Staying Alive: Red Wings roar back in third, beat Sharks 4-3 to force Game 6

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When the Sharks got out to a 3-0 series lead on the Red Wings, they hoped for a sweep. Hoping and doing it are two different things and the Wings went out and won Game 4 for pride’s sake. The Sharks hoped they’d recreate last year’s formula for making the Western Conference finals by beating Detroit in Game 5 at home and ending the series to prepare for either Nashville or Vancouver.

Turns out that plan didn’t work out well either as the Red Wings stormed back from a 3-1 deficit in the third period to beat the Sharks 4-3 and force a Game 6 on Tuesday night in Detroit.

The game played out similarly to others in this series. San Jose dominated the first 40 minutes of the game getting stellar, pressure-filled play from everyone. The Sharks forced the Wings into mistakes and capitalized on any and all errors getting out to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Devin Setoguchi in the first period and Joe Pavelski with a great tally in the second. Just a minute after Pavelski seemed to start putting the stake in the Wings’ heart, Niklas Kronwall would strike back.

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With the Sharks up 2-1 going into the third, Logan Couture would make it 3-1 less than a minute into the final period. That goal was not the start the Wings were looking for when trying to get back into the game. After all, this goal was the example of the Wings being slow to react on defense and Couture taking advantage of that.

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For San Jose, however, that would be the last bit of good news they’d get the rest of the period. Jimmy Howard stood tall all game long saving 39 shots and outdueled Antti Niemi (18 saves). The Wings turned up the pressure down by two goals and the Sharks seemed resigned to sit on the lead. Against Detroit, that’s a very bad move.

Less than three minutes after Couture’s goal, Jonathan Ericsson jumped into the play and stuffed home a rebound to make it 3-2. A minute and a half after that, Dan Cleary would battle at the side of the net and squeeze one through Niemi to tie the game at 3-3. With the Sharks officially on the ropes, the Wings controlled the pace of the game. With just over six minutes to play, Pavel Datsyuk (three assists) and Nicklas Lidstrom made their presence felt connecting with Tomas Holmstrom to put Detroit in the lead.

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With Detroit in the lead for the first time, San Jose would pressure back but come up empty. For the Sharks, their effort at the end of the game was non-existent and while they played outstanding for two periods, one awful third period ruined the game for them. As we’ve seen in other games in this series, not playing a complete game will cost you. That kind of effort is alarming because it’s unlike what we’ve seen from the Sharks for most of the series and given their proclivity to psychological downers, you have to wonder what happens to the Sharks should they get down early against the Wings in Game 6 in Detroit.

For Detroit, despite all their errors and getting grossly outshot in the game it was their stars that stepped up for them along with their role players. Datsyuk playing with a sore wrist gets three assists. Niklas Kronwall who’s been outstanding throughout the playoffs comes up with a goal and an assist as well as a big hit on Ryane Clowe. Getting a goal from Ericsson on a night where he was playing abysmal on defense is a great way to make up for some poor play in his own end. Those kinds of plays make differences for the team. Expect Detroit to be even more invigorated heading home with a chance to tie the series and force a Game 7 where all bets are off.

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The Buzzer: Night of the goalies

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Players of the Night:

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning needed Vasilevskiy to play like the NHL All-Star that he is and that’s exactly what he gave them, stopping 40 shots to help the Lightning to a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The win was important for Tampa, who regained the top spot in the NHL standings and ended a three-game slide in the process. Vasilevskiy’s league-leading seventh shutout of the season ties a franchise record.

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: Mrazek fielded 37 shots from the New Jersey Devils on Monday night and handled each and every one of them for his second shutout in as many starts.

Nick Cousins, Arizona Coyotes: Cousins got the ball rolling for the Desert Dogs in the first period, giving them a 1-0 lead. After the Islanders tied the game in the third, Cousins put the final stamp on the game with a goal 2:21 into overtime to give Arizona their second straight win.

