We return with our list of “top 10 series-changing moments” since the 22-year playoff streak began. See last week’s #10 through 6 …
Here’s the top five.
5. NO SUSPENSION FOR MALKIN
Situation: 2009 Stanley Cup Finals vs. Pittsburgh, Game 2
In the late stages of the Wings’ second consecutive victory to take a 2-0 series lead, Pittsburgh superstar Evgeni Malkin decided to get “bush-league” and instigate a fight with Red Wings superstar Henrik Zetterberg.
Malkin, clearly frustrated with being in a 2-0 hole to the team that crushed his Cup dreams the previous year, decided to pick a fight with 19 seconds left in the third period.
Rule 47.22 states: “A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five minutes, or at any time in overtime, shall be suspended for one game, pending a review of the incident.”
Malkin should have been suspended. But NHL vice president Colin Campbell said Malkin was not trying to send a message and did not deserve a one-game ban.
Clearly, it was hogwash. Picking a fight with 19 seconds left wasn’t trying to send a message? Suuuuuuuure.
Ask yourself this: If Zetterberg instigated the fight, would he have been suspended?
My theory is this: The NHL knew its chances of having a long series was greatly reduced if Malkin missed Game 3. Thus, he was allowed to play and the incident was written off as “not sending a message.”
Anyway, Malkin played in Game 3 and recorded three assists in a 4-2 victory that gave Pittsburgh life. He would go on to win the Conn Smythe.
Sure, the Wings have themselves to blame for losing the series – especially for a porous performance in the first and second periods of Game 7. But without Malkin in Game 3, maybe the series is 3-0 Detroit.
4. LIDSTROM’S CENTER-ICE BLAST
Situation: 2002 first round vs. Vancouver, Game 3
Full-fledged panic coursed through Hockeytown when the Hall of Fame Red Wings roster fell into a 2-0 series hole. As the Wings went into the tunnel as 5-2 losers in Game 2, one fan even decided to rip off his Dominik Hasek jersey in disgust and toss it unto the Joe Louis Arena ice surface. (We wonder: How does that fan feel today?)
Anyway, it was a helpless feeling watching Game 3 on TV as a white-towel-waving Vancouver crowd roared for a catastrophic upset. And when Todd Bertuzzi tied the score at 1-1 in the second period and tossed around Wings defenseman Chris Chelios to the delight of the rambunctious fans, doom swept through our minds.
But then everything changed.
Nicklas Lidstrom unleashed a slap shot from center ice that snuck through the glove of Vancouver goalie Dan Cloutier, off the inside of the post, and into the net with 24.6 seconds left in the second period for a 2-1 Wings lead. The image of Brendan Shanahan’s arms exulted in the air, the puck in the net, and a helpless Cloutier staring into the distance is forever remembered as the series-shifting moment.
“If I don’t let that in, it might be a different game,” Cloutier said to reporters.
The Wings would win four straight games to end the series in six, plow through St. Louis in round two, eliminate Colorado in a seven-game battle and win the Cup in five games against Carolina.
Lidstrom’s center-ice blast was instrumental for a team that sputtered before it took flight. Fittingly, he went on to win the Conn Smythe.
3. MARTY LAPOINTE’S BONEHEAD BLUNDERS
Situation: 2001 first round vs. L.A. Kings, Game 4
We really hate to remind you of this, so please trust us when we say, DO NOT search for this highlight package on YouTube. (It’s just as painful today as it was 12 years ago.)
There was less than seven minutes left on the clock in Game 4 as the Wings led 3-0. It appeared a 3-1 series lead was imminent. Heck, it was almost time for the Wings fan to think about round two.
Then it happened.
Wings forward Martin Lapointe took a careless slashing penalty with 6:17 left in regulation. Ten seconds later, L.A. forward Scott Thomas scored and the Staples Center had life.
Less than three minutes later, Lapointe took another numbskull penalty by shoving Kings defenseman Mathieu Schneider to the ice. Los Angeles went on the power play, pulled goalie Felix Potvin for a 6-on-4 advantage as Kings fans sniffed a miracle brewing in the air, and sure enough, Jozef Stumpel made it 3-2 with 2:27 left.
The all-time worst single-game playoff collapse during the Yzerman era was in the works. Kings forward Bryan Smolinski tied it with 53 seconds left in regulation, and then Eric Belanger scored 2:36 into overtime to tie the series at 2-2.
The Wings dropped Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena, then lost Game 6 at the Staples Center in overtime.
