Pressure can be a funny thing. It can cause some things to crumble. It can cause some things to choke. But, it can turn other things to diamond. Facing elimination in Denver and given the chance to show what they were made of, the Red Wings began to crystallize. Their 2-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche carries the Western Conference Final on to its seventh game.
The game began with strong pressure at both ends of the ice. The Detroit bench shuffled its lines almost continuously, making it difficult for Colorado to match up against them, even though the Avalanche, as the home team, had the last change. The Red Wings' defensemen jumped up into the play to try to capitalize on scoring chances, and passing and puck control were strong.
In spite of their calmly intensified play, the Red Wings were not able to break through Patrick Roy's goaltending wall until only thirty-seven seconds remained in the first period. Steve Yzerman fired a shot on net from close range, but didn't lift it quite high enough to get over Roy, who was flopped down on the ice. Roy thought he had the puck in his glove, but he didn't. As he stood up to show the world what a save he had made and kept safe in his catching glove, the puck trickled down towards the net, and Brendan Shanahan tapped it in for the goal.
The second period continued in much the same way. The ice opened up for nearly three minutes of four-on-four hockey due to offsetting minor penalties, but neither team was able to take advantage of it. Dominik Hasek lived up to his reputation and turned away every single scoring chance the Avalanche could get past the tighter Detroit defense. The Red Wings first penalty kill of the game was very patient and kept the puck sailing down to Roy's end of the ice.
Finally, Detroit increased their lead. Martin Skoula gave up the puck to Darren McCarty in the Red Wings' zone, and McCarty was away on a two-on-one with Kirk Maltby. All the way down the ice, McCarty looked as if he would pass the puck, but instead he shot it on net. Just as in Game One, he had Roy's number, and the puck flew into the net cleanly.
The Avalanche had a chance to come back within one when McCarty was given a slashing penalty, but they ruined it. In an attempt to gain a five-on-three advantage, the Colorado bench called for an equipment check on Hasek's goal stick, accusing the Red Wings' goaltender of having a paddle with a width larger than NHL regulations allow. The stick was measured and found to be well within the legal limits, and the Avalanche received a delay of game penalty for the baseless accusation.
The Red Wings continued to control the game in the third period. Most of the time was spent in the Avalanche zone and in center ice?and as any hockey fan knows, a team can't score if they can't bring the puck to the other team's net.
A team also can't score when the net is filled by a red-hot goaltender. Hasek continued to come up huge when he was called upon, making saves with all his regulation-sized equipment, including his shiny helmet. The defense and goaltending stood up even in the face of six Colorado attackers after Roy was pulled from net with just over 2:30 remaining, and the Avalanche fans at the Pepsi Center filed quietly out of the arena.
The shots were 28 to 24 in Detroit's favor. Game Seven, the game that carries all the weight of the entire series, will be Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Notes: Colorado's Stephane Yelle suffered a neck strain in the second period and did not return to the game. Alex Tanguay and Dan Hinote were both out with injuries... This was Dominik Hasek's fourth shutout of this year's playoffs, tying the NHL record... How is Steve Yzerman's knee holding up? "Oh, I'm fine," he told reporters. "I'll just let Sergei skate the puck up and down the ice all night and then cruise in behind him!"
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