A bad penalty and a bad giveaway capped what was, in general, a really bad night for the Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings came home to Joe Louis Arena Saturday with big expectations and a new-found confidence after an overtime win in Anaheim Thursday.
That new-found confidence, though, turned into a new way to lose.
The Ducks defeated the Red Wings 4-0 Saturday to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series.
No loss is pretty but this one was particularly ugly.
The Ducks aren’t world beaters but the Wings didn’t play well enough to beat anyone in Game 3. Offensively they were impotent, especially five-on-five. Still the Wings might have wished one into the net and survived.
That is, until two undisciplined plays did in the Wings.
The end began when Wings forward Justin Abdelkader went airborne to hit defenceman Toni Lydman. It was 0-0 at the time but 18 seconds after the penalty, it was 1-0 Ducks.
Then after doing a good job of killing the rest of the major penalty and getting a power play of their own early in the third, the Wings’ Damien Brunner tried to beat Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf in front of Jimmy Howard.
Getzlaf relieved him of the puck, walked around the Detroit goaltender and scored to make it 2-0.
That was the end of line for the Wings.
For what it’s worth, Wings coach Mike Babcock thought the Abdelkader hit was clean.
“(Abdelkader’s) shoulder hit his shoulder, and the kid went down hard,” Babcock said. “They called it a major. I’m not involved in the next part of the process. He’s a big guy. He hit him hard. To me, it was a hard check.”
The officials did not signal a penalty after the original hit.
“These referees are no better than the players and the coaches,” Babcock continued. “They are trying to make the right calls and get to the Stanley Cup final. They are trying to do the right thing, you talk about it and try to make the right decision.”
It appeared that at the end of the check, Abdelkader jumped and his arm extended, leaving Lydman woozy. He had to be helped to the dressing room.
Abdelkader earned a major for charging and a game misconduct, as well as an appointment with sheriff Brendan Shanahan.
Ducks’ coach Bruce Boudreau wasn’t going to wade into whether the hit was worthy of a suspension or not.
“For what I gather, the league has done a pretty good job on these things and I’m not going to say anything,” Boudreau said. “Mr. Shanahan can look at it and read into it what he thinks. We just want our guy to be OK.
“(Lydman) is not feeling like celebrating right now. He’s got a good headache.”
One thing the hit did do was crank up the Ducks.
Getzlaf found Corey Perry in front of Jimmy Howard. Perry tried to jam the puck in but Howard made the save. He couldn’t stop the rebound that Nick Bonino fired into the top of the net.
“It got the guys a little angry,” Bonino said of the hit. “Nobody wants to see a teammate take a hit to the head. It gives you a little jump in your step.”
The real cruncher came early in the third after the Wings killed the rest of the major and Brunner presented Getzlaf with the the gift.
“There’s 11 seconds left in the power play. It’s time to get off the ice and get on with it,” Babcock said of the turnover. “There’s lots of time, be patient, play hard. We came unraveled after that.”
In previous years, the Wings would not have made those kinds of mistakes, wouldn’t have come completely unraveled and would have had a puncher’s chance of coming back.
But these aren’t the Wings of the past and it was never more evident than Saturday night.