Feel-good hit of the season? Not for Ducks
The shot that should be remembered is Nicklas Lidstrom’s pouncing on his own rebound, miraculously alone in a shifting sea of bodies, and rifling the puck past Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller with 49.1 seconds left in the third period to give the Detroit Red Wings a 3-2 victory Friday in the opener of the teams’ second-round playoff series.
The shot that will resonate for the remainder of this matchup between the last two Stanley Cup champions is Mike Brown’s first-period hit on Detroit’s Jiri Hudler, which left Hudler bleeding profusely from his forehead and the Red Wings furious over an infraction they believe merited more than the five-minute penalty and game misconduct Brown got.
As fierce as the battles were along the boards and in front of Hiller and Chris Osgood -- and those tussles were relentless -- the postgame verbal volleying was hotter. The NHL might add a suspension to Brown’s tab -- which includes the power-play goal the Red Wings scored during that advantage -- and that can’t happen soon enough to please the Red Wings.
Hudler, who missed a chunk of the first period to get stitches above his left eyebrow and questioned whether he’d be able to play in Game 2 here Sunday, said the hit came well after he had released the puck.
“He’s so far away,” the Czech center said. “So you don’t honestly think about a guy . . . we’re playing hockey and it’s playoff hockey.”
Coach Mike Babcock was more emphatic.
“It was a vicious, dirty hit,” Babcock said. “The league’s got to decide. The league and the players’ association are big on protecting guys’ heads, so I’m going to be like you and watch and see.”
Hold on, said Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle. “Physical contact is allowed. We timed the hit from the time he passed the puck . . . there wasn’t a second that went off the clock.”
He also contended Brown hit Hudler legally, with a shoulder. “Hudler was admiring his pass,” Carlyle said. “They can say all they want about a dirty hit. That wasn’t a dirty hit. You’re allowed to take the body in this game.”
Brown also said it was a clean shoulder-to-shoulder hit. Referees Kelly Sutherland and Marc Joannette called it interference, a curious call.
“I was just playing physical and taking the body. I don’t know if he was in a vulnerable position or not, but I was just taking the body,” Brown said. “I think his visor might have hit him in the head.
“I don’t know if it was because he was lying on the ground or got hit by his visor that made the refs make the call, but I just played it like any other hit.”
It hit the Ducks in several ways. Brown is a valuable member of their penalty killing unit, and in his absence Carlyle probably overplayed Ryan Getzlaf, who had a game-high 27 minutes 55 seconds of ice time. Detroit scored its second goal on a power play too, going two for six. The Ducks were one for three.
“Double is not what we’re looking for,” Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger said.
Not unless it’s on the scoreboard, but the Ducks never got there.
They did score first, at 7:28 of the first period, when Corey Perry took a pass from Getzlaf and fired a shot over Osgood’s left shoulder. Detroit pulled even when Johan Franzen scored 64 seconds into the power play on the Brown penalty, dodging Francois Beauchemin at the Ducks’ blue line and darting deep on the right side for an easy score.
Lidstrom, a finalist for his seventh Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman, put Detroit ahead at 14:24 of the second period while Beauchemin served a hooking penalty. Brad Stuart faked a shot and then passed to Lidstrom for a shot from the left circle that bounced past Hiller.
Even so, the Ducks had the tenacity to tie it at 2-2 at 19:43 of the second period, when Teemu Selanne scored from the left circle while Scott Niedermayer provided a distraction in front during a four-on-three advantage.
Hiller stopped 17 shots in the third, including Franzen’s breakaway out of the penalty box early in the period, but he couldn’t do much with Lidstrom’s decisive shot.
“I was a little surprised how alone he was there in the slot,” Hiller said. “He was patient enough to wait until I moved a little bit and he put it five-hole.
“It’s a tough one, especially right at the end there, but we played well and it’s a good base for the next game.”
A base for a lesson for the Ducks? Or for escalating the fierce tension between the teams?
“I think we had the determination and the work ethic and all that,” Niedermayer said. “Definitely some mistakes. Definitely too many penalties. Some mistakes, maybe, on their goals.
“We’re disappointed obviously because we felt we could have had the game.”
They didn’t get the game, and they took a hit from the Red Wings that might be followed by a rap on the knuckles from the NHL.
They’ve overcome adversity many times this season, primarily in rising from 12th to grab the eighth playoff spot late in the season. Rebounding from this loss will be their stiffest challenge yet.