The Dominator was at his best Friday night. The Anaheim Ducks outshot the Red Wings 32-19 but lost the opener of the NHL’s Western Conference final 2-1 because of Hasek.
“It was a stellar performance,” said captain Nicklas Lidstrom. “On one of the saves, he just threw his blocker up, with an open net, and knocked it away.”
Anaheim got a power play with a little more than three minutes left and pulled its goalie with more than two to go in a bid to force overtime. Hasek was the target in a shooting gallery but the 42-year-old Czech stopped everything the Ducks threw at him.
“Dom, what can you say? He was unbelievable for us again,” said Kris Draper.
Game 2 is Sunday night (CBC, 7:30 p.m. ET).
Detroit got a lead on Henrik Zetterberg’s power-play goal 3:44 into the game, Chris Kunitz tied it 1:34 into the third, and Detroit regained the lead with a power-play goal credited to Tomas Holmstrom at 15:06.
On the winning goal, Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf was sitting in the penalty box for slashing Brett Lebda from behind.
“It was a retaliation play that sometimes goes unnoticed,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. “This time they called it.
“He slashed the player after the player slashed his hands. It was like he got caught with his hands in a cookie jar.”
Getzlaf was downcast after stripping off his pads.
“I’m sorry I took a stupid penalty,” he said. “It’s something I have to take responsibility for and work through it and get ready for Game 2.”
On the ensuing power play, Lidstrom let go a blue-line blast. Holmstrom was standing at the front of the crease and got in the sight path of goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
The puck struck Holmstrom.
“I think it hit my stick or glove,” he explained afterwards. “I felt like it hit the stick when I turned.”
The puck disappeared from everyone’s view for a second, then plopped onto the ice and over the goal-line to the delight of most of the 19,939 in Joe Louis Arena.
Detroit’s Robert Lang was penalized with 3:19 left and Carlyle pulled Giguere with more than two minutes remaining. The Ducks had a two-man advantage as they buzzed around the Detroit end looking to force overtime. Hasek wouldn’t co-operate.
“I know one mistake and we could lose the game,” he said. “A few times I didn’t see the puck and stopped it.
“The last three minutes of the game, I was exhausted. They were scrambling. I thought it was a great defensive effort by our team. From the defensive point, the last three minutes they did a good job in front of me.”
Detroit’s superiority in special teams play also was a factor. Detroit was 2-for-4 on power plays and Anaheim was 0-for-7.
“We’ve got to get more traffic,” said Carlyle. “He made some big stops, specifically when it was 1-1.
“I think Dustin Penner had a wide-open net. He came across with his glove and stopped it.”
That was the chance Lidstrom talked about.
Red Wings fans were talking about a lot of Hasek’s saves as they filed out of The Joe.
“It was a win and it doesn’t matter how we win,” said Hasek. “They may have had more shots and maybe more chances, but we won the game and that is what counts at the end of the game.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said his players complained after pulling out the win that they should have played better, and he agreed.
“We have to play with more tempo,” said Babcock.
It was a tight-checking encounter with the Ducks aggressively looking to lay on the muscle.
“We know each game is going to be like this, low scoring,” said Draper. “It’s going to be a battle.”
Hasek was a target at times.
“They would bump into me,” he said. “One time, I think it was (Andy) McDonald gave me an elbow in the net but all I try to do is respond by stopping the puck.
“I don’t pay too much attention to what they do around me. I just focus on the puck and, fortunately, I stopped most of them.”
Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer couldn’t only shake his head over his team’s poor special-teams play.
“We can do a better job,” he said. “It is something that has been good for us up till now and we feel that we can improve on it for sure.”
Detroit had the first manpower advantage and Zetterberg’s early goal came only eight seconds after Joe Dipenta took a seat in the penalty box. Zetterberg was at the bottom of the circle to the right of Giguere when he tried a cross-ice pass. The puck struck defenceman Francois Beauchemin’s foot and caromed between Giguere’s legs.
The goal was Zetterberg’s fifth of the post-season. The 26-year-old Swede was become one of Detroit’s most valuable players since being – and this is hard to believe – the 210th player drafted in 1999.
In the sixth minute, Anaheim got a two-man advantage for 1:35 but the Ducks couldn’t put a puck past Hasek. A Getzlaf blast off a post was closest they got.
Scoring chances were few and far between as the checking got even closer in the second period. The Red Wings were still clinging to their 1-0 lead after 40 minutes. They were 5-0 when leading after two periods this post-season.
Until Kunitz struck, that is, with an assist from Getzlaf.
It started as a harmless-looking rush by the two forwards from Regina. Getzlaf delivered a pass in the middle of Detroit’s zone and Kunitz took a shot as he approached defenceman Andreas Lilja. The puck found a bottom corner of the net to tie it 1-1 at 1:35. Hasek might have had trouble seeing it in Lilja’s feet.
It couldn’t get any more intense. Dan Cleary slid to block a Chris Pronger slapshot. Pavel Datsyuk put on stickhandling displays most times he handled the puck. Hasek and Giguere were at the top of their games.
Then Getzlaf took the costly penalty and Holmstrom did his act in front of Giguere to help Lidstrom on the winning shot.
Notes: Anaheim F Todd Marchant played his first game since April 6 hernia surgery . . . Chris Getzlaf, Ryan’s brother, was the 33rd pick in the CFL draft last week and will attend the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ training camp . . . Cleary hopes to become the first native of Newfoundland and Labrador to have his name etched onto the Stanley Cup. “It’s one thing as a province we’re missing and I’m trying to bring it home,” Cleary said after the morning skate. “I know the province would be very excited, as would I. It would be a hell of a celebration.” His electrician-father Kevin was in for the second round of the playoffs and has returned to St. John’s, and his mother, Janet, who operates a clothing store, is on hand for this round . . . Most of the so-called experts picked Anaheim to win the series. Babcock describes his Red Wings as underdogs. Carlyle says the label is misleading: “It’s amazing that an underdog had 113 points and finished first in its division. We’re the underdog. They got more wins than we did. He’s just using that as a motivation. That’s fine.”