After a virtuoso performance from the super-duo of Pavel Datsyuk, who scored a hat trick, and Henrik Zetterberg, who added a goal and two assists, the Detroit Red Wings pushed the Stars to the brink of elimination with a 5-2 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals Monday night at the American Airlines Center.
In a frustrating night when it seemed like every time they did something good, it was followed by a mistake, the Stars fell behind three-games-to-none in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 back here Wednesday night. Dallas needs a win in that game to keep their season alive.
It was just the third loss at home in this post-season for the Stars, who are have now lost five of their last six games overall.
Brian Rafalski added two assists for the Wings, who outshot Dallas 21-18 for the night. Netminder Chris Osgood, who was involved in that altercation with Mike Ribeiro at the end of Game 2, made 16 saves for Detroit.
After starting the game with a fierce barrage of scoring opportunities that came close but didn’t go in, including one that rang off the crossbar, the Wings came back and scored on their first real counter-attack and seemed to take advantage of every defensive zone mistake or turnover committed by the Stars.
“Our play with the puck really seemed to let us down a lot,” center Mike Modano said. “Our passing and execution, again, that we’ve tried to clean up, just wasn’t there and they look like they have the puck t a lot because we don’t execute very well.”
“Our execution hasn’t been what it needs to be,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “And some of that is due to Detroit, certainly, but our execution can be a lot better in a lot of situations. Not just shots on goal, I mean just passes that break out of your zone or plays that you need to make to get in the offensive zone, our execution just isn’t where it needs to be right now.”
Twice the Stars fought hard to tie the game and then not long afterwards, gave up another goal and any momentum they’d gained in the process.
“We have to stay with it,” Richards said. “You tie the game 1-1, you tie the game 2-2 and give up goals soon after, that’s tough. We want to get a lead in this series, we still haven’t had that. A 2-2 hockey game on home ice in the second period, you’d like to think you could get a lead and we didn’t.”
“Those are demoralizing things,” Tippett said, specifically pointing to Datsyuk’s second goal, which came just 37 seconds after the Grossman tied it. “When you start chasing the game, you’re using a lot more energy to do that. And things get ragged, they get very individual and you tend to use a lot more energy.”
While the Wings were missing top scorer Johan Franzen again due to concussion-like symptoms, the Stars were without Jere Lehtinen after he left Game 2 with a leg injury. He is still listed day-to-day. Meanwhile, the abrasive Steve Ott took Lehtinen’s spot on the top line with Ribeiro and captain Brenden Morrow for much of the night, although Modano stepped in a couple of times, too.
One of the times Modano filled in resulted in Grossman’s goal, but as Modano pointed out, that meant he had to face the dreaded Zetterberg-Datsyuk line.
“It was fun,” he said of skating with Ribeiro and Morrow. “But it’s tough, you’re going against those five best players and they move the puck well and they take time and space away. That one shift we were able to contain them in there, but we were all gassed coming back to the bench.”
Down 3-2 heading into the third period, the Stars finally got the call they’ve been looking for all series when the Red Wings’ Tomas Holmstrom bumped into Turco in the crease and was whistled for goaltender interference just 18 seconds in.
Unfortunately, it was the Red Wings who benefitted, as Zetterberg dazzled his way to a crushing short-handed goal at 1:38, his ninth goal of the post-season. On a fantastic individual effort, Zetterberg skated the puck out of his own zone, into the Dallas zone, then swept around the only man back, forward Brad Richards, into the slot before deking Turco to the ice and lifting a wrist shot over him and in.
“It was huge, I thought he gave us a lot of momentum when he got that goal,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He realized they had a forward back there at the point and he took advantage of it. It was a great individual effort.”
After earning another power play when Darren McCarty entered the box at 3:06 for hooking, Dallas nearly surrendered another shorthander when Valtteri Filppula passed out from behind the net to a wide open Zetterberg in the slot. This time, Turco made an outstanding glove save on Zetterberg’s one-timer to keep it a one-goal game.
The Stars received a scare with 10:55 left in regulation when Morrow went for the big hit on Detroit defender Brad Stuart behind the Red Wings’ net, but missed and slammed into the end boards and crumpled to the ice. He skated off slowing favoring his shoulder, but would return a few minutes later, as feisty as ever.
“When I first left the ice, I wasn’t sure how bad it was, but I could move it, it didn’t hurt too bad, so there wasn’t a whole lot of thought to coming out,” Morrow said. “It didn’t feel good, but that’s what the medical staff’s for, to try and get me ready for Game 4.”
With 10:26 to go, Ribeiro led a rush into the Wings’ zone, dipsy-doodling his way into the high slot before ripping off a wicked wrister that Osgood somehow stopped through a screen.
The Wings then rubbed salt in the Stars wounds with 2:41 remaining when Datsyuk completed his first career hat trick. After Zetterberg stripped rookie defenseman Matt Niskanen of the puck in the right corner, he fed a sweet backhand pass to Datsyuk in the slot, where he one-timed it past Turco for the final stake through the Stars’ heart.
“We didn’t have much answer for them tonight,” Tippett said of the Wings’ dynamic duo. “Those two are a rare breed, because they’re a line that you look at that you should be checking, but in actual fact, they are a checking line. That last goal, we made some mistakes on, but they’re just making plays that are counting. That was the difference in the game tonight, for sure.”
