And the Ducks did. After losing their past two games against Detroit by a margin of three goals per game, and allowing a total of 10 goals to their 4, the Ducks showed that they belonged in this series, beating the Redwings 2-1 at the Honda Center tonight.
The win was unquestionably credited to a strong penalty kill unit, an agressive defense, and the cat-like skills of goaltender Jonas Hiller. After struggling through the past two games, the Ducks looked as though they might need a fresh face between the pipes. But Hiller defended his goalcrease (and his position as starting goaltender) with such skill that he reminded everyone why he still deserved that spot. He had a total of 38 blocked shots, only allowing one powerplay goal to the Redwings in the last 3 minutes of the game, after defending the previous 37 attemps.
After going scoreless in the first period, the Ducks opened up the scoring in the first three minutes of the second, on a powerplay for a Detroit delay of game penalty. As Detroit sought to clear the puck out of their zone, Niklas Kronwall flipped the puck out of play, giving the Ducks the opportunity they needed to get ahead. Ryan Getzlaf saw his chance as the puck glanced towards him off Detroit goaltender, Chris Osgood. Getzlaf stuffed the puck in the net to put the Ducks ahead by one.
Their second tally came in the last three minutes of the second period, on a even-strength goal by Corey Perry. As Getzlaf looked for his second of the night with a wrist shot from the blue line, Perry stationed himself in front of the crease to catch any rebound chances. As the puck flew by, Perry got his stick on it to deflect it in the net to put the Ducks ahead by 2-0.
The Ducks survived four penalties, including interference, cross chekcing, and two bench minors for too many men on the ice, but the tripping call on Andrew Ebbett gave the man advantage to Detroit that they capitalized on. Johan Franzen recieved a pass across the crease that he swatted in the net to beat Hiller. After 37 shots, the Redwings finally met success, but it wasn't enough to cover the triumph of the Ducks.
As towels rained down on the ice to celebrate the win, a brawl erupted in the corner of the rink, resulting in 9 separate penalties to 6 players. Whether that will affect the next game remains to be seen, but the fisticuffs was a long time coming after a physical game with few penalties called. Aside from the 9 called at the end of regulation, a total of ten penaties were called, and only six were physical penalties.
After this win, the Ducks have tied the series at 3 games apiece and will travel to Detroit, where they will play the final game of the series. If they win, they will have triumphed over the top two teams in the Western Conference in two consecutive series. Should they lose, and the 2008-2009 season will come to a close. As for Detroit, this will mark the first time they've had a seven game series since the Western Conference finals in 2002.
The Ducks will have to match the energy and defensive performance they had tonight in order to be successful on the road against a fast and physical team like Detroit. Here's hoping I get a few more games to write about before their season is over.
Lets Go Ducks