DETROIT – As scoring droughts go it wasn't quite to biblical proportions.
But in the playoffs, any little shortage on offense can spell doom, which is what made Brendan Smith’s third-period goal so ginormous for the Red Wings, who had gone more than 101-minutes without scoring a goal before Smith buried his first in more than 14 months.
“I didn’t even get a regular-season goal this year,” an elated Smith said after the Red Wings’ 3-2 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks in Monday’s Game 4 thriller.
The Red Wings and Ducks now return to Anaheim tied at 2-2 in their Western Conference quarterfinals. Game 5 is Wednesday at Honda Center.
“To get a playoff goal is unbelievable. It’s quite a thrill,” Smith said. “I want to get that puck. It’s really cool. It was a big goal for our club, so I was really excited about it.”
Before Monday, the Red Wings had out-scored 8-1 in the last three third-periods of the series. But they played with a much higher level of urgency Monday, and doubled their third-period offensive production on goals by Smith and Pavel Datsyuk.
Smith was just one of the young players to shine for the Red Wings Monday night at Joe Louis Arena. The rookie defenseman also drew an assist on Datsyuk’s goal that tied the game late in the third, sending the game to overtime for the second time in the series.
Both Wings’ victories in the series have come in OT with a rookie getting the game-winner. Forward Gustav Nyquist scored the winner at 1:21 of OT in Game 2 in Anaheim.
First-year NHL star Damien Brunner scored the Game 4 winner for Detroit. The Swiss forward banged a rebound past Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, who faced 49 shots. Nyquist and rookie center Joakim Andersson (two assists) got the assists on the game-winner.
Asked about winning goal from the player who skated the fewest minutes Monday, coach Mike Babcock said, “He’s a guy that just flat out scores. He’s going to be a good Red Wing in time. He’s going to learn how to play right. He’s going to learn how to play heavy. You don’t have to be heavy to play here, but he’ll figure this stuff out.”
KRONWALLED: It was a perfect first-period storm with all of the makings of a colossal Niklas Kronwall collision.
The Red Wings’ defenseman jump over the boards on a change as Ducks center Kyle Palmieri carried the puck out of the Ducks’ zone. The slow developing play gave Kronwall ample time to survey his target.
“He tends to do that,” center Valtteri Filppula said. “He times his hits really well. That was a good one today, too. I think it gives us a lot of energy and hopefully he keeps doing that and he’s smart with the hits too, which is big for us.”
As Kronwall skated across the neutral zone he quickly set his sights on the unsuspecting Palmieri, who was moving across center ice with his head down. Kronwall came in low, turned his hips and skated backwards before leveling a huge hit on Palmieri.
BAD BREAK: The Ducks took a 2-1 lead midway through the third period, taking advantage of a Red Wings’ miscue in front of the net.
While trying to get back into the play, rookie defenseman Brian Lashoff knocked over goalie Jimmy Howard. As both players fell to the ice at the side of the crease, David Steckel, the fourth-line center, was left undefended in front to fire the puck into an empty net at 10:40.
“Me and Kindl were out there for a little while there, so we were just trying to get it up to the forwards. I think it was Gus’s line out there, they had some speed so we wanted to get it out of our zone as quick as possible. … I was definitely relieved when we scored.”
DISALLOWED: The Red Wings thought they had scored the tying goal for the second time in the third period when Johan Franzen attempted a wrap-around on Hiller. The puck went off the goaltender’s right leg pad.
Referee Eric Furlatt frantically waved his arms signifying no-goal with 7:19 left in regulation.
“The puck never completely went across the goal line,” Furlatt announced to the disapproving crowd, “therefore no goal.”
But 46-seconds later the Red Wings had their tying goal when Datsyuk fired an absolute laser beam as he streaked down the left wing.
AVOIDING A SHUTOUT: The Red Wings went more than 101 minutes without scoring a goal in this series, which was finally snapped when Smith scored his first career goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Smith’s goal prevented the Wings from a second consecutive shutout loss in the playoffs, which has occurred twice before in franchise history. The last time the Wings were shutout in back to back games was in the Western Conference semifinals as Calgary put together a pair of 1-0 wins to clinch the series.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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