Game 2: Wings 2, Oilers 4
Update (6:09 PM): If I sound pessimistic it's because I've watched the Wings outplay Edmonton in both games only to barely win in the first and lose in the second. All Edmonton has to do is keep capitalizing on Red Wing mistakes and they'll keep it close enough to win, if the Wings' luck runs out. All Detroit needs to do is find a way to score from the perimeter, something they have been completely incapable of doing so far. I know it's not best-of-three but I think the Wings need a confidence win in Game 3 or they'll have a real hard time scoring through that trap in Game 4+ after Edmonton starts to smell blood. - Matt Update (3:36 PM): Anyone going out to Edmonton for Games 3 and 4? If so, drop me a line. - Matt Did you really think this would be a sweep? I didn't per se but I wasn't expecting a loss like yesterday's. I'll stick with the mini-summary I posted earlier:
The Wings were solidly in control until a couple lousy turnovers killed them in the second and they couldn't recover. They were much more physical than we've seen them for most of the year and actually ended up out-hitting Edmonton. Scary thing: Edmonton opened the game up a little to make their comeback and then went back to the trap. Either way, the Wings' offense was muted. No one really stood out offensively, though guys like Schneider and Chelios did defensively. Schneider's shot is not a given goal any more. Datsyuk not a positive factor, looked tentative, still somewhat in pain. Legace looked bad on the third Edmonton goal. The Oilers wrenched momentum away from the Wings and are now in charge of their own destinies as they head back home with the series tied 1-1.More on Manny: He's got to make the save on that third goal. Just has to. He looked good other than that but allowing that shot to go in from the top of the circles was killer. That doesn't mean he should be yanked but it means he needs to rebound with a stellar game tomorrow night. The Wings aren't making a ton of defensive mistakes but when they are making them, the Oilers are pouncing. It's Manny's job to fill in on the lapses. I'll pass over the second Edmonton goal because it was much more sudden but on the game winner, there was a significant delay between the turnover and the goal. More than enough time to get set. More on Pavel: he was hardly noticeable yesterday. He had a couple nice plays but beyond that, he was pretty out of it. Just watching him skate up ice was enough to know something is still wrong. I don't know if it's because the injury is still that bad or if he's just being tentative in his first game back. I assume his conditioning is off and that is probably a factor but I would have liked to have seen a better game from him. If it was just first-game-back jitters, he'd better be stellar tomorrow night. The Swedes started the game and Pavel followed them up centering Brendan Shanahan and Kris Draper. There wasn't a whole lot of offense in the first 2-4 minutes as the Wings couldn't get much going with Edmonton pressuring the puck so well. Play was pretty continuous with both teams changing quickly. The Oilers got the first real scoring chance but sent the puck through the crease. Jason Williams got the first for the Wings, just a shot off the left wing that was blocked into the netting. Henrik Zetterberg nearly entered the zone on a break all alone at about 5:40 but the Edmonton defense closed him off. It didn't take long for the game to get physical. Seven minutes into the period, Raffi Torres nailed Datsyuk at center and was immediately hit in return by Shanahan (would like to see more of that). Ryan Smyth (or was it Jason Smith?) took the body to Chelios here too. Just after that, there was a bit of an odd-man rush that resulted in a solid save by Manny on Torres' shot from 17 feet out. As a result of the sudden hitting, the pace picked up considerably but because both teams were playing pretty tight defensively, this didn't necessarily translate into more scoring chances. The Wings got a little sloppy with the puck around the halfway mark and a giveaway by Draper led to a high-sticking penalty at 11:08. The Oilers set up and got off a point shot that was stopped. They cycled the puck a little more, got off another shot and forced a face-off. Ales Hemsky got tied up with Chelios on the draw and was called for high-sticking himself, making it 4-on-4 at 11:42. 50 seconds later, Chris Pronger released a blast from the point that somehow found it's way into the net. Not sure about that one, Manny. It looked like Radek Dvorak may have gotten his stick on it but the box score says it was Pronger's goal so I guess it went in clean. There wasn't much of a screen, either. 