Ducks look nothing but beat in Game 5
DETROIT -- Did the Anaheim Ducks walk all the way to Detroit for Game 5?
Because they sure looked tired Sunday evening while losing to the Red Wings 4-1, a score that didn't come close to measuring up to the real story on the ice. The 38-17 shot differential was more telling.
This was men against boys. A four-line, fresh-legged Red Wings outfit skating circles around a one-line, ragged Ducks squad trying to come up for air.
"No, for sure, we did not. We did not," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said when asked if he saw a high enough level of competition from his squad. "I thought at times we looked like worn down or whatever word you want to use to describe it."
Worn down works for us, Randy.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock prophetically pointed out early in the series that, eventually, the minutes would catch up to Ryan Getzlaf and the big Anaheim line. Bingo. And perhaps also catching up to the Ducks these days is their well-deserved but hard-earned first-round win over the President's Trophy winners in San Jose, while the Wings got to rest after a four-game sweep of the playoff newbies from Columbus.
The Wings have rolled four lines in this series, and do they ever look fresh. The defending Cup champs have plenty of juice left for another month of this business.
"I think it's to our advantage to roll four lines," said Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom. "It helps us set the tempo."
It has caught up to Anaheim and Sunday was the ugly result.
"They have four good lines and our lines weren't able to compete with them," said Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, who tried to keep it close with a 35-save effort.
One sequence in the second period Sunday underlined the discrepancy in play in Game 5. The Wings controlled the puck for close to two minutes and decided a little Harlem Globetrotters was in order when Hart Trophy candidate Pavel Datsyuk flipped the puck over the cage from behind the net and nearly set up Daniel Cleary for a goal. Hey, when you're getting bored, you need to entertain yourself.
"There are no excuses," said Ducks veteran Teemu Selanne. "We were not mentally ready and we didn't deserve it. They were better and more energetic. They were better in every area."
Game 6 is Tuesday night in Anaheim with the Wings one win away from exacting revenge for a 2007 playoff series loss to the Ducks and, more importantly, moving one step closer to the Western Conference finals.
The Ducks, meanwhile, need to find a second gear or get a monster effort from Hiller to have any chance to play one more game at Joe Louis Arena.
"We have played a lot of games, but it shouldn't be a factor in the second round," Hiller said. "If you're tired, you can still hit, you can still work hard. A lot of it was mental. We just didn't compete."
The Ducks nearly stuck around long enough Sunday to commit one of the ultimate thefts in NHL playoff history. With the shots reading 34-13 Detroit and the score still only 2-1, Ducks forward Erik Christensen nearly jammed in a loose puck, which would have tied it with less than four minutes to go in the third period.
"We had a chance at 2-1, but we had no business being there," said Selanne.
Instead, Detroit goalie Chris Osgood made one of the few saves he had to make on the night and the Wings came all the way back down to seal the deal. Impressive youngster Darren Helm compensated for another hard-working night with a rebound goal with 3:08 left in the third period.
"Definitely nice to get that one. It's been a while," said the baby-faced Helm, whose last NHL goal was in last season's playoffs.
He's a great example of why Detroit will once again be so hard to beat. The depth this team has, even in a salary-cap world, is mesmerizing. This guy would be a second-line NHLer on many a team.
"It's great to see him get rewarded," Lidstrom said of the 22-year-old forward. "He uses his speed all the time. It's great to see the way he's playing."
Helm spent most of the season in the AHL, playing in 16 regular-season games with the big club before once again becoming a playoff fixture. He appeared in 18 games last spring and won his first NHL championship.
"This is a guy who was such a huge part of our Stanley Cup championship last year," said Game 5 linemate Cleary. "But he goes down this year basically because of the cap. He's such a hard worker and he's probably the fastest guy in the league.
"That was a huge goal tonight at a critical juncture. That was a dagger."
Babcock promoted Helm from the fourth line to the third unit between Cleary and Hudler, and he played 12:19, almost double his normal fourth-line fare.
"He definitely gave me a challenge and I wanted to try and prove I could fill that role," Helm said of the coach's move. "I had to hold on to the puck more and make more plays."
On his backbreaking goal, he put home a rebound in the slot. Nothing fancy, but a goal he'll never forget.
"It's great to see," said Wings veteran Kirk Maltby. "Especially a guy who works so hard. Maybe this summer when he's telling people about that goal, it'll be a coast-to-coast goal. But either way, he'll take it."
Helm may also tell his buddies back home in Manitoba his big goal came in a pivotal Game 5 when the 2008 champs left the '07 champs in their dust.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.