Champs in Trouble
In terms of artistic excellence, this was no Pittsburgh-Washington, with Game 2 of that playoff series still reverberating as one of the more remarkable post-season matches in recent NHL history.
No, the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks did not produce a thriller on Tuesday night, not with the Ducks playing rope-a-dope for the final two periods and hanging on by their fingernails and Jonas Hiller's 45-save goaltending to grab a 2-1, Game 3 win and a two games to one series lead. To anyone who remembers the stultifying style of hockey Anaheim used to win the '07 Stanley Cup, this was like watching a bad movie again.
There was, however, some controversy, with the Wings able to make a reasonable case afterwards that they were absolutely robbed by referee Brad Watson of what should have been the tying goal in the dying moments in the third.
On the play, Scott Niedermayer made a horrible misplay under pressure behind the Anaheim net, and the puck skittered in front into Hiller's crease. The Anaheim goalie sprawled awkwardly but never came close to covering the puck, which rolled into the blue paint inches from the goal line.
Marian Hossa tapped it in from there, but not before Watson, inexplicably, had blown his whistle on what could charitably have been called a quick whistle even if Hiller had successfully covered the puck.
That will leave a sour taste in the mouths of the defending champs, who are now in some degree of danger in the second round of the post-season against a tough, rough-and-ready Anaheim team that is getting just enough offence out of its top players while squeezing the top Detroit attackers.
Hossa has been nearly absent, while MVP finalist Pavel Datsyuk has yet to score in the series against Hiller, who has 104 saves in the last two games, both Ducks victories.
Anaheim never trailed in the game, jumping ahead in the first on a pretty Teemu Selanne breakaway goal. The Ducks penalty killing was very sharp, and the Wings will have to upgrade their readiness for hand-to-hand combat along the boards in Game 4 to send the series bad to Motown tied.