ANAHEIM, Calif. – It’s rare for the Detroit Red Wings to lose three straight in the postseason, but when it happens it is usually at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks took their first lead over the Red Wings in the Western Conference semifinal series on Tuesday night with a 2-1 victory in Game 3.
Anaheim could take control against the defending Stanley Cup champions on Thursday night if they win again on home ice. That would give the Ducks a 3-1 edge before the series shifts back to Detroit for Game 5.
Detroit hasn’t lost three straight playoff games since 2007 when the Ducks did it to them in the conference finals en route to their Cup championship. Anaheim also swept Detroit in a first-round series in 2003.
A slow start on Thursday could put the second-seeded Red Wings into a deep hole against surging Anaheim.
The Ducks are gaining confidence daily as they build off their first-round elimination of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks.
“We have stayed out of the penalty box early on against them and we have to get our legs going early in the game,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.
“They’ve had some power plays early on that have given them some momentum, whether they score or not.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock would also like to see more early spark from his team. Detroit is trying to become the first NHL team to repeat as Cup champion since the Red Wings did it in 1998.
“We have to get started on time,” he said. “The last two games, if I’m not mistaken, we had a power play right at the start of the game, both power plays I thought we were uneasy.”
Detroit has outshot the Ducks 80-34 in the third period and overtime, but the Red Wings have scored only twice against stingy goalie Jonas Hiller during that time.
“We did lots of good stuff, we just have to keep going and keep grinding,” said Detroit forward Marian Hossa, whose potential tying goal with 1:09 left Tuesday was waved off because the referee lost sight of the puck.
“There are lots of loose pucks and rebounds. We just have to keep after them. Sooner or later a rebound will come to us and we’ll put it in.”
While Babcock indicated the Red Wings will not make any lineup changes for Game 4, the Ducks could be without James Wisniewski.
The defenceman was hospitalized Tuesday night because of a bruised lung. Wisniewski was struck in the chest by Pavel Datsyuk’s slap shot during the second period and was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Wisniewski has meshed with the Ducks’ veteran defencemen since being acquired from Chicago in a March 4 trade.
“He stepped in and played an important role for the team since he got here,” said Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer, who will likely increase his already heavy workload if Wisniewski sits out.
“He was a guy who was out killing penalties and on the power play. He plays in all situations.”
Anaheim could look to add to the lineup a young defenceman such as Brendan Mikkelson, Brett Festerling or Brian Salcido. Veteran Bret Hedican remains sidelined with a back injury.
“We’ll have to make adjustments and find a way to get it done,” Niedermayer said.
The Ducks were also angered by Tomas Holmstrom’s elbow to Wisniewski’s head just seconds after Wisniewski was hurt by Datsyuk’s shot.
“What would you think if you were doubled over and gasping for air and someone gives you an elbow in the side of the head. How would you feel,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.
Niedermayer was careful not to unload his feelings about the hit.
“I have a couple answers, but I’ll stick with a boring one,” he said. “Everyone is definitely responsible for what they are doing out there. You make decisions about how you are going to act and carry yourself.
“I haven’t seen what happened, but if that is what happened, you be the judge.”
Holmstrom denied intentionally nailing Wisniewski with his elbow.
“I had no idea I hit him,” Holmstrom said. “I didn’t see him, I had no idea he was behind me.”
Babcock also downplayed the hit.
“From my perspective when I’m watching this series, come on, it’s like a rodeo after every whistle,” he said. “Every whistle could be a penalty. I don’t know how one play would be anything.”