ST. LOUIS, Missouri -- The Blues did not necessarily play their best. The Red Wings certainly did not play their worst. The score definitely does not reflect the full play of the game. But in terms of the series, that doesn't really matter. What does matter now is that the Blues won the game 6-1, cutting their series deficit to 2-1.
St. Louis did as they intended to do and got their first lead of the series only 2:49 into the game, but it didn't last them very long. Pavol Demitra took a shot on net from the right wing side. It deflected off the stick of Keith Tkachuk on its way and under Dominik Hasek into the net.
Only forty-nine seconds later, the Red Wings answered with a goal of their own. Chris Chelios passed the puck from the right point across to Brett Hull near the left side of the net. Brent Johnson came across to cover the expected shot, but instead of shooting Hull passed across to Pavel Datsyuk, who put the puck into the empty net.
Unfortunately, that was the last bright spot of the game for the Wings. Late in the period, the Red Wings had to kill off over a minute of a five-on-three penalty from overlapping calls on Kris Draper and Brett Hull, and the Blues were able to take advantage of this and regain their one-goal lead. Al MacInnis was able to get the puck from the blue line up to Scott Mellanby near the goal line, and Mellanby's tight-angle shot went off Hasek's hip and into the net.
The play went back and forth in the second period. The Red Wings had several chances to score, but Johnson was ready for anything they could throw at him. Steve Yzerman took a hooking call near the end of the period, and Tkachuk's deflection of a Chris Pronger shot gave the Blues a two goal lead.
Tkachuk scored again to complete the hat trick less than two minutes into the third period. Pavol Demitra put a centering pass between the legs of Datsyuk and Mellanby in front of the net, and Tkachuk slapped it past Hasek.
The Red Wings had three power play chances of their own after this; fifteen seconds overlapped, giving them a very short five-on-three. Nothing worked. Johnson stood his ground, and the puck stayed out of his net. Demitra stepped out of the box at the end of his penalty, ending the five-on-three, and the puck came right to him. Demitra was off on a breakaway, and beat Hasek for the goal with 10:34 remaining.
The Red Wings bench pulled Hasek after that, sending in Manny Legace for his playoff debut. The puck was no kinder to Legace: Jamal Mayers gave the Blues one more goal, getting away on a two-on-one rush and firing a quick wrist shot to propel the puck beneath Legace and into the net.
Shots were 28-18 in Detroit's favor. The series will continue Thursday night in St. Louis.
Notes: Personal from the writer: The fans at the Savvis Center did not throw their hats onto the ice for Keith Tkachuk directly after his third goal. They waited until the hat trick was announced, even though play had already resumed by that point. Granted, many of them did not realize that it WAS a hat trick at first, because the second goal was originally credited to Chris Pronger, but littering the ice with hats, giant foam playoff novelty items, and other debris WHILE THE PUCK IS IN PLAY is extremely dangerous to players of both teams, and no good way for a fan to act. Show your support after the whistle?no matter what happens, you know there will always be another whistle soon?.
To any Detroit fans who will be doomsaying tomorrow, let me cut you off before you start. Did you seriously expect them to win sixteen straight games????? What's WRONG with you????? Even though the fans may forget it occasionally, the Heroes of Hockeytown are as human as we are. It's still a seven game series, and the Red Wings still lead. Go with that.