GLEDNALE, Ariz. – Coyotes defenseman Mathieu Schneider spent three-plus seasons in Detroit, so it doesn't surprise him at all to see the poised and polished Red Wings take over nip-and-tuck playoffs games late – and with a flourish
"That team … they hang around and they hang around, especially on the road," Schneider said. "You have to put a team away when you have your opportunities because when they get theirs, they aren't going to waste them too often.
Just as in Game 4, when the Red Wings blew open a tight game with goals 25 seconds apart to draw even with Phoenix in the best-of-7 series, the Red Wings used goals by Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk 70 seconds apart to snap a 1-1 tie and break Phoenix's resolve in the process Friday night in a 4-1 win in Game 5 -- and a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference Quarterfinal.
One minute, the Coyotes were pressuring Detroit, forcing rookie Jimmy Howard to make huge saves – as he did twice in a Martin Hanzal breakaway bid in the third period. The next, the seasoned Wings are scoring in bunches and teaching the Coyotes about playoff hockey – something in which they have participated for 19 straight seasons.
"We were a little bit on our heels in the second period ," said Holmstrom, who scored his 40th career playoff goal by doing what he does best – bull his way to the crease and collect garbage goals. "We said, ‘Let's play our game, get the puck deep on them.' It goes down to the wire each game with them. We played pretty solid hockey."
The Coyotes, meanwhile, were up and down -- and in the space of a minute in the third period, two coverage breakdowns left two playoff veterans in position to ruin a night's work.
Adrian Aucoin lost Holmstrom on the way to the net, and watched as Holmstrom soaked up a Nicklas Lidstrom rebound and, on the second try, swept the puck into the unprotected net. Two shifts later, defensemen Zbynek Michalek and Ed Jovanovski both chased puck-carrier Johan Franzen, leaving Datsyuk all alone in the slot to go up high over Bryzgalov with the backhand.
"These games are very tight. Every single play is a play that can have a bearing on the game," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "There are spurts where one team grabs the momentum over the other, but it's what you can do with that momentum. The last two games, they've (responded with) a couple of quick plays that have put the game out of reach."
So the Coyotes, who led 1-0 and 2-1 in the series, now face their first deficit and playoff extinction all at once – along with the prospect of returning to Joe Louis Arena in a quick-turnaround Game 6 Sunday afternoon. Lose, and this series is over that quick.
"We travel (Saturday) and it's going to be a long flight," said Hanzal, who blamed himself for missing an open net with a juicy rebound after Howard stopped his initial shot on the breakaway five minutes into the third period. "We have to get together and put everything on the next game. We can't do anything about the other games."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said the two saves by Howard was the difference, and gave his team a chance to make big plays on the other end. Now the challenge is to play better than last Sunday afternoon, when they played a listless Game 3 at home and lost 4-2 to Phoenix.
"We dropped the ball in (Game 3), and it's very important how we handle this and respond," Babcock said. "You don't want to give them any life whatsoever. They've got a good team and a good goaltender. You don't want to tempt the fates and come back here."