Just two years removed from winning their first Stanley Cup and having knocked off the top-ranked San Jose Sharks in the opening round, the Anaheim Ducks may be the most feared eighth seed in playoff history.
Certainly, the second-ranked Detroit Red Wings, no less than the defending Stanley Cup champions, might be inclined to agree following a 2-1 loss to the host Ducks in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal at the Honda Center on Tuesday night.
Scott Niedermayer's power-play goal 8:16 into the second period proved to be the winner as the Ducks took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"He is a difference maker," Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood said. "If we're not watching him, he is going to burn us like he has in past series."
Detroit's Marian Hossa looked to have forced overtime with 65 seconds remaining, but a hasty whistle negated the tying goal.
"We were lucky there," Ducks netminder Jonas Hiller said. "You're always going to get good calls or bad calls against you, but I always say, 'To be lucky you have to fight for it' and tonight we fought for 60 minutes — that is why we deserved to be lucky at the end."
Parked behind the net, Pavel Datsyuk poked the puck into the crease, where it sat next to Hiller's right pad until Hossa swept it into the open net.
But referee Brad Watson ruled that he lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead.
"I just saw it lying there on the goal-line and I just dove and thought for sure it was in, but he blew the whistle right when I touched it," said Hossa, who led the Red Wings with 40 goals during the regular season.
"Sometimes it happens and it's frustrating, but the game is over. We just have to [work] through that and keep battling."
"I didn't know where the puck went," Hiller admitted. "I saw it on the replay after [and] it was definitely an early call."
Detroit peppered Hiller with 46 shots, including all 18 he faced in a lopsided third period.
"He has seen a lot of rubber, that's for sure," Ducks defenceman Chris Pronger said. "We don't want to play the way we did in the third with the lead."
Osgood stopped 21 shots in a losing cause for the second-seeded Red Wings.
'I just got a little break'
Teemu Selanne opened the scoring for the Ducks 12:49 into the first period on a breakaway, beating Osgood with a low shot inside the right post for his third goal this post-season.
"I just got a little break," Selanne said. "It was a great pass from [Ryan] Carter."
It remained 1-0 until Niedermayer chipped his own rebound over Osgood's left shoulder for a power-play goal, his second of the playoffs.
"We have got to watch him," Osgood said. "He gets in the play a lot of times.
"He will make the first pass out of the zone, but be one of the first players in the offensive zone. Or close to it."
Henrik Zetterberg replied 4:04 later with a power-play goal, poking in a loose puck at the right post for his fourth.
"I thought we had a real good start to the hockey game," Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. "We played a pretty textbook-style playoff game until the third period."
Detroit dominated the third period, but failed to solve Hiller — at least until the controversial no-goal at the 18:55 mark.
"There is no sense worrying about that now," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. "We controlled the majority of the game."
"We should still be playing obviously, right now. We have just got to make sure we stay determined and stay focused."
Of concern for Anaheim is the status of James Wisniewski, who was struck in the chest by a slapshot from Red Wings sniper Pavel Datsyuk in the second period.
As he stood reeling in the slot, the veteran defenceman was elbowed in the face by Tomas Holmstrom and fell to the ice.
Wisniewski was spitting up blood as he kneeled on the ice, and later taken off on a stretcher and transported to UCI Medical Center in Orange County, Calif., where he reportedly was treated for a lung contusion and kept overnight.
Game 4 goes Thursday night at the Honda Center (7:30 p.m. PT).