DETROIT – It was a huge win for the Detroit Red Wings and what surely will turn out to be a costly loss for the Dallas Stars.
The Red Wings surprised everybody just before the second game of the NHL’s Western Conference final Saturday night by announcing that Johan Franzen, the leading goal scorer of the NHL playoffs, wouldn’t play because he’s out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms, but the setback didn’t stall their drive for the Stanley Cup.
Rookie Darren Helm, with his first big-league goal, and Henrik Zetterberg scored Detroit’s goals and goaltender Chris Osgood again was outstanding in a 2-1 victory that gave the Wings a 2-0 series lead going into Game 3 in Dallas on Monday night.
The Stars lost veteran forward Jere Lehtinen to a leg injury early in the second period of Game 2 and, given what happen at the end, they’ll probably lose Mike Ribeiro, too.
Ribeiro was assessed a match penalty as time expired. Ribeiro was behind the Detroit net, raised his stick and slashed Osgood across the chest. Osgood crumbled to the ice. The trainers rushed out to tend to the fallen goalie, but he as eventually able to get up join his teammates to the dressing room and was uninjured.
That wasn’t all. With five seconds left, Steve Ott went after Kris Draper from behind and punched the Wings’ veteran centre in the head. Ott got roughing and misconduct penalties.
“I’m fine with that,” Draper said of the Ott assault. “He threw a punch at me.
“No harm done. You get up and you go. But something like (the slash on Osgood), that’s right out of Slap Shot. (Ribeiro) just literally . . . intent to injure on our best player. I couldn’t believe it when he did it.”
Colin Campbell, the NHL’s discipline czar as director of operations, was in attendance and saw it all.
“It’s an intense series,” said Draper. “There’s a lot on the line and it’s physical but . . . that’s just crossing the line.
“The league’s been great all year about stepping in and taking care of this stuff. If it’s not a goalie and he two-hands, it could hit a player in the throat, face, teeth, whatever. You kind of shake your head at what he was thinking. It’s up to the league to step in and do what they have to do.”
Some of the Stars were complaining that Osgood butt-ended Stephane Robidas during the scramble around the Detroit net with two seconds left. Osgood said he stuck out an arm to try and ward off a hit against one of his teammates and didn’t try to butt-end anybody.
“If it did, it was an accident,” he said. “I don’t think it justifies a two-hander over the top of the net.”
Detroit’s latest win was its eighth in a row – all since Helm was inserted into the lineup and Osgood took over from Dom Hasek in the nets.
“This is as good as we played as long as I’ve been here,” said captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who earned Stanley Cup rings in 1997, 1998 and 2002.
Joe Louis Arena remained a chamber of horrors for Dallas goalie Marty Turco, whose career winless streak grew to 11.
“We played a lot better,” Turco said. “We’ve got no doubt we can win some hockey games at home.
“We’re disappointed we’re down 2-0, but it’ll be a totally different atmosphere when we get home.”
Helm, summoned from the AHL farm in Grand Rapids, Mich., in March, opened the scoring with his first NHL goal at 5:56. The 21-year-old from the Winnipeg region, who was on Canada’s victorious 2007 world junior team, took a pass from Jiri Hudler and fired in a wrist shot from the circle to Turco’s right.
Robidas tied it when he slammed in a cross-ice pass from Ribeiro on a power play at 10:41. Lidstrom had been penalized for flipping the puck over the glass in his own zone.
Referee Marc Joannette disallowed what at first appeared to be another Detroit goal. Pavel Datsyuk lifted the puck past Turco, but Joannette had seen Zetterberg touch it with a glove, and it was ruled a hand pass.
Zetterberg made it 2-1 on a power play at 15:13. With Tomas Holmstrom creating havoc in front of Turco, Zetterberg fired in a slap shot from a distance. Sergei Zubov was off for hooking Valtteri Filppula.
Detroit outshot Dallas 12-4 in the first period.
After only two penalty calls in the first, there were eight in the second – five against Detroit – and that created a mishmash of fruitless manpower advantages for both teams. Detroit had a 9-8 shots edge.
The Stars had outscored opponents 17-9 in third periods during their 13 previous playoff games so held out hope they could win this one in the third, but the Wings weren’t fretting. They allowed the fewest goals in the NHL all season so they knew how to protect a lead.
It was the Red Wings’ period. They outshot Dallas 13-6. It would end 2-1, and with Ott and Ribeiro losing their cool.
Lidstrom said he and his teammates knew it’d be a rougher game than Game 1.
“They were going to come out hard, and they did, too,” he said. “They had the puck a lot more in our end and created some chances.”
Surviving three consecutive manpower disadvantages in the first 10 minutes of the second period was a key to the win.
“Ozzie made some big saves again for us,” said Lidstrom. “We were short-handed four times in the second period but we played real well in our own end.
“We kept them to the outside and didn’t give them chances in front of our net.”
Turco heard second-hand that some of his teammates were accusing Osgood of butt-ending Robidas.
“If that’s the case, a butt-end to somebody’s face at any time is pretty gutless,” said Turco.
This series might be far from over.
Osgood seemed no worse for wear as he pulled off his gear.
“I do have a lot of padding up there but it got me in the side where I didn’t have much,” he said of the Ribeiro slash. “It did hurt a bit.
“It was kind of a full swing right to the side. But I’ll be fine, I’m sure. A little sore, but I’ll be fine.”
Notes: The overall shots count was 34-18 in Detroit’s favour . . . Detroit was 1-for-6 and Dallas was 1-for-5 on power plays . . . Detroit won 71 per cent of the faceoffs (39-for-55) . . . McCarty got the lineup opening created by Franzen’s absence . . . Dallas also made one change by sitting down D Mark Fistric and inserting Matt Niskanen . . . Dallas is 0-10 in the post-season in Detroit. The last win in Joe Louis Arena in franchise history was by the Minnesota North Stars in 1992 . . . Detroit has outscored opponents 32-12 in its 12 playoff games (10-2) this spring.