If Lapointe would have played smart, disciplined hockey – you know, STAY OUT OF THE PENALTY BOX! – then that Kings rally never happens, and we never hear stupid words such as “Miracle at Manchester Part II” and “Frenzy on Figueroa.”
Two bonehead penalties.
Two power play goals.
Two punches in the wall, just for good measure.
Oh, and guess who could have tied up Belanger’s stick on the game-winner? Yeah, that was Marty, too.
Wings fans will be quick to point out that Steve Yzerman missed the entire series with a broken fibula. And, in the midst of a three-point night in Game 1, Brendan Shanahan broke his foot, played in immense pain during Game 5, but missed the rest of the series.
However, none of that was relevant with a 3-0 lead in Game 4, just 6:17 away from a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Lapointe’s epic meltdown may have been a slight factor in his future. In the ensuing offseason, he was not re-signed. (Boston made the silly mistake of giving him $20 million over the course of four years.)
The Wings, meanwhile, had no problem with his departure and added Brett Hull, Dominik Hasek and Luc Robitaille, then won the Cup in 2002.
2. PAVEL DATSYUK’S PHANTOM PENALTY
Situation: 2007 Western Conference Finals vs. Anaheim, Game 5
Normally, we will not blame a referee for a defeat. But there are a few minor exceptions to the rule, and this is a glaring example.
We’re still searching for the infraction assessed to Pavel Datsyuk on May 20, 2007 in Joe Louis Arena. There was 1:47 left on the clock. The score was 1-0 Wings. The series was tied 2-2. And everything was looking fine and dandy with Dominik Hasek in net, Mike Babcock behind the bench, Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk on the ice.
Then the whistle blew …
How? When? Where?
The Ducks had a power play and pulled the goalie to create a 6-on-4 advantage. Two flukes followed: 1.) Johan Franzen failed to clear a puck that may have iced the game (Do not laugh. Franzen was brilliant the entire year inside his zone; his backhanded flub was startling); 2.) Scott Niedermayer’s shot in the slot hit the shaft of Nicklas Lidstrom’s stick and fluttered over Hasek’s shoulder to tie the score with 48 seconds left.
And in overtime, Andreas Lilja happened.
Thus, instead of a series lead, the Wings traveled back to California trailing 3-2 and bowed out of the postseason with a Game 6 defeat. Without a whistle on a phantom penalty to Datsyuk, the Wings – at the absolute minimum – had a Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena.
How infuriating. The salt in the open wound worsened in the Stanley Cup Finals when Anaheim blew through Ottawa in five quick games.
Without that whistle, it could have very well been three straight trips to the Cup Finals, maybe even another banner in the rafters.
Oh, by the way: The referees were Paul Devorski and Don Koharski.
1. PATRICK ROY’S STATUE OF LIBERTY
Situation: 2002 Western Conference Finals vs. Colorado, Game 6
Remember all those times Patrick Roy arrogantly held his glove in the air? All those times he rubbed it in our face?
This was karma at its finest.
The Avalanche held a 3-2 series lead thanks to Peter Forsberg’s Game 5 overtime winner that placed horror across the faces of everyone in attendance at Joe Louis Arena. And here we were for Game 6 in Colorado, a scoreless affair as the first period wound to a close.
Steve Yzerman cut across the crease and dragged Roy to the ice. Yzerman wristed a shot that was stopped by Roy’s glove, but he performed his usual, cocky gesture and raised the glove high into the air, similar to a Statue of Liberty pose.
One problem: The puck was not in Roy’s glove, it was on the ice as he exulted in fake glory.
Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov crashed the net, and Shanahan poked the loose puck into the gaping goal for a 1-0 lead with 39 seconds left in the period.
“The goal counts! The goal counts! The goal counts!” ESPN announcer Gary Thorne shouted across the TV.
Roy buried his head, covered his face with his blocker and the infamous glove. He would not recover as the Wings won 2-0 in Game 6, then hammered him for six goals in 26:28 of action in Game 7, a meltdown of epic proportions.
It all started with a play dubbed “The Statue of Liberty.”
When Roy was pulled in Game 7, Wings fans roared to deafening levels as the ghost of playoffs past was finally terminated. It was sweet redemption for Wings fans, which had to watch Roy jeer Wings forwards for five playoff series and countless regular season battles. Whenever he made a glove save, his exaggerated raise toward the skies always followed it.
Finally, it cost him dearly, and it was beautiful karma at its finest.