Early on in the season the Wings garnered a sort of reputation as a "3rd Period Team" - a team who, even if they faltered early, seemed to get it together and pull things off in the waning minutes of the game (remember Brett Lebda and that Minnesota game?). Of course there have been some notable exceptions to this idea - in fact there have been several games where the third period proved to be their downfall (how about the subsequent L.A. disaster, or the twice-blown lead in Nashville?).
Still, in this vein, what the Wings have been succeeding at continues to be sheer relentlessness - and for the second series in a row the opponent, lauded for this same quality, has failed to match their strides. Last night the Wings post a 5-2 victory over Dallas, giving them a 3-0 lead in the series - not unsurmountable, but a whole new level of challenge for the Dallas Stars, who now sit on the brink of elimination.
Once again last night the Stars looked better than they had previously, knotting the game at two (goals from Pavel Datsyuk of Detroit and Nicklas Grossman - his first in the NHL - and Brad Richards for Dallas) until Jiri Hudler scored a breakaway goal off of a great pass from Niklas Kronwall to put the Wings up again. Shortly after, Henrik Zetterberg made a fool of Richards, beating him on a one-on-one, the goal which seemed to put an end to Dallas' hopes for the evening. Before the game was over, Datsyuk notched his third, completing the first hat trick of his career, and the third Wings hat trick in these playoffs. Even with Johan Franzen missing at least three games now, the Wings' offense has remained deadly.
Despite the "festivities" at the end of Game 2, there was little retaliation from either team in Game 3, at least of the sort that could have gotten them into trouble. While it would have been nice to see Darren McCarty wail on Mike Ribeiro just for old time's sake, I'm very grateful the Wings took out their frustrations over the whole deal in a purely winning-oriented manner. Their discipline and strength of character (with few exceptions; I concede the Osgood spear the other night) is another of their strong suits and has definitely been making a difference for them - even if Marty Turco disagrees:
"When the intensity rises, we like our chances in that regard, too," Turco said. "We don't think much of them on a personal, character level. We think that's to our advantage."Really, Marty? Don't get me wrong, I like you, but maybe you should worry more about the Wings' outstanding ability to get pucks behind you than their characters, not to mention the fact that your highly-touted play coming into this series has fallen rather flat.
Wednesday night's Game 4 in Dallas (once again at 8:00 p.m. EST) should be interesting - the Wings have an opportunity to complete their second sweep in a row and secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals, but one can only assume the Stars will be putting out all the stops to keep their spectacular season alive. I believe - but no one can completely count the Stars out yet. GO WINGS!