Lidstrom, Datsyuk lead Wings in Game 7
As it turns out, rumors of the Red Wings' demise — and especially that of captain Nick Lidstrom — were greatly exaggerated.
Lidstrom, who turns 40 Wednesday, had two power-play goals and an assist while leading the Wings with seven shots in the Wings' 6-1 victory over the Coyotes in Game 7. Pavel Datsyuk scored twice, Brad Stuart and Todd Bertuzzi each scored once. Henrik Zetterberg and Brian Rafalski each had three assists.
The Wings now move on to face the San Jose Sharks, starting Thursday night in San Jose.
"What a game," goaltender Jimmy Howard told FOX Sports Detroit's John Keating. "What can you say about the guys in our dressing room, the leadership? They took it over for us. our top guys, they played probably their best game of the series."
Howard wasn't bad either, making 32 saves, but he didn't have to deal with the shower of rubber that Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov faced.
The Wings peppered Bryzgalov with 50 shots in their first Game 7 road win since 1964.
"It means a lot, especially coming in here on a pressure situation, Game 7 on the road and the team really responded well," Lidstrom told Keating. "We want to continue to play the way we did (Tuesday night)."
Unlike in Game 6 Sunday afternoon, the Wings' special teams were perfect, preventing the Coyotes from scoring on their four power-play chances, including a lengthy 5-on-3 late in the second period. The Wings' power play came alive again, scoring on three of six chances.
But the pivotal goal came with 4.6 seconds left in the second period. Stuart jumped out of the penalty box, collected the puck, avoided a fall when he slipped slightly, and beat Bryzgalov with a wrist shot. So instead of a 3-2 lead, the Wings led, 4-1, heading into the second intermission.
"That pretty much summed up the game right there," Howard said. "That was the game. If they score on that, it's a totally different game, they're only down 3-2 now. Stuie comes out of the box and scores with 4.6 seconds left. You couldn't script it any better than that."
Stuart was happy with his goal, but even happier with the victory.
"I've been waiting 10 years for an opportunity," he told Keating. "Just got out and played as a team and whoever gets the goals is irrelevant as long as we win the game."
But now the Wings not only don't have time to rest, now they have to head straight to San Jose to face a rested Sharks team.
Lidstrom said the blowout win should help a little in that regard.
"The way the game ended up tonight, I think a lot of our guys got some rest in that third period and we could rest two lines almost," Lidstrom said. "That really helped us and set us up for some success here later on."
Because the top-seeded Sharks did not exactly dominate the eighth-seed Colorado Avalanche and because they have had several early playoff exits, there will be many pundits who will pick the Wings to beat the Sharks.
However, it would be a bad idea to overlook the Sharks.
Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov is second to Philadelphia's Brian Boucher in postseason goals-against average at 1.76. He's fifth with a .926 save percentage.
The Sharks' top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley aren't in the top 30 in playoff scoring, but that doesn't mean they won't get rolling.
"We're going to go looking for a split, anything better is gravy," Howard said. "We're going to have to limit their top line of Heatley, Marleau and Thornton and also (Joe) Pavelski (five goals, three assists) has really been on fire for them. We're just going to have to continue to do what we did (Tuesday night), get pucks deep and go to work on them."
Coach Todd McLellan is quite familiar with the Wings, having served as an assistant for Mike Babcock.
"We know Todd does a good job," Babcock told Keating. "They have good players -- I've coached quite a few of them, actually, and know them real well and they're going to be hard to play against."
The Wings won the regular-season series against the Sharks, but that doesn't mean a whole lot at this time of year.
"It gives you that feeling that you can do it but it's not going to be easy," Stuart said. "It's going to be difficult. It's a different time of year, the game is different, harder, so you've got to be ready for that. They're a great team so it's going to be a battle."
For more on the Red Wings, check out FOX Sports Detroit.