Comeback of the Night:

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild: Zucker got drilled in the head with a slap shot in the first period and had to be helped off the ice. Miraculously, Zucker returned a short time later and went on to score the game-winning goal at the 4:59 mark of the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie in the Wild’s 3-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.

Highlights of the Night:

Granlund and Dumba:

Mrazek made plenty of saves on Monday and perhaps none better than this one (Brian Boyle‘s reaction is priceless):

Ottawa Senators fans will like this, even if the end result wasn’t great:

Auston Matthews had the celebration of the night:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Avalanche 4, Maple Leafs 2

Red Wings 3, Devils 0

Wild 3, Senators 1

Lightning 2, Blackhawks 0

Sabres 2, Flames 1 (OT)

Coyotes 3, Islanders 2 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Lightning end three-game skid with 2-0 win over Blackhawks

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Jon Cooper called declared that his team was “out of sync” prior to Monday night’s game in Chicago.

It’s three words that haven’t been used at all this season to describe the Tampa Bay Lightning who, up until Sunday, was known as the best team in the NHL.

The Lightning came into Monday night nursing a three-game losing streak, another foreign concept for a team saw four of its players elected to the NHL’s All-Star Game this coming weekend.

But just as quickly as they dropped out of the top spot in the NHL — the Vegas Golden Knights assumed that throne for 24 hours after a win on Sunday night — the Lightning snatched it back in a 2-0 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Windy City on Monday.

For a team that perhaps forgot how to play with one another, they looked comfortable in each other’s company against the Blackhawks.

The game was tight for the most part, and it took the Blackhawks being caught napping shorthanded to break a 0-0 deadlock late in the second period as Chris Kunitz took advantage of a defensive mishap. 

Jake Dotchin’s wrister sailed wide, but Kunitz was allowed to waltz behind the net, pick up the loose puck and put it behind Jeff Glass, nearly untouched through the whole process.

The NHL’s top goalie once again lived up to the distinction as Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside all 40 shots that came his way.

The Blackhawks put up 10 or more shots in each of the game’s three periods, including 17 in the second frame. But the All-Star netminder played and exceptional game, including stopping 10 out of 10 on the power play to keep Chicago 0-for-6 on the power play.

Yanni Gourde sealed the game late in the third with a blast to make it 2-0.

It’s a win Tampa needed, especially after finding out they’ll miss forward Ondrej Palat indefinitely.

The struggles continued for the Blackhawks, meanwhile.

Chicago has now been shutout twice in their past three games and is on a three-game skid with a 4-5-1 record in their past 10.

The Lightning could afford their losing streak. They’ve earned an opportunity to slide a little bit.

For the Blackhawks, another loss means another chance missed trying to survive in a deeply competitive Central Division.

The Blackhawks are hanging by a thread and time is running out quickly.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Colorado Avalanche’s win streak hits double digits

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The streak is now in double digits.

The Colorado Avalanche won their 10th straight game on Monday night, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

Yes, that’s 10 wins by the team that ended last season with an NHL-worst 48 points.

Hockey is wonderful, isn’t it?

The Avalanche have been pretty darn good during that streak, outscoring opponents 41-16 during that span. Scoring four goals per game on average will win you more than it won’t.

And the Avs have had success on the back end. Jonathan Bernier has been completely lights out during the streak. He is on a streak of his own with nine straight wins, becoming the third netminder in franchise history to win nine in a row after Stephane Fiset (9) and Patrick Roy (11).

Colorado’s streak is also an NHL-best this season and it’s the second longest streak in Avs history (they won 12 straight during the 1998-99 season).

The Avs are sitting on 57 points, good for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jason Zucker takes a puck to the head (video)

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How in the world did he get up?

Too many players have been getting drilled in the head lately by slap shots. It’s an ugly site to behold whenever it happens

Somehow, however, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild was able to pop right back up and head directly to the dressing room. No passing GO on this one.

The puck hit him so squarely in the helmet that it ricocheted back toward the Thomas Chabot, who uncorked the shot in the first place.

Even more insane is that Zucker was able to return to the game.

Talk about hard-headed.