Detroit's defeat came in a shootout vs. the Lightning, which gave them an extra point in the standings. The formula for the Red Wings was simple: win and they are in to the championship game against the Minnesota Wild, who had beaten the New York Rangers earlier in the day to earn their chance at the title.
The tempo was quick and energetic, as both teams exchanged several end-to-end rushes early on, but ended with few shots on either goalie. The Blues employed a dump-and-chase philosophy with top blueline pairing Ian Cole (Notre Dame – CCHA) and Alex Pietrangelo (Niagara/Barrie – OHL) shouldering the bulk of the workload. Johnston showed Detroit could stand up to the bruising Blues, as Johnston proved his peskiness on what appeared to be a knee-on-knee hit on St. Louis’ Mark Isherwood (Medicine Hat – WHL). Towards the end of the period, the aggressive Darren Archibald (Barrie – OHL) laid out Nigro in the neutral zone.
With just under 4 ½ to play in the first, the Blues got their first break when Brian Lashoff (Kingston – OHL) was whistled for interference, followed almost immediately by a slash on Ehrhardt a mere two seconds later, giving the Blues a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage. 18 year-old Czech netminder Petr Mrazek (Ottawa – OHL) stood up to the pressure, showing great rebound control. But Pietrangelo’s blast from the point found the back of the net to tie the game at 1 with 2:41 to go, which is how the first 20 minutes would finish.
The Blues’ second stanza on Tuesday almost mirrored the middle period of their contest vs. Dallas on Sunday. The referees whistled St. Louis for 5 separate minor penalties (and 12 total penalties in the game for 35 PIM’s), forcing the Blues’ penalty kill to work overtime yet again. But Detroit’s power play failed to capitalize, despite the extra time with the man advantage (including nearly a full minute of 5-on-3). Allen was calm and poised, stopping several slapshots from beyond the faceoff circles and allowing few rebounds, all the while maintaining an upright stance without being forced to move post-to-post very often. Ehrhardt showed great hustle, getting back to dive into a pass on a St. Louis shorthanded 2-on-1 rush. Meanwhile, the Blues’ Phil McRae (London/Plymouth – OHL) wreaked havoc in front of Mrazek and charging the net. But too many neutral zone turnovers resulted in too few shots for St. Louis (outshot 11-5 by Detroit in the second) and even fewer quality chances. The score remained tied at 1 apiece heading into the third.
The rough stuff continued, as Trevor Parkes (Montreal – QMJHL) was whistled for boarding nearly three minutes into the final period, wiping out a Detroit power play. Boarding (along with kneeing) seemed to be the call of the game in this contest, as Willie Coetzee (Red Deer – WHL) took a similar call to Parkes nearly five minutes later, taking Cole into the boards (Cole took a short while to get up, but was fine). Both teams exchanged end-to-end rushes but continually came up dry. But with 3:42 remaining in regulation, Tomas Tatar’s (Grand Rapids – AHL) hard charge to the net proved successful as he beat Allen to snap the tie, giving Detroit a 2-1 lead. The Wings almost immediately padded their lead, but Allen made two point-blank stops on Archibald after a St. Louis defensive breakdown led to a 3-on-1 chance for the Wings. Allen was eventually pulled for an extra skater as time wound down and the Blues’ desperation grew. But Mrazek held his ground and stopped everything the Blues threw his way. With less than three seconds in the contest, Pietrangelo got the gate for an interference call in front of Mrazek, which also earned him additional 10-minute misconduct (not a game, so he’ll be able to play today).
FINAL SCORE: Detroit 2, St. Louis 1
Detroit advances to the championship game – for the first time since the tourney’s inception in 1998 – to tangle with the Minnesota Wild for the title.
Next door at David’s Rink, Carolina had little trouble with Columbus, destroying the Blue Jackets 8-1. The Hurricanes peppered FA tryout goaltender Jason Missiaen (Peterborough – OHL) with 50 shots in the contest, with eight different players finding the scoresheet. With the win, Carolina (2-1-0) will now play for third place vs. Tampa Bay (also 2-1-0), while Columbus seeks its first victory (0-3-0) against St. Louis (1-2-0) in the seventh place game. The fifth place game pits Dallas (1-2-0) against New York (1-2-0).