The conference semifinals are beginning to look like they will be short and sweet for a couple of teams. Detroit and Washington, two teams many predicted to reach the the Stanley Cup Finals, are now two wins away from a summer of golf. Let’s take a look at last nights games.
Detroit vs. San Jose – After a brief four game sweep of the Coyotes, it began to look as though this year might be much different than last. Perhaps the tables had turned, and with enough rest, it would be the Red Wings outlasting the previously troubled Sharks. Unfortunately for Detroit, things are not looking so bright. After two games, we appear to be headed for a repeat of last year.
We’ll begin in the first period, where the San Jose Sharks took an early 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the game. Ian White picked up the goal on a bomb of a slapshot from the point. The power-play tally was his first of the playoffs, but a very important one.
The Red Wings looked modest in the first, but managed to out-shoot the Sharks 12-7. But from my perspective, their playoff intensity was completely absent from the game. The Wings managed to give the puck away repeatedly by making errant passes, lose races to loose pucks, and look sluggish as a whole.
The Sharks picked up control in the second, commanding a 19-9 shot advantage. However, there would be no scoring in the middle period. Things did get a bit feisty when Ben Eager took a 10-minute misconduct penalty after he dropped the gloves in a battle with Todd Bertuzzi. Bert stood his ground, simply watching as Eager overreacted, and was then taken away to serve his time. There were several good scoring chances in the second, but none better than the failed breakaway by Darren Helm. After a slick takeaway, he tore down the ice but was stopped easily by Niemi on a weak shot. If someone teaches that man how to deke, the Wings are in a much better position offensively. Despite the good chances, the game remained 1-0 in favor of the Sharks after two periods.
Early in the third, Niclas Wallin picked up a goal for himself and gave the Sharks a crucial 2-0 lead. Detroit continued to get out-played, and out-hustled, until about the midway point of the third period. At 13:58 of the final period, Henrik Zetterberg would pick up a power-play goal on a great pass from Pavel Datsyuk. Zetterberg buried his shot from between the circles and gave the Wings a bit of a lift. Unfortunately, the Wings started playing playoff hockey just a little too late in this one. They failed to register another late goal, and closed out a game that was only close on the scoreboard.
The Sharks looked strong picking up two wins at home to start the series. Home ice is definitely an advantage for them now, but we’ll see how Detroit reacts on home ice in games three and four. They will really have to step up the play, though, if they want to have a shot at a comeback.
Tampa Bay vs. Washington – This matchup was close the entire way, and seemed destined to head for overtime. Vinny Lecavalier got things going for the Lightning real late in the first. He one-timed a Martin St. Louis pass in and out of the net before you could even blink. This combination can be deadly, and are really starting to pick things up.
Washington came out quick in the second with a lot of quality scoring chances, but failed to convert. It wasn’t until late in the second period, at 14:52, that Brooks Laich batted in the rebound of a Nicklas Backstrom shot. The Caps outshot the Bolts 16-3 in the period, but could not do any more damage on the scoreboard.
Early in the third, the Lightning bounced back in to the lead when Martin St. Louis scored on a bad angle shot. Behind the outstanding play of Dwayne Roloson, it began to look like that would be all Tampa Bay needed. With just over a minute left, however, it was Alex Ovechkin who came up with a huge game tying goal as the Capitals own net sat empty.
Once in overtime, the Lightning would not need much time to wrap up the game. The Bolts capitalized on several Capital players making the long line change. Randy Jones made an excellent pass from his own zone up to a wide open Teddy Purcell streaking up the wing. Purcell then collected the pass and found a wide open Lecavalier in front of Michal Neuvirth. Lecavalier had all the time in the world, but quickly found the top shelf after Neuvirth went down. With that beautiful play, the Lightning take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Capitals. The Caps now head to Tampa Bay to try to climb back into the series as the visiting team.