ANAHEIM, Calif. – The only thing more disappointing than the second-period hit on Daniel Cleary in Game 5 was the five-minute major, which followed, that the Red Wings didn’t capitalize on Wednesday at Honda Center.
“We created chances. I think we hit two posts. We had some other good chances there too but couldn’t really get that goal that would have helped,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “Then they come in and score.”
With 5 ½ minutes left in the second period, and the Wings holding a 2-1 lead, Daniel Winnik slammed Cleary into the end boards behind the Detroit net. A five-minute boarding penalty was assessed to the Ducks’ forward, but not a game-misconduct.
Cleary was helped off the ice, but returned for the start of the third period, saying that his, “Whole left side was sore, shoulder, hand, ribs, neck, head. I didn’t see him coming at all.”
The Red Wings had three power-play opportunities on Wednesday, scoring on their first chance when Johan Franzen rammed in his own rebound to give Detroit a 1-0 lead early in the first period. But it was the blown chances on the five-minute major that frustrated the Wings the most.
They maintained pressure in the offensive zone, however, they only had one Zetterberg shot to show for it before the 5-on-4 ended when Brendan Smith was caught holding Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.
To have the Ducks then tie the score with their own power-play goal – just 13-seconds after Winnik’s penalty expired – only compounded the Wings’ disappointment.
“We could have done some different things,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, of the second-period power play. “In hindsight, you could do lots of things. You could go with your first two groups, call a timeout and go with them again. We put a group in between. We took a penalty. We didn't score on the power play. That was the bottom line.”
Anaheim didn’t make it easy for the Red Wings. First, the Ducks jumped on Detroit early, sending 18 first-period shots toward goalie Jimmy Howard. While the Red Wings weathered the offensive barrage the Ducks’ defense was stingy in the last two periods.
For the third time in this Western Conference quarterfinal series, the Ducks blocked at least 17 Red Wings’ shots, giving Anaheim 85 in the series. Only the New York Rangers have more blocks (88) in the first-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Wings’ woes continued into the third as they managed to get five shots through the Ducks’ defense that blocked seven other attempts.
“I thought we had a lot of opportunity in the third to get it done, a lot of chances,” Cleary said. “We let it slip away, for sure. I thought we played real well. Just got to win the game on Friday but I thought we played well tonight. We deserved better than that.”
The Wings will need better than that Friday at Joe Louis Arena if they’re to extend this series to a Game 7 on Sunday in Anaheim.
“I've been through a lot of elimination games,” Cleary said. “The key is just having no regrets, go out and play hard, you can't play nervous. Play loose and confident and play our game.”
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