revitalized the Wings (or maybe it was the crowd chanting “You got Kronwalled!”), and they stopped playing mini-mite hockey and started playing the mature, puck-possession game that makes them so dangerous.
Despite Detroit’s sheer domination through the end of the first period and the entire second (they had 29 shots after the first 40 minutes), they weren’t able to tie things up until Brendan Smith rocketed a point shot off of two Anaheim defenders and past Jonas Hiller just over a minute into the third period. Kudos to Smith, who was the only (non-injured) Wing to go goal-less throughout the entire regular season, but easily made up for it with that timely game-tying goal.
The rest of the third saw the Wings put remarkable pressure on the Ducks – in fact, this may have been the most dominating period they played all season. Things were made even more impressive when, despite their tendency to break down during the season after being down even a goal, they continued fighting after Anaheim center David Steckel capitalized on a defensive breakdown to give the Ducks a one goal lead. Pavel Datsyuk epitomized this never-give-up attitude, making a great move around Anaheim defenseman Luca Sbisa and rifling a shot over Jonas Hiller’s glove – while making it look completely effortless – to tie the game at two.
Overtime was a nailbiter if I’ve ever seen one. Both teams were trading chances back and forth, and each had a couple that had my heart nearly stopped with excitement. However, it wasn’t until 15:10 had gone by in the period that someone was able to sneak a puck over the goal line. The third line (all rookies) of Joakim Andersson, Damien Brunner, and Gustav Nyquist were the heroes tonight. Andersson scooped the puck up in his own zone off an Anaheim scoring chance and fired a breakaway pass to Nyquist, who outraced two Ducks to get the puck in Anaheim’s crease. He was molested to the point where he was almost unable to take the shot, and Hiller made what looked like an easy save. However, Damien Brunner was right behind, and was able to tap in his rebound to win the game and even the series at two. Not bad for someone who was replaced on his line by Todd Bertuzzi midway through the third period and had a team low of 11:06 of ice time.
– Bertuzzi looks great. Samuelsson doesn’t. I know he had an assist, but anyone could have passed that puck to Smith before he got it to Datsyuk. Bert belongs on the top line, Samuelsson belongs in the press box.
– I would gladly pray to Jimmy Howard. Hopefully this game quiets his “Howard sucks in the playoffs!” critics.
– Datsyuk is still the best player in the world at 34. I honestly don’t understand how he made some of those plays. And that shot…I wish he would shoot like that all the time. Actually, no I don’t, because then the Wings wouldn’t have addressed a need for a goal scorer, and there would be no Damien Brunner. And no epic win.
Thanks for reading!! GO WINGS! Follow me on twitter: @dzkefalas. If you want, you can follow my personal account, @rollin_on_D. I don’t really talk about hockey and you might be disappointed in how much of a typical teenager I can be in real life, but hey!!!! IT COULD BE FUN!