Trailing 2-1 entering the second, the Stars began the period with a power play opportunity to try to even it up quickly, and just 32 seconds in, had a prime chance to do just that. Modano controlled the puck in the left face-off circle and fed a deft pass over to a wide open Morrow in the right circle, but with an empty net staring him in the face, Morrow fanned on it.
The Stars did knot it up at the 3:47 mark, finally getting the fortunate bounce that has eluded them so far in the series. Richards, deep in the left corner, attempted a pass in front to a charging Joel Lundqvist, but the puck ricocheted off Detroit defenseman Stuart’s leg and past Osgood to make it 2-2.
Detroit almost went up by one again 7:55 into the period, when Filppula ripped a wrist shot off the rush from the right face-off circle and it squeezed through Turco’s arm and fell in the crease, but before the charging Daniel Cleary could get to it, defenseman Stephane Robidas cleared it away.
“I think we’ve got to clean up a little bit of our mistakes,” Robidas said. “You can’t give them any chances. They’re a good enough team that they’re going to create them on their own. You can’t give them freebies.”
The Red Wings seized the lead again with 8:06 left in the second, as Jiri Hudler received a long pass at the Dallas blue line from Niklas Kronwall and raced in on a breakaway. Hudler made a move to his backhand and lifted a shot over Turco’s pad and in.
On the next shift, Dallas nearly tied it up yet again, but Osgood made a nice save on Niklas Hagman’s point-blank shot and then another on Antti Miettinen’s backhander on the rebound.
Then with 2:42 remaining in the second, Modano was slow to get up after a hard check and after slowly skating off, immediately went to the locker room. He returned for the third period and said he was fine.
“Just a little bell rung, but it went away after a while and it felt fine,” he said.
Dallas burst out of the gates like a team possessed, generating numerous big opportunities in the first several minutes, but ended up with nothing to show for it.
Just 33 seconds into the contest, Sergei Zubov fired a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that Osgood had trouble with, and Ott retrieved the rebound off the right post. Ott’s his shot banked off the side of the net and right back under the diving Osgood.
Then, 20 seconds later, Robidas unleashed a wrist shot from the left point that glanced off Lidstrom’s skate and over Osgood’s glove, but clanked off the crossbar.
Just over three minutes in, Hagman drilled a one-timer from the right face-off circle, but again, Osgood made the save.
Then, six and a half minutes into the contest, fourth-liner Toby Petersen split the defense and slipped in alone on Osgood, but had the puck poked off his stick as he went to deke him. At this point, the Stars held a 5-0 shot advantage, but the tide would turn after Niskanen took a holding penalty at 7:37.
Despite not registering their first shot until eight minutes had elapsed, Detroit jumped on top first during some 4-on-4 play on Datsyuk’s first of the night at 9:27. On the rush into the Dallas zone, Zetterberg carried down the right side before finding Datsyuk cutting towards the slot, and slid a backhander that pinged off the post and through a screened Turco.
After Modano joined the top line, they struck to tie the contest with 4:47 left in the first period. After Morrow won a battle for the puck in the left corner, Modano retrieved it and swept a beautifully deceptive backhand pass out to Grossman in the slot where the Swedish rookie ripped a one-timer past Osgood to send the sellout crowd of 18,532 into a frenzy.
“When Zubov came down and helped out a little bit, on a long shift, we were able to hold it in there a while, but as I came out of the corner, I saw Grossman pretty wide open,” Modano said of the play.
The Dallas euphoria was short-lived, however, as the Red Wings came right back down the ice and grabbed the lead back just 37 seconds later on Datsyuk’s second goal of the period. Holmstrom carried into the left corner and his pass in front got past Robidas to the charging Datsyuk at the top of the crease. Datsyuk swatted at it with a backhander, and it somehow squeezed under Turco’s pads and just over the goal line.
“I thought it gave us the momentum right back after they tied it up,” Lidstrom said. “They got the crowd into it, but to get that second goal was very important for our team and got our bench going away after they tied it up. I thought it was a momentum-swinging goal for us.”
So now, it all rests on the do-or-die Game 4 for the Stars. They hope they can prevail in that one Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center (7 pm start, VERSUS), so they can send the series back to Detroit for Game 5 on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s tough,” Modano said of the mindset going forward. “You try to get a good night’s sleep tonight and let it go and try to come back tomorrow and have a good practice and do some things that are going to get us excited about the next game, throw it all out there and do what we can to make this thing go to Detroit. They’re playing strong, but we’ll have to muster up something so we can play another day.”
“This team has battled and been resilient all year and we’re not changing a thing,” Tippett said. “We’ll go to practice tomorrow and we’ll practice and gear up for Game 4 and come and compete our hardest and see if we can win a game.”
- Grossman’s goal was the first of his NHL career in his 93rd game. He went 78 regular season games (eight of them last year) and was in his 15th playoff game this spring.
- Richards’ goal was his third of the post-season and first since Game 2 of the San Jose series. He led the club with three shots on goal.
- Morrow’s assist on Grossman’s goal extended his career-high playoff scoring streak to five games (three goals, two assists). It was his 25th career post-season assist. He was second on the Stars in ice time with 24:51 and tied with Robidas for the team lead in hits with seven.
- Winger Chris Conner, who led the Stars in pre-season scoring way back in September, made his playoff debut, taking Lehtinen’s spot in the lineup. He skated just seven shifts for 4:17 and ended the night a -1, but he did register three hits.
- Coming into the night, the Stars had scored just four goals in their previous 13 ½ periods, a span that equals about four and a half games.
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