SAN JOSE, Calif. – Two four-minute high-sticking penalties -- one to each team – have had a major impact so far in this Western Conference Semifinal series.
In Game 1 on Friday, the Red Wings' Justin Abdelkader took a four-minute minor in overtime; though the Sharks didn't score on the power play, it did help pave the way for the overtime winner by Benn Ferriero.
The roles were reversed on Sunday when Ferriero found himself in the box for four minutes just 6:23 into the game for high-sticking Abdelkader. But the Red Wings squandered the opportunity, mounting little offense -- something they were regretting following the 2-1 loss at HP Pavilion that dropped them into a 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven series.
"We had a four-minute power play early in the game and I didn't think with the exception of about 50 seconds that our power play was very good," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
When the Red Wings began the power play, they were down 1-0 on an early extra-man goal by Sharks defenseman Ian White. A quick response would have changed everything.
Instead, the Red Wings were on their way to finishing the game with eight shots and one goal in six power-play opportunities. The Red Wings were 0-for-2 in their Game 1 loss Friday.
Detroit did score its only goal on the power play Sunday; Pavel Datsyuk fed Henrik Zetterberg in the slot for a snap shot past Antti Niemi with 6:02 remaining. But the Wings agreed they could have used more power-play production earlier in the afternoon.
"They're tight in front of their goalie," Zetterberg said. "We've just got to find a way to score more goals, get more pucks there, get there for second chances. We're doing a lot of good things but we have to be better."
Babcock was critical of his forwards after the first game, but said they were better Sunday. However, he said they will have to be better still for the Red Wings to get back in the series against a team that has won 10 of the last 12 meetings dating back to last season.
He said the Wings have to do a better job of punishing the Sharks' defensemen, and it's vital that his team spend more time in San Jose's end.
"You pay a price if you play in your zone," Babcock said. "It might not happen right at that moment, but it's going to happen over time. We've just got to be harder on the puck in their zone, and the more of those 50-50 pucks you win the more time you're going to have the puck."
Defenseman Brad Stuart said when the Wings do get the puck in the Sharks' zone, they have to be quicker to get it to the net.
"(The Sharks) just kind of throwing the puck from anywhere," said Stuart, who began his career in San Jose. "That's what we want to do. It's something we probably haven't done enough of. That's what they're doing.
"They're getting the puck and throwing it to the net. When you create scrambles it's hard as defenders when the puck goes to the net, you don't know where it's going to go. It's something they did well and I think something we can do better at."
The Red Wings were outshot 37-34 on Sunday. The Wings' shot total was respectable and Niemi was called on to make several excellent saves. But Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said not enough of the shots were on rebounds or through traffic – the types of shots needed to beat NHL goalies.
"We're not getting the puck in there as much by shooting the puck in there," Lidstrom said. "We have to have guys in front of the net, too. I think they've been doing a good job of pushing us to the outside and kind of giving us the outside."
Babcock expressed confidence his team will turn the series around. He had a five-hour flight back to Detroit to ponder ways to boost the offense, and an extra day off before Wednesday's third game at Joe Louis Arena.
"Our belief in ourselves our plan and the execution we have, I don't question that whatsoever," Babcock said. "I thought they were better than us (in Game 1). I thought the game was more even tonight. They still won more 50-50 pucks. Now we're going home, we'll have our crowd. We've got to do something with it."