Suddenly it’s advantage, Ducks
1:10 PM PDT, May 20, 2007
|–||Detroit pays steep price for penalty|
|–||Brad May always seems to know his place|
DETROIT — Less than a minute remained in a game the Ducks had no business winning, with the Western Conference finals possibly about to turn for good in the direction of the Detroit Red Wings.
Perhaps the only opportunity to change their fortunes stood before them. One final power play with two extra men on their side after pulling goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
With two shocking flash-point moments in Game 5, the Ducks might have destiny on their side.
Scott Niedermayer’s deflected goal tied the score with 47.3 seconds left in regulation and Teemu Selanne won it 11:57 into overtime to give the Ducks a stunning 2-1 victory Sunday at Joe Louis Arena and an advantage of three games to two in the best-of-seven series.
The first team to win consecutive games in this hard-fought matchup, the Ducks now head home with the opportunity to clinch their second trip to the Stanley Cup finals in Game 6 Tuesday night in Anaheim.
"It’s huge," Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf said. "To come up in this building and steal a game tonight and battle back the way we did, to stay focused and stay on the job at hand, it’s good for our group.
"We’ve just got to continue on, and hopefully we can get it done at home."
Game 5 had been the Red Wings’ domain in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs — they won it in the first two rounds against Calgary and San Jose to help them close out those series in six games.
The near-sellout crowd of 20,003 anticipated a similar result. It seemed as if the Red Wings would make defenseman Andreas Lilja’s first playoff goal stand up as they dominated play for most of regulation.
Except there was the final minute to be played. Pavel Datsyuk went off for interference at 18:13 of the third period, leaving the Ducks with the final 1:47 to play with an advantage.
The Ducks called a timeout. Giguere, who kept them close with a stellar game, went to the bench and his teammates went to work with two extra attackers.
Chris Pronger, who returned from his Game 4 suspension, got the puck along the left side and dropped it down low to Selanne. Selanne spotted Niedermayer in the slot and shuttled a pass to him.
Niedermayer caught the puck with his right skate and shifted it to his shooting side.
"I didn’t think about the series at that point," he said. "I’m just thinking about scoring a goal. That’s what I think most of us are thinking. Just try to get a goal here to tie it up and go from there."
Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom got into position to make a play on Niedermayer’s shot. The puck deflected off Lidstrom’s stick and hopped over the left shoulder of Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek, to the dismay of a crowd awaiting a celebration.
"I was going to put it off the crossbar and in," Niedermayer cracked.
With renewed energy, the Ducks took the offensive in overtime and forced a crucial mistake by Lilja.
Lilja barely escaped a speeding Selanne behind the net, but Andy McDonald cut off the defenseman as he headed up ice. Selanne jumped on the turnover and faked Hasek to the ice with a move before flipping a backhand shot top shelf on only his second shot of the game.
"You’ve just got to take advantage of the opportunities when you get the chance," McDonald said. "When Teemu gets that opportunity, he usually buries it."
All of this would not have happened if not for Giguere. He made 36 saves for the second consecutive game, including consecutive stops on Datsyuk and bang-bang saves on Johan Franzen in the third period.
Burned by Detroit’s power play all series, the Ducks killed off seven disadvantages largely because of their goaltender’s play. Giguere is now 12-1 in overtime playoff games.
"They’re carrying the play, but it was only 1-0," Ducks center Todd Marchant said of Detroit’s lead. "Jiggy played unbelievable for us. As a result, he kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win.
"We rewarded him with the overtime win."
Said Pronger: "It easily could have been 3-0 or 4-0 [Detroit]."
In truth, the Ducks also have fared quite well in the fifth game of series this postseason. They’ve used it as the series clincher against Minnesota and Vancouver.
Now that the pivotal game is theirs, the Ducks are on the brink of reaching the place they aimed for all season.
"In the end, we found a way to get it done," Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said. "There’s been no quitting in this group whatsoever, right from the beginning early in September [during] training camp, right through to tonight."
I realize that many of you are not hockey fans but I just had to post this!!!
I had a GREAT day!! Hope you did too!