As a result of the latter, the Anaheim Ducks are only one win from the Stanley Cup final, while the Detroit Red Wings are on the brink of elimination.
Lilja had the puck in front of his team’s net when, with Andy McDonald rushing towards him to check, he fanned on an attempted pass. Teemu Selanne got the puck, deked Dominik Hasek, pulled the puck to his backhand as the goalie threw himself across the goal-line, and flipped it up and under the crossbar 11:57 into overtime to give the Ducks a 2-1 victory and a 3-2 edge in the NHL’s Western Conference final.
“I was surprised to get the puck so open,” said Selanne. “It was great to see it go in.”
It was a slick move by the 37-year-old Finn.
“Over the years, I’ve been practising that move so many times that it just came into my mind,” he said. “I know I would have to get it upstairs because (Hasek) goes down all the time and he covers all the bottom.”
Lilja sat in his cubicle in a corner of the Red Wings dressing room.
“They know who messed up,” said the 31-year-old Swede in referring to teammates who were giving him space. “I just have to put it behind me and go on to the next game.”
That would be in California on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET). NHL history shows that 80 per cent of teams that win Game 5 after a best-of-seven was 2-2 go on to win the series.
The Red Wings quickly reminded themselves amid the dejection over this loss that five years ago, when they won the Stanley Cup, they fell behind Colorado 3-2 before rallying to advance.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” said captain Nicklas Lidstrom. “We have to bounce back as a team.”
Detroit outplayed Anaheim. It had a 34-18 shots advantage through 60 minutes, but the Ducks came on strong in sudden death to outshoot the Wings 8-3 and get the precious win thanks to Lilja’s gaffe.
“That’s the way it goes in the playoffs,” said Lidstrom. “We just have to bounce back with another strong effort.”
Anaheim had forced sudden death on a power-play goal by Scott Niedermayer with 47 seconds remaining in the third period with goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere on the bench for an additonal extra skater.
Lilja scored his first career playoff goal in the second period.
The Red Wings met their goal of improved defensive play, but the Ducks got the bounces.
Lidstrom caused Niedermayer’s goal. He leaned over and placed his stick horizontal to the ice when the shot by Anaheim’s captain was taken. The puck struck the stick shaft, changed direction, and went into the top of the net. Hasek had no chance. Pavel Datsyuk had been sent off for interference with 1:47 left in the third.
“I just tried to get (the shot) away quick and get it on the net,” said Niedermayer. “Playoff hockey is tough in front of the net and you just try to get the puck to the net and that’s all I did.”
Chris Pronger, back after serving his one-game suspension for his hit to the head of Tomas Holmstrom in Game 3, was booed by many of near-capacity crowd of 20,003 in Joe Louis Arena every time he touched the puck. He could smile the contented smile of a winner afterwards.
“It wasn’t our best effort, but we did enough to win and that’s all that matters,” said Pronger.
There were three manpower advantages in the first period and the Ducks got them all, but they couldn’t get a puck past Hasek.
Lilja opened the scoring 6:13 into the second period. Ryan Getzlaf dove in an attempt to block the shot from the circle to the right of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and the puck was in the net before Giguere moved.
The Red Wings surged, and four consecutive penalties to the Ducks helped them keep the puck in the Anaheim end for most of the second period. Detroit outshot Anaheim 15-3 in the period, yet, Lilja’s goal remained the difference when the third period started.
“Jiggy kept us in the game,” said Pronger. “It easily could have been 3-0 or 4-0.”
The Ducks tried to rally but their scoring chances were few and far between, but they kept working hard.
“There’s been no quitting in this group whatsoever right from the beginning in early September of training camp right through tonight,” said Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle.
Detroit just missed going up by two goals when a Lidstrom shot clanged off a post with eight minutes left in the third.
It was one of the several lucky breaks for the Ducks, and it allowed them to be in position to tie it when Datsyuk was penalized late in regulation.
“It was a flukey goal, a bad-luck goal, but it counts like any other goal,” Hasek said of Niedermayer’s effort.
In overtime, Travis Moen was sent off for hooking at 7:53 and, for the seventh time in the game, Detroit couldn’t score with a man advantage.
“We didn’t get one on the power play in the end,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “That’s the game.”
The Ducks now need only one more win to take the conference title.
“Having home ice advantage and the crowd behind you is a good play to try to finish them but we have to play better than we did (Sunday) and we realize that,” said Pronger.
Babcock remains hopeful.
“Every team that wins every year in the end has to fight through some adversity, and here’s our opportunity right here,” he said.
Notes: Anaheim was 1-for-5 on power plays . . . Detroit RW Tomas Kopecky got his third straight start in place of Kyle Calder, who again was a healthy scratch . . . Anaheim deleted D Joe DiPenta to keep D Ric Jackman in its lineup after he subbed for Proger on Thursday . . . Anaheim also deleted LW Shawn Thornton and gave RW Joe Motzko the first NHL playoff assignment of his career . . . Johan Franzen’s eight shots on goal for the Red Wings were a game high . . . Detroit players were credited with 27 hits and Anaheim players with 22 . . . Lidstrom logged a game-high 39 minutes 21 seconds ice time. Pronger put in a team-high 35:46 for the Ducks.