As the saying goes, offense wins games, but defense wins championships.
It may be a cliché, but it's certainly one of the biggest reasons why the Detroit Red Wings
are now just eight wins away from another Stanley Cup title.
While giving the Anaheim Ducks
power plays is never a good idea, the Red Wings managed to kill a pair of 5-on-3s Thursday night en route to a 4-3 victory in Game 7 of this Western Conference semifinal at Joe Louis Arena.
The first two-man advantage came in the opening period, when Henrik Zetterberg
and Niklas Kronwall
were sent off just 50 seconds apart. That allowed the Ducks to play two men up for 1:10, but some stellar goaltending from Chris Osgood
and the defense's ability to limit Grade-A chances allowed the Wings to escape unscathed. Despite being down two men for so long, Detroit allowed only six shots in the first period.
"I thought, if anything, that sparked us," said Osgood, who made 24 saves in yet another postseason series victory. "It was, you know, we're not going to put up with this. We're going to start battling and fight this to the end. I thought that gave us some momentum."
That's exactly what it did, as Jiri Hudler
scored on the power play with 4:26 left in the first period. Darren Helm
then gave the Wings a two-goal lead just 1:17 into the second.
But the Wings still experienced some trouble staying out of the box, and ended up giving the Ducks another two-man advantage. After Marian Hossa
went off for high sticking at 8:42, Wings defenseman Brad Stuart
was hit with an interference penalty just 23 seconds later.
Again, Detroit came up big. Henrik Zetterberg
stole the show this time, as the 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy winner blocked two shots by Ryan Getzlaf
just inside the blue line, helping Osgood keep Anaheim off the scoreboard.
"You've got to play hard," said Zetterberg, who had two assists in 23:42 of ice time. "I think special teams are huge in playoffs. It's the small things that's going to decide it. We played well tonight."
Osgood was appreciative of the effort his teammates gave in front of him in such dangerous situations.
"It was huge, because we've been snake-bitten a bit on our penalty kill," Osgood said. "Tonight, I thought we killed off a lot of good penalties. I was a little bit shocked to see two 5-on-3's in a Game 7. We haven't had one all playoffs, and all of a sudden we have two."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.