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Third period has made series difference

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Ryan Getzlaf has scored two goals in this series, both in the third period, including one in Saturday's 4-0 win in Game 3. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – The Red Wings have led, trailed or been tied entering the third period of the first three games of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Anaheim Ducks.

At first glance that looks pretty even. But in reality, third periods haven’t gone the Red Wings’ way in their best-of-seven series. Despite holding a narrow edge in third-period shots, Detroit has just one goal to show for it, while the Ducks have scored eight times in building a 2-1 series lead heading into Monday’s pivotal Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena.

With the exception of Game 2, which the Red Wings won in overtime, the games have been decided in the last 20-minutes of regulation.

The Wings trailed 1-0 heading into the final period of Saturday’s Game 3. But for the second straight game the Ducks scored three unanswered times. Their three-goal performance on Thursday forced overtime, which was decided by Gustav Nyquist’s first-time playoff heroics.

“I wouldn’t put the two periods together,” Wings forward Daniel Cleary said. “Last night I thought that those three goals were gifts, really. We played well in Game 2 except for the last 10 minutes of the third, and last night the game was in the balance for both teams.”

While a lot has been made since the second-period illegal hit in Saturday’s game that led to a game-misconduct for Justin Abdelkader and seemingly jump-started the Ducks’ attack, the Wings see things differently, especially since they went on the power play early in the third.

“It’s 1-0, we’re on the power play, there’s 46 minutes of the game gone so by my math there’s 14 left so we’re in a real good situation,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re at home, turn the puck over on the end of a power play in a situation where we should just be getting off the ice and we didn’t respond after that.”

The Wings’ power play had produced four goals in the first two games of the series in Anaheim. However, Saturday they were 0-for-6 with more than 9 ½ minutes of power-play time.

“You can make this as a reporter as bad as you want or you can make it as good as you want,” Babcock said. “You just have to choose your attitude. I’m going to choose mine and say we were right there knocking on the door and we’re going to win tomorrow and make it a best-of-three.”

The Red Wings hold a 29-28 edge in third-period shots. But as long as Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller is seeing those shots, the less likely it will be to get pucks past him, Cleary said.

“You have to have it in your mind when you get into the zone to hang on to the puck, be strong on the puck and when you get a chance to shoot, you have to think shot,” he said. “We had a lot of good chances last night and maybe we looked to pass instead of getting it to the net. That’s something that we’ll figure out tomorrow and make sure that guys are aware that’s how you’re going to score in the playoffs. You’re not going to see a lot of fancy plays. A lot of times it’s the dirty, garbage goals that get it done.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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