The Detroit Red Wings picked a bad afternoon to have their penalty kill disappear.
In a stunning repeat of Game 1, the Phoenix Coyotes cashed in on three power plays, plus a short-handed goal during a 4:50-stretch of power play for the Red Wings. That lead to a 5-2 victory in Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena, and a return trip to Glendale, Arizona for a seventh game of this Western Conference Quarterfinal on Tuesday.
The Red Wings had 20 more attempts attempts than the Coyotes, but found that Ilya Bryzgalov had stepped up to the plate, making 31 saves.
The scoring was spread around for Phoenix. No player had more than two points, and five different players scored the goals: Lauri Korpikoski, Mathieu Schneider, Radim Vrbata, Wojtek Wolski, and Taylor Pyatt. Brad Stuart and Darren Helm scored for Detroit.
Detroit outshot, outhit, and won the faceoff battle. But it wasn't enough to overcome not just an anemic penalty kill, but only their second short-handed goal of the year.
Jimmy Howard made only 24 saves, but it's hard to blame this loss on him: his defense left him hanging on a couple of plays.
The game started out with three Phoenix penalties in the first 4:42, including 1:10 worth of five-on-three. But it was Phoenix who scored first. Korpikoski took advantage of a neutral-zone turnover and came streaking into the zone, shaking off Henrik Zetterberg, firing a 15-footer that went through Howard's wickets and into the net for his first of the playoffs unassisted.
In the second period, Phoenix would increase their lead with Tomas Holmstrom sitting in the box. Lee Stempniak would put the puck on Schneider's stick, and his shot worked through traffic and past Howard to earn his first of the year. Taylor Pyatt earned the second assist.
Just 24 seconds later, the Red Wings would respond. Stuart would swipe the puck and push it towards the net, where Johan Franzen fired a shot that Bryzgalov handled. But the puck started bouncing through the traffic, where it returned to Stuart who hit from 30 feet, earning his first goal of the playoffs. Pavel Datsyuk would also earn an assist.
But the Red Wings penalty kill would fail again: with Kris Draper sitting, the Red Wings would win the faceoff, but not clear the puck. Eventually, Robert Lang pushed the puck to Vrbata, who lifted the puck up and past Howard for his second of the season.
In the third, the Coyotes would get yet another power play tally. This time, it was Pyatt who redirected a Keith Yabdle shot into the net while Henrik Zetterberg sat idle for tripping. Derek Morris earned the second assist on the play.
The Wings would close the scoring, as a Helm slapper got through Bryzgalov, but Martin Hanzal desperately swung back to retrieve the puck. The on-ice officials waved it off, but on the review, it was clear that the puck cleared the goal line, and the ruling was overturned to get Helm his first goal of the payoffs, with Kronwall getting the only assist.
So it will come down to one game on Tuesday night for the right to keep playing.
Player of the game: Darren Helm. He needed to get on the scoresheet, and he did with the late goal. Too bad it was too little.