1-0 Edmonton at 12:32. The Wings got a short power play after Draper's penalty expired but only got one shot off (Lidstrom). Jason Williams tied it at 14:50 with a totally random goal. From the side of the net to Roloson's right, he took a shot that was stopped by the defenseman's skate. It bounced right back to him and he kicked it back out front. The puck went off the defenseman again before heading on net, where it bounced off Roloson's skate and across the line. Very weird. But it counted and negated a delayed call on the Oilers at the same time. 1-1. The Wings got their first full-length power play starting at 15:27 and did a pretty good job with it. They got a couple good shots off after cycling the puck but couldn't score. Shanahan and Staios had a little scrum in front of the net as the game got chippier. Legace made a big save on a Dick Tarnstrom tip-in with 1:44 remaining. At this point, the battle between Ryan Smyth and Chris Chelios became very obvious as they had a pretty physical shift. Edmonton took another penalty at 18:25 and the Wings put out a pretty good power play to start with. The Oilers put on some good shorthanded pressure, though, and caused some trouble in the process. It wasn't a bad period. Both teams looked pretty good defensively if a little anemic offensively. The Oilers continued their shorthanded pressure at the start of the second and ended up getting a power play themselves just 40 seconds in, when Steve Yzerman went off for hooking. They set up and cycled the puck around and got off a couple shots. Manny made two big saves, first on Pronger and second on Smyth. The fans started chanting, "Manny! Manny!" and the penalty expired. Raffi Torres had a nice shift after that and only a good defensive play from Mathieu Schneider prevented a dangerous play. Niklas Kronwall had a Bobby Orr Moment at 4:40 when he took the puck down the left wing and got off a shot, though it went wide. Tomas Holmstrom, of all people, nearly had a breakaway at center but was tied up minutely by Staios. After a little embellishment on Tomas' part, the ref called Staios for hooking and the Wings went back on the power play. The Edmonton bench was screaming for a diving penalty but I felt Holmstrom's acting looked worse in slow motion than in real time. The initial setup constituted a shot by Lidstrom that was blocked and followed up by Edmonton carrying the puck out of the zone. It looked like a good kill for the Oilers until the Wings scored at 7:11. Kronwall took the initial shot from the point and Roloson stopped it. The puck went up in the air and Roloson just sort of sat there until it fell on top of him and rolled down his back. Fortunately, Zetterberg was johnny-on-the-spot and knocked it in. The Oilers had to love the fact that Holmstrom, the man responsible for their disadvantage, was right in front of Roloson the whole time. 2-1 Wings, off another fluke/weird goal. Noticing a pattern? The Wings were handling the puck well, if tentatively, but Edmonton was playing the trap very well through mid-period, forcing the Detroit to the outside on practically every rush and limiting their shots to the perimeter. The good thing was that the Wings were matching the physical play of Edmonton, surprisingly enough. Yzerman's line, with Schneider, had a nice shift with about 7:20 left but it amounted to a missed shot and a failed opportunity. Edmonton broke out of the trap with about six minutes to go and put some good pressure on in the Wings zone. Manny was solid, though, and the Wings took it the other way, with Datsyuk's line getting a good chance on net but failing to score. I had just written down, "DET good in their end -> clearing puck well, limiting EDM chances," when the Oilers scored on a seemingly harmless play. Michael Peca pressured Kirk Maltby behind the goal to Legace's right and stole the puck. He sent it immediately out front to a wide-open Fernando Pisani, who had no trouble one-timing it past an off-balance Manny Legace. Okay. 2-2 tie, at 17:49. Less than a minute later, the Oilers struck again. This time, Jason Williams turned it over to Pronger after failing to clear the zone. Granted, he took an elbow the face but that was after he could have gotten it out. The puck ended up on Winchester's stick and he had a clear shot on Legace. He took a hard wrister from 44 feet out and beat Manny glove side. Just like that, the Oilers have a 3-2 lead and are back to running the trap. The period ended on a pretty sour, note, needless to say. This time, the fans didn't even bother to boo. Two minutes into the third, Dan Cleary and Tarnstrom had a little scrum that resulted in offsetting minors. During 4-on-4 play, Datsyuk showed up to play for really the first time. He carried the puck over the blueline on one rush but lost it and was dumped. Then, he and Steve Yzerman hooked up for a nice play. Pavel entered the zone at the far blueline and dropped the puck off to The Captain, who proceeded to drive on net, around Chris Pronger. A2Y described it this way:
Yzerman muscles his way by Pronger and time stops. Frame by frame we see the Captain pulling us even, willing his way to the crease, falling, holding on to the puck, burning Roloson, waiting, horizontal now, sliding it toward a tie game and an explosion at the Joe.