2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap
Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 2 - Detroit 4, Phoenix 3 – Red Wings lead series, 2-0
Earlier this season, the Detroit Red Wings blew a 4-1 lead to the Phoenix Coyotes and lost.
The men of the Winged Wheel didn’t quite learn their lesson in a return engagement, but they performed just enough work to hang on this time around.
Detroit almost saw a 4-1 third period lead become a flat-footed tie, but the third seed in the Western Conference didn’t allow that fourth goal from the Phoenix side of the divide. The Wings will fly to the Desert Southwest with a two-game lead when this series resumes in Game 3. Given that the Coyote franchise might very well relocate to Winnipeg, this next pair of games in the Valley of the Sun might be the last ones staged in Glendale, Arizona. If Detroit plays the way it did in the first two periods on Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, it’s quite likely that this best-of-seven confrontation won’t last longer than five games.
Detroit simply blitzed Phoenix in the first 25 points of Game 2. The Wings skated over, around, under and through the lead-footed Coyotes, controlling the puck and rushing down the ice with a speed and slickness that the sixth seed couldn’t match. Detroit superstar Pavel Datsyuk owned the Joe on Saturday, running rings around white-shirted Phoenix defenders with his puckhandling and stick-wielding brilliance. Datsyuk accumulated four points in this game (one goal and three assists), but it was his handiwork on the Wings’ third goal that truly captured the attention of puckheads throughout North America.
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With Detroit already leading 2-0 in the first period, Datsyuk led a rush up the middle third of the rink. He passed the puck between his own legs while re-positioning himself for a quick shot that caught Phoenix goaltender Ilyz Bryzgalov off balance. Bryzgalov made the save, but he was in no position to squeeze the puck and deny a rebound. Detroit’s Darren Helm was there to put back the rebound in open ice because Datsyuk’s genius forced the Coyotes’ defense to swarm to him. Datsyuk has to carry the load for Detroit in the absence of injured teammate and genuine superstar Henrik Zetterberg. Sure enough, the Russian has answered the call while his Swedish colleague, Zetterberg, tries to recuperate from an injury suffered in the last week of the regular season.
As great as Datsyuk was, though, Detroit almost got taken to overtime by the never-say-die Coyotes, who fell behind 4-0 early in the second period but then turned on the afterburners in the third period. Down 4-1, Phoenix rallied because the Red Wings couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. A power-play goal by Shane Doan with 5:49 gone in the final stanza pulled Phoenix within two goals of the Wings at 4-2. Then, Detroit picked up two penalties within seconds of each other, giving Phoenix a 5-on-3 advantage for nearly two whole minutes. The Wings gamely killed off nearly all of the double-penalty, but Doan was able to wham a slap shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard with just two seconds left in the 5-on-3. Phoenix, with 11:23 still remaining, had created a 4-3 game, sending Wings fans into a state of pronounced anxiety. One more Phoenix goal not only would have re-created the regular-season collapse Detroit suffered at the hands of the Coyotes; it would have turned a likely 2-0 series into a possible overtime dogfight for Game 2. Detroit needed to show some backbone after success came way too easily in the first 25 minutes of this tilt.
Fortunately for the Wings and coach Mike Babcock, the final 11 minutes passed without incident. Phoenix applied pressure at certain points but never gained a huge high-percentage scoring chance. Most of the final five minutes were spent with the Red Wings penetrating the Phoenix zone and using poke-checks to disrupt almost all of the Coyotes’ up-ice rushes. The game ended with the Wings protecting the puck in their own corner of the ice, and Phoenix’s gallant three-goal surge in the final 35 minutes of the game went all for naught.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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