Henrik Zetterberg vs Jonas Hiller has been crucial in the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks Western Conference Playoffs series. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
It appeared that the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings were heading back to California for Game 7. With less than four minutes left in the game, the Wings were up 3-1, but then, in the blink of an eye, goals by Emerson Etem and Bobby Ryan tied the game up 3-3 with less than three minutes left.
Then, when fans blinked again, Henrik Zetterberg gave the Wings a victory with a long slapshot just a minute into overtime, and the series will indeed be decided at the Honda Center on Sunday night.
We’ll have more Ducks coverage on NBC Los Angeles on Sunday, but for now, here’s a brief recap of things that went right and wrong for Anaheim in this contest:
What Went Right?
-For the Ducks, they largely controlled the tempo in this game despite the outcome. The Red Wings were the better club in the first period, but in the second and third periods, Anaheim started pushing the puck up the ice more quickly with their talented group of forwards, and the only reason that the Wings were able to take a 3-1 lead was because they were stacking the ice with their top line as often as they could.
The player who stood out the most in that area of the game was Emerson Etem. The youngster has really been coming into his own in these playoffs, and he showed that again in this one. He and Teemu Selanne had a tremendous opportunity on a 2-on-1, and it took a superhuman effort from Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard to keep it out of the net.
Etem kept pressing, however, and in the third period, he was finally rewarded with a goal with three and a half minutes left. He snatched a blind pass from Wings forward Valtteri Filppula and put the puck past Howard to pull the Ducks to within one.
With Detroit playing with the urgency of a team facing elimination, it was a bit surprising to see the Ducks really taking control of the game, but with the series shifting to Anaheim for Game 7, fully expect the Ducks to push even harder.
-Another player who really stood out in this game for the Ducks was Ben Lovejoy. He had several huge defensive plays that prevented the Wings from scoring tap-in goals, and without his efforts, the game would’ve gotten out of hand even more quickly.
In the first period, the Wings jumped out on a 2-on-1 against Lovejoy, but he did a fantastic job of keeping his stick in the passing lane, and waited until the last minute to dive toward the Detroit puck carrier, knocking the puck into the corner in the process.
He also had another great play on a 2-on-1 in the second period, when he poke-checked the puck away from an overeager Johan Franzen in front of the Anaheim net.
These two plays could have easily resulted in goals, but instead they were rendered harmless shotless possessions because of the poise and control of Lovejoy.
What Went Wrong?
-As opposed to the vast majority of this series, the Ducks simply had no answer for the Wings’ superstars, Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Datsyuk ended up scoring a goal in the late stages of the first period, and assisted on two more in the game, including Zetterberg’s winner at the end.
Zetterberg, meanwhile, had been held out of the scoring column in the first five games of this series, but in this one, he forced his way to the wings with the puck, and smartly fired a shot on the near side of the net with traffic in front on his first goal, and then to the far side on his second goal.
Normally, fans could just chalk up the incredible performances from both Detroit stalwarts to the big guys eventually coming through, but in this one, it just seemed that the Ducks were unable to keep those two in front of them. The result was a spate of tripping penalties and non-calls, and the Ducks will need to do a lot better job of containing those two if they are going to win this series on Sunday.
-The Ducks also did not do a good job in this game of clearing traffic from in front of Jonas Hiller. He was having to fight through screens the entire night, and it was the screening ability of Daniel Cleary on his third period goal and the job that Justin Abdelkader did in front of Hiller in overtime that allowed the Wings to come through in this game.
Anaheim has physical players like Sheldon Souray and Ryan Getzlaf on their team for a reason. If those guys aren’t going to clear players like Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi from out in front of the net, then they are doing their goaltender a terrible disservice, and making their task of advancing in these playoffs that much harder.