Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Miracle comeback rests with Bryzgalov

Categories: DET vs. PHO

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Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, centre, has struggled in the series. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, centre, has struggled in the series. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
While captain Nicklas Lidstrom is the Detroit Red Wings defenceman who gets most of the attention, the club's other Nik on the blue-line -- Niklas Kronwall -- was huge in Detroit's 4-2 Game 3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes, which put the Wings up 3-0 and on the brink of sweeping the Coyotes in this Western Conference quarter-final series.

Kronwall was plus-3 and assisted on both of the early goals that gave the Wings a 2-0 lead before the game was three minutes old.

"Lidstrom and [Brian] Rafalski are elite players but Kronwall's a guy in the organization that has to come to the forefront," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "He's capable of playing the most minutes -- power play, penalty-kill, even strength. He can be the most active.

"He's a physical guy who can really make plays and we think he's an elite player."

On the hot seat

The Wings opted for an optional skate Tuesday, while the Coyotes took to defending their much-maligned starting netminder. With a 4.11 goals-against average and an .861 save percentage, the facts of the matter are straightforward: Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov must be better to give Phoenix any chance of making a miraculous comeback in this series.

"We need him to respond well," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of his goaltender. "I think he'll come back with a very strong game. He's a solid player. He's the backbone of our team.

"When he plays well, we usually fare well."

For his part, Bryzgalov offered a simple plan.

"I think I need to stop the puck," he said. "This is my job. The more I stop, the more chances we have to win."

Shrugging it off

For the most part, the Wings shrugged off a pair of hits by Phoenix forward Taylor Pyatt during Game 3 -- one which leveled Lidstrom and another which briefly forced Wings forward Patrick Eaves out of the game.

"They were just trying to make contact on most of the forechecks," Lidstrom said.

Eaves was forced to spend 15 minutes in the so-called "quiet room" after he was checked.

"I didn't think I needed it, but that's the way things are now," Eaves said. "They're trying to protect players."

Detroit forward Drew Miller leaned more toward the thought that the Coyotes were deliberately targeting Lidstrom.

"Definitely, you try to take away the leader and go after him,'' Miller said. "They're behind, trying to fight their way back in. They're going to do what they can to get back into it."

Tippett made no apologies for his team's attempts to punish the Wings.

"You're not going to win the game without having a physical presence and a commitment to battle," Tippett said. "It's that fine line we have to walk."

Curiously, Pyatt is the son of ex-NHLer Nelson Pyatt, who played for the Wings from 1973-75.

Schlemko steps up

Tippett juggled his defensive pairings during Game 3, putting Adrian Aucoin with Keith Yandle and rookie David Schlemko with Ed Jovanovski. The result was an outstanding game from the rookie Schlemko.

Only in the lineup due to the injury to Morris, Schlemko scored Phoenix's first goal by diving down low on a power play and snapping the puck into the roof of the net behind Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. Earlier in the game, only a spectacular save by Howard on a point-blank drive kept Schlemko from scoring.

"He's been pretty good," Tippett said. "It's not as if he hasn't played this year. He's played a lot for us with the injuries to our blue-line that we've had."

Schlemko, 23, who launched his pro career with the Central League's Arizona SunDogs in 2007-08, put up 4-10-14 totals and was plus-eight in 43 games this season.

"He's a young player that's come along and given us real quality minutes," Tippett said. "We feel very comfortable with him. He's a good puck-mover, smart player."