Physical play set Game 6 tone for Wings
But when the physicality of a playoff game hits a fever pitch – as it did throughout the Red Wings’ 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks – anything is possible, including a summersault by Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom.
In the closing seconds of the second period, Holmstrom ripped a shot from the slot that was stopped by goalie Antti Niemi. But during his follow-through, Holmstrom was simultaneously clabbered by a sub-marining hit by Sharks center Torrey Mitchell, causing the Wings’ forward to windmill through the air.
That was one of 58 collisions in a contentiously played game that was scoreless after 40 minutes of heart-stopping action.
Even Pavel Datsyuk, who only had 54 hits in 56 games this season, got into Tuesday’s hit parade, collecting three of the Red Wings’ 31 hits. He even received an uncharacteristic roughing penalty for a scrap with Mitchell following a whistle in the second period.
“Well I just think that’s the way it’s going to be,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “The longer you get in a series, more emotions come out and the more physical it will get.”
Another big hit occurred on the first period when San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray wrapped Danny Cleary head-first into the dashboards near the Sharks’ bench. Cleary skated back to the bench, where it looked as if he was a little woozy.
“Yeah it was physical,” Cleary said. “Both teams realized what was at stake. San Jose knows if you go seven it’s anybody’s game while we’re just fighting for our lives. It was a big win for us, to say the least.”
Murray, who had three hits, said, “I think it’s been physical since Game 1. It’s playoffs, it’s physical against all teams. You get players who are not normally physical during the regular-season playing physical in the playoffs, it’s just natural in these games. It’s nothing abnormal.”
The hitting in this Western Conference semifinal had already been extreme. But in Game 6, players definitely ratcheted up the physical nature of things, as the Sharks tried to end the series, and the Wings were hoping to force a returned trip to San Jose for Game 7.
“It was picked up, and I think with each game the intensity has picked up,” said Sharks captain Joe Thornton, who had two of his team’s 27 hits. “It’s tight out there and the battle level is up. And I expect that it will get even higher for Game 7.”
The winner of Thursday’s Game 7 at HP Pavilion will advance to face the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference finals, which is slated to start Sunday.
NEAR NIGHTMARE: Six minutes into the second period, Cleary skated in alone on Niemi. The Wings forward made a deke which fooled Niemi and had the Sharks’ goalie sliding to his left, but Cleary slid a shot that struck the right post.
“Yeah that would have haunted me for a while,” Cleary said. “I saw the empty net and I don’t know what happened, the puck just moved I think and went on its edge and hit the side of the post there.”
SHARK-BITTEN: The Sharks don’t care much for the predicament that they find themselves in following three straight losses to the Wings.
“We have to forget about tonight and just get ready for Game 7,” Thornton said. “We thought that we could steal one tonight, especially when you score that one goal. But we didn’t.
“Before this series you thought these teams were (seeded) 2 and 3 and so you thought it would go six or seven. It’s been a great series so far. And 25 other teams would love to be in this position right now. It’s too bad that we could finish, but we’ll try and do it in front of our home fans back home.”
DertroitRedWings.com Intern Dave Burke contributed to this report.