DETROIT -- It became a night of redemption for a couple of Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, and this Western Conference Quarterfinal Series is now even because of it.
Damien Brunner scored 15:10 into overtime to give the Red Wings a 3-2 victory Monday night against the Anaheim Ducks. He atoned for a bad gaffe in Game 3 -- a turnover in his own zone that led a critical goal in Anaheim's 4-0 victory -- by putting home the rebound of a Gustav Nyquist shot to tie the series at two games apiece.
Game 5 is Wednesday back in Anaheim.
"I blame myself a lot. It was not the best night of my life," Brunner said of his mistake that led to a Ryan Getzlaf shorthanded goal and a 2-0 deficit in Game 3. "But, you know, all the guys did a pretty good job getting my head up the next day, they were joking about it. So, obviously I'm pretty happy that it ended up like this tonight."
The Red Wings had dominated possession in the third period and much of the extra session before rookie center Joakim Andersson led Nyquist a little too far with a pass that split the Anaheim defensemen. As Nyquist raced after the bouncing puck, Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller hesitated and then tried to poke it away at the last second.
Hiller stopped Nyquist from putting the puck in the net, but defenseman Bryan Allen slid into the goalie, and Brunner was there to put in the rebound.
"It is a tough call for the goalie," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He's got to anticipate who is going to win the race and evidently he didn't know. It was a 50-50 shot, so it is better to stay in the net. I mean, he made the save -- it's the other five guys on the ice that didn't pick up Brunner coming in."
Brunner, a 27-year-old from Switzerland in his first year in the NHL after the Red Wings signed him as a free agent in the summer, actually played the least of any of Detroit's 18 skaters at 11:16, and less than all of the Ducks save for one.
Maybe he was fresh. Maybe he is just an opportunistic guy. But as coach Mike Babcock has said a couple of times during this series, Brunner produces.
"We used [Brunner] more sparingly tonight because other guys were playing heavier on the puck," Babcock said. "He's a guy that just flat-out scores, knows how to score. He's going to be a good Red Wing in time. He's going to learn how to play right, and how to play heavy. You don't have to be heavy to play heavy, but he'll figure all that stuff out."
Brunner wasn't the only Red Wings player with minimal Stanley Cup Playoffs experience who made amends on this night. Detroit's Brendan Smith had a mix-up with defense partner Kyle Quincey in the first period and that led to the opening goal of the game by Anaheim's Matt Beleskey.
Smith got that one back at 1:18 of the third period. He scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal to even the score at 1-1. His shot from the top of the offensive zone hit multiple players en route to the net, the last being Anaheim defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who was trying to keep Andersson away from his goaltender.
"I think our emphasis tonight was to get pucks to the net," Smith said. "Danny Cleary moved the puck real quick from the corner up to myself and I had some time to walk. A lot of the guys have been telling me I got to shoot a little more and buckle down. I took a clapper and it had eyes. It was fortunate for me and fortunate for the club. It was a big goal."
David Steckel reclaimed the lead for Anaheim at 10:40 of the third. After a Kyle Palmieri shot, Detroit defenseman Brian Lashoff fell into goaltender Jimmy Howard, and Steckel had plenty of net to work with on the rebound.
Beleskey's goal was the second of the series. The Ducks have also received two goals from Nick Bonino and one each from Steckel, Emerson Etem and Kyle Palmieri -- that's seven of the team's 13 in this postseason from "depth" forwards.
"It was a real good game for [Steckel]," Boudreau said. "Some of the lesser-lights played really good and some of the guys you expect to be really good weren't as good as you like and that's unfortunate."
Steckel's goal came after the fourth line had been broken up and put back together again. Boudreau was constantly shuffling his forward lines from near the end of the second period on as Detroit claimed more and more of the possession as the game wore on.
"They played very good, very hard, very desperate," Boudeau said of the Wings. "I don't think, quite frankly, we had 20 players playing. We had some passengers. If we don't have all four lines going, you have to mix and match. I didn't want to mix and match, but we didn't have guys going."
Added Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler: "We knew exactly the kind of game they were going to play. They said what they were going to do and that's exactly what they did. I think to be honest we were caught off-guard and a little on our heels. [Hiller] kept us in it the whole night. We had a chance to win. You have the tip your hat off to the way that they played, but [Hiller] definitely gave us a chance to win that game."
Pavel Datsyuk scored his first goal of the series at 13:27 of the third to tie the game again. Datsyuk carried the puck into the offensive zone on the left wing and snapped a shot under the crossbar.
Before that goal, the Red Wings had only one point at even strength (and three total) from Datsyuk and captain Henrik Zetterberg.
It was the second time in the contest the Red Wings erased a lead and set up Brunner to be the hero in overtime -- just like his linemate Nyquist was in Game 2.
"It unbelievable to see all these young guns come out and play really solid," Smith said. "You got Nyquist the other night gets the game winner and then [Brunner] tonight. You see Lashoff step in and not even miss a heartbeat. I think he hadn't played a game in quite some time and the other night and tonight he has been unbelievable for us."
Hiller only needed to make 23 saves for a shutout in Game 3, but he had more work in Game 4 and ended up with twice as many. The Swiss netminder made 27 saves in first 40 minutes alone, though there still weren't a lot of top-level chances for him to thwart. The Wings had more sustained pressure in the third and overtime, and they made it count with the three goals.
Anaheim took a 2-1 lead in this series based largely on special-teams play. The Ducks scored twice on the power play in a 3-1 victory in Game 1, and had two extra-man markers and a shorthanded tally in a 4-0 triumph in Game 3. Detroit had the better of the special teams in a 5-4 overtime win in Game 2, scoring its final three goals with the man advantage.
While the first three games of the series looked more like regular-season contests because of all the power plays on both sides, Game 4 was an even-strength affair. There were only four penalties assessed in this contest, and neither team was able to capitalize.
Even though the Red Wings held a sizable shot advantage, Babcock pointed out his team yielded "glorious" scoring chances to Anaheim's top players, and Boudreau felt his club missed a opening to take control of the series.
"Oh, we missed a great opportunity," Boudreau said. "We got the lead twice in the game and we didn't hold it. We missed a great opportunity for our goaltender who played great, but we had chances."