There was a lot of talk before this game about the importance of getting a good start to the game, coming out with energy right away. We were expecting the Wings to do just that. Instead they came out completely flat. I don’t think you could come out any flatter if you tried. The Wings gave up a goal only 36 seconds into the game. I’m not entirely sure what happened here, as I hadn’t even settled down in my seat before the horn was blaring. It looked like a deflection, so I don’t blame Dom. The Sharks clearly had more jump. The Wings then followed up with a seemingly endless stretch of stale, listless play.
At least Hasek looked sharpâ€¦well until about 4:17, when he apparently decided that San Jose needed another goal. He went behind the net for the puck and passed it directly to the stick of a waiting Shark, Milan Michalek. He passed to his buddy Big Joe, who, using his magnificent skill, lobbed it into the open net. Aside from that single lapse in judgment however, Hasek was playing great and kept the Wings from sinking any farther behind.
Bit by bit, the Wings regained their composure, starting with the PK. At 5:29, Draper took an inexcusable offensive zone holding penalty, and the Sharks were on their first power play, which is always scary. The first unit out was Zetterberg, Franzen, Lidstrom and Chelios. All four worked really hard to contain the powerplay. Chelios, in particular, was impressive. They successfully killed it off and, in doing so, gained a little bit of confidence. However, they still failed to generate any offensive pressure. About 11 minutes into the first, the announcers shared a depressing stat – the Wings had no shots. Zero. Zip. Nada. Not one single save for Nabokov to make. The Wings were losing and their prospects of a comeback were looking extremely dim. At that point, we realized that if the Wings could not get it together, and fast, they were gonna get swept.
Slowly, they started putting their game back together. Patrick Marleau took a hooking penalty at 11:35, but the Wings could not capitalize on the powerplay. Thornton took a slashing penalty at 13:59, and the Wings powerplay was once again fruitless. They had some chances, but no goal. Around 17:30, Zetterberg passed the puck to Datsyuk, who was just inside the blueline. He turned around and passed it back to Zetter, who was racing down the boards. Hank threw a bad-angle shot on net, and it somehow ended up in the net. Nabokov was in a horrible position to make the save. It almost looked like he expected Hank to take it behind the net. It was a weak goal for him to give up.
San Jose has only one player under 6 feet (backup goaltender Vesa Toskala), but Jiri Hudler’s not scared of a single one of them. He had a really impressive effort in this game. Hopefully Mike Babcock noticed too… He was dealing hits, fighting for the puck, and backchecking. It was a very good game for Jiri. At 17:46, our littlest forward took a boarding penalty. Who knew Jiri even had the strength to knock somebody over? After this impressive and unexpected hit, we noticed little Jiri’s ice time go up (once again diminishing in the third). Watch out Sharks, you may have big scary guys, but we have Jiri Hudler!!!
The Wings came out with a lot more energy in the second period. They had another good penalty kill at 3:08 after Bertuzzi was slapped with an interference penalty. We saw a lot of good things out of the Wings in this period. The defense was joining the rush, with both Chelios and Lidstrom joining the action on separate occasions. Hasek made a number of key saves including one huge one on a 3 on 2. Hudler continued to make the most of his limited ice time, bringing energy to every shift.
The Wings kept up their play in the third and were rewarded with a goal at 1:23. Dan Cleary pounced on a turnover by Christian Erhoff (a turnover which was caused by the aggressive play of Kirk Maltby) to even up the score at 2-2. The Joe Louis Arena crowd came alive, with octupi flying onto the ice. At this point it felt like the Wings had taken control of the game. The momentum was in their favor. They were playing exactly the way they needed to be. They played a very agressive PK when Bertuzzi took a hooking penalty at 12:50. Basically the entire third period from the point at which the Wings tied it was an intense waiting game. For awhile it looked like we might be suffering through an overtime or two. It was a huge relief when Pavel Datsyuk scored the game winning goal with 1:24 left in the period. Zetterberg made another great play on this goal. He took the puck around the back of the net, and then passed it up to Samuelsson. Sammy took a good, hard shot, but Nabokov was there. Datsyuk picked up the rebound (something they had trouble doing all game) and took it to the other side of the net, where he roofed it.
The first 15 minutes aside, the Wings played much better than game 1. Once they settled down, played a sound defensive game and put on a lot of offensive pressure. It would really help offensively if they could work on getting the rebounds. Nabokov isn’t often beaten on the first shot, but he doesn’t suck up the puck like a lot of other goaltenders do. If the Wings can drive the net and start taking advantage of those rebounds, they should be able to score with ease. Hasek continues to be solid, he just needs to be careful not to have any more momentarily lapses like he did on the Sharks’ second goal. Chelios plays like he’s 30 and Hudler plays like he’s 7 feet tall -now if we could only get the whole team on board. Lang’s effortless and careless play continues, which resulted in only two shifts during the third for the Czech. So much for Babs’ denial of his being demoted. Also, what happend to first-round Lilja? I was starting to like that guy.
For game three, the Wings need to come out with some energy. I know, it’s starting to sound an awful lot like a broken record, but it’s two games in a row that they’ve given up two goals in the first five minutes of play. With a team like San Jose, that just isn’t going to work. We came back once, we didn’t the other. It’s not a risk I’m willing to take every game. Also, keep Lang on the fourth line, but move Jiri up. He brings energy that the team desperately needs, and he’s proven that his size is not a liability. The Wings have the ability and the talent to beat this team…they just have to use it.