A season that featured so many highlights for the Coyotes and so much unpredicted success fizzled Tuesday night with a 6-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the best-of-seven Western Conference Quarterfinal series at Jobing.com Arena.
The Red Wings, who have reached the Stanley Cup Finals the past two seasons, dominated the Coyotes throughout the game, and if not for goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who made 44 saves, the final score would have been even uglier.
Detroit ousthot Phoenix 50-33.
"I thought their top players came out and dictated the pace and we had no answer for them,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “They were relentless and when their top players play like that, that whole group just jumps right in. Hats off