The Game 7 that this Ducks-Red Wings series was destined for from the start lived up to the hype. Three goals to each side over the game’s first 57 minutes. Five minor penalties to each side. At least five non-calls to each side. Two teams that may ultimately be counted as the best in the entire NHL when all is said and done.
A period-by-period recap:
The Ducks’ four lines look the same as they did in Game 6. The Red Wings start by shuffling their top three lines, and inserting Kris Draper onto the fourth to make his series debut. In a change from Game 6, Francois Beauchemin and Chris Pronger are teamed up on defense to guard the Valtteri Filppula line. Scott Niedermayer has been paired with James Wisniewski.
At 4:42, Wisniewski the game’s best scoring chance when he’s left alone to streak down the slot and fire on Chris Osgood. Osgood comes up with a flashy save, diving and raising his legs to stop the point-blank shot.
Back-to-back minors to Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Kronwall give the Ducks a 5-on-3 power play at 5:32. They must not see many open shooting lanes, because they only take one shot, and Detroit clears the rebound in time for Zetterberg to rejoin his mates. The 5-on-4 doesn’t yield any better looks.
Buoyed by their penalty kill, the Wings strike first when the Ducks are slow getting back on an odd-man power play rush. Jiri Hudler tips a rebound on Jonas Hiller’s doorstep at the 15:43 mark. The Ducks are lucky to be down 1-0 at the first intermission: Detroit leads the shots-on-goal count 17-6.
When energy guy Darren Helm makes it 2-0 at 1:17, the here-we-go-again feeling has to set in among Duck fans. Yet despite being outshot again early, the Ducks’ D holds up, even surviving back-to-back penalties to Beauchemin and Ryan Whitney in the first 10 minutes.
That doesn’t give the Ducks nearly as much momentum as Brad Stuart’s interference penalty on Teemu Selanne at 9:05. After being crushed into the boards Selanne was slow getting up, headed down the tunnel, then came back out for the second half of the ensuing power play.
He got the ultimate revenge with the Ducks back at even strength, finishing off a 3-on-3 rush by wrapping a rebound into the net behind Osgood to make it 2-1 at 14:50.
Detroit answered that when Mikael Samuelsson put a rebound behind Hiller at 16:23, but Corey Perry knocked in another rebound (notice the pattern here?) with the Ducks holding a power play at 17:12. It stayed 3-2 going into intermission, with their late surge giving the Ducks a 14-8 shots-on-goal advantage for the period.
Ryan Getzlaf nearly ties the game early by throwing a puck in the crease off Nick Lidstrom’s skate. The puck doesn’t cooperate in Joe Louis Arena, however, and bounces out of harm’s way past Chris Osgood.
Bobby Ryan picks his linemate up by scoring a long-overdue first goal of the series at 7:37, taking a beautiful feed from Corey Perry (who knew he could pass?) to make it 3-3.
The Ducks survive a two-minute holding minor to Teemu Selanne at 8:04, and the Ducks control the zone for much of the next five minutes.
Fate is fickle, however: Detroit finally gets a legit breakaway, and scores a goal for the ages. Henrik Zetterberg catches up to the puck at the bottom of the left circle, throws it toward the crease where Hiller, Getzlaf and Dan Cleary are stacked in a row like dominos. Cleary sees it first, jams it down between Hiller’s legs, and the puck clumsily ambles into the net, deciding the series rather indifferently while The Joe erupts.
Hiller was on the bench for the game’s final 45 seconds. The Ducks had one last chance, when Teemu Selanne won a faceoff against Zetterberg in front of Osgood with 6.4 left on the clock. The ensuing shot from the perimeter never made it on net — the last of Detroit’s 16 blocked shots — and the game ends with Chris Pronger chasing a puck back through the neutral zone.
Cancel the flight into Chicago.