Western Conference Semifinals, Game 4 (5/7/09)

The Wings were facing the Ducks tonight for game four in Anaheim. The lineup was the same as the previous games with Hiller and Osgood in the nets. Draper, Rafalski and Lilja were still out for the Wings. After the previous two losses I was pretty worried about this game. Even though Detroit had mostly outplayed the Ducks in the losses I felt like a loss in this game could happen just as easily and would be very hard to overcome. That would mean that the Wings had lost three in a row and then had to come back and win three in a row. I sure didn’t want to see that happen so a win tonight was imperative.

The start of the Red Wings game was not on TV in my local area because the previous game between Vancouver and Chicago was in overtime. I’m not in the local region of either city so Versus stayed with their overtime game and I missed the first eight minutes of the Wings.

I was able to get the Red Wings radio broadcast streaming on my computer but unfortunately the second I got it started I heard the call of the Ducks first goal which came from Corey Perry about 40 seconds into the game. I hoped I was just hearing recorded footage of a previous goal but I knew deep down it was true. Perry was sprung by a long pass from Pronger and ended up all alone against Osgood. That wasn’t the start we wanted for this game but the good thing was that there was still plenty of time to recover.

Luckily, the Blackhawks ended their overtime game relatively quickly and I was able to see the Red Wings game starting at about the 12 minute mark.

From the time I started watching it looked like Detroit was struggling. Anaheim was playing great defense and the Wings seemed to be kind of scattered. Hossa got leveled behind the Anaheim net and Pronger went to the box for interfering with him before the hit. Detroit had a couple of shots on the power play but nothing significant. Even with only four skaters Anaheim seemed to be everywhere.

Then Mike Babcock juggled the lines in this game to shake things up. He had Franzen playing with Hossa and Filppula, and he put Datsyuk and Zetterberg together on a line with Holmstrom.

Shortly after the power play ended Filppula got the puck in the neutral zone. He passed it back into his own zone and then headed for the other end. He got the puck back just as he hit the blue line and skated it up the slot. Filppula dropped it off for Franzen and he snapped it by Hiller and into the net. The game was even again and Hiller was proven to be human.

That goal set a fire under the Wings and they started playing as well as I’ve seen them play all season. This was the sort of energy level that we’ve been seeing quite a bit later in the previous two games. It was good to see it so early in this one.

With just 35 seconds left in the first period Detroit got the puck in deep. Hiller came out behind his net to play it with Hossa pressuring him. Hiller got it safely to Ryan Whitney but when he tried to clear it the puck went to Kronwall at the point. Kronwall launched one with Franzen crossing in front. Franzen tipped it perfectly into the corner of the net to give the Wings the late period lead two to one.

Detroit had some great scoring chances at the start of the second period but didn’t score. Then they were called for too many men on the ice but continued playing aggressively. Zetterberg had a great shorthanded chance and drew a penalty to even things up. The Wings looked great four on four but didn’t score then either.

The new line combinations seemed to be extremely effective for Detroit. They suddenly had no trouble moving the puck in all three zones. All of which had been troublesome in the previous games.

Shortly after the halfway point of the second period, Lidstrom had a shot that was blocked and the Ducks took possession. Getzlaf got the puck into the Red Wings end but then he was double teamed and knocked off the puck. It looked like the play was over but Perry came from out of nowhere, took the puck off of Getzlaf’s stick and snapped one by Osgood. It was over before anybody knew what was happening. That tied the game up at two.

With about four minutes left in the second period Filppula forechecked Whitney and Franzen took the puck. He passed to Hossa in the circle. Hossa released a snapshot that got through Hiller. It was Hossa’s first goal and point in the series. You could see his relief. It was an awesome goal and put the Wings back up by one.

Near the end of the second period Detroit went on the power play. They were cycling the puck very well. Lidstrom had it and went back to Hossa. Hossa had a lot of space and fired one that burned Hiller for his second goal. That made it four to two Detroit with less than a minute in the period. The Red Wings continued to pressure the Ducks until the period ended.

I can’t say enough about the performance of the Wings through two periods. From about the 15 minute mark of the first period they were just on fire. They were having their way with the Ducks and on the rare occasion when the Ducks got organized Osgood was super sharp.

The Red Wings didn’t let up. Early in the third period Maltby sprung Samuelsson. He took the puck into the zone and ripped one over Hiller’s shoulder. It caught the inside corner of the post and went in making it five to two Red Wings. It was a great rising shot that surprised Hiller.

That was the end of the game for Hiller. Our old nemesis J-S Giguere came in to relieve him.

At the halfway point of the third Anaheim went on the power play. The Ducks won the initial face off and started moving the puck well. They got it to Perry down low. He stepped toward the front and passed across to Scott Niedermayer on the other side. He shot quickly into the open side of the net before Osgood could move over. Franzen went down to block it and Osgood dove through the crease but it didn’t hit either of them. That brought the Ducks back to within two.

A few minutes later Kopecky and Beauchemin dropped the gloves for a fight. I didn’t see what started it. By the time the cameras were on them they both had their gloves and helmets off. There was a lot of room between them and the linesman started to move in but decided to let them go. Kopecky never landed a punch and pretty much got wailed on. It’s the thought counts I guess. At that point in the game though I’d say that did a lot more good for the Ducks than it did for the Wings. Kopecky must have been genuinely ticked off about something to fight at that stage because it was probably a mistake to do so. It just helped fire up the Ducks.

Anaheim pulled their goalie with three minutes left. I was pretty surprised that they would do it so early considering the Wings had been stealing the puck all night. The Ducks had possession for a few seconds and then Zetterberg got the puck, dragged a couple of defenders into the zone and shot in the empty-netter.

Obviously, Hossa and Franzen had great games. The entire team was amazing defensively. They were always on the Ducks players and intercepted their passes just about every time they tried to get something going. They looked a lot like the Ducks did early in the first period. Helm also had a fantastic game. I don’t know how many minutes he had but it seemed like a lot. He was everywhere and very very effective.

It was so enjoyable to see the Red Wings play as well as they did. It was a great recovery from a very frustrating couple of games. If they play like that I don’t think there’s a team in the league that can beat them in a seven game series. The new line combinations are absolute magic. Way to go, Wings!

This 6-3 win brings this Western Conference Semifinal series to a 2-2 tie.

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