Jimmy Howard made 28 saves and Valtteri Filppula scored the eventual game winner, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a 4-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in Glendale on Monday.
With the win, Detroit now holds a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Ruslan Salei, Drew Miller and Johan Franzen were the other goal scorers for the Wings, while defencemen Niklas Kronwall pitched in with two assists.
It didn’t take long for Detroit to pick up where it left off in the first two games of the series with Salei scoring at 1:57 of the opening frame to give the Wings a quick 1-0 lead.
Miller scored less than a minute later to give the Wings a defining 2-0 lead after a relatively harmless Kronwall wrist-shot from the point deflected off him, fooling Coyotes’ goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, and sneaking over his left shoulder into the net.
Filppula made it 3-0, providing what ended up being the game-winning goal for Detroit after he won a draw to the left of the Phoenix goaltender, gradually sneaking behind him to the opposite face-off dot and receiving a cross-ice pass from Jiri Hudler, eventually waiting out a sprawling Bryzgalov and putting the puck into the empty net.
David Schlemko gave his team hope on the power play with his first career NHL play-off goal after Kyle Turris broke into the Detroit zone, smoothly dropping the puck to Mikkel Boedker who fed the puck cross-ice to Schlemko, catching Howard out of position and allowing him to find the back of the net.
Franzen took any momentum Phoenix may have had away when he scored for Detroit just 45 seconds into the final period after being hit with a breakaway pass up the centre of the ice from Jonathan Ericsson, proceeding to rip a wrist shot past the glove of Bryzgalov, increasing the deficit to 4-1.
Ray Whitney ignited the crowd once more when he scored the Coyotes’ second power-play goal of the game with seven minutes remaining in the third after receiving a nice pass from Radim Vrbata.
The pace, excitement, and intensity of the game was evident from the opening face off as the rivalry these teams share came out with each hit, with 27 in the first period alone, along with the innumerable scrums that ensued.
Howard was forced to make several big saves throughout the game, especially early on, in order to allow his team to hold on to a firm lead.
Although Coyotes captain Shane Doan had an inspiring performance in game two, he was unable to get a point in game three, though he was able to deliver several of the aforementioned hits.
Despite the evidence, Phoenix did come out of the gates hard, but the combination of stellar goaltending and a versatile Red Wings offence was insurmountable.
Phoenix’s chances coming into this game didn’t favor the “desert dogs” as Detroit came into the contest with a record of 19-4 over their 20-year play-off appearance streak when winning the first two games of a series.
Notes: Franzen was in the line-up tonight despite taking 23 stitches as a result of a hit-from-behind by Shane Doan. The Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg sat out again and hasn’t played since April 6 due to a lower-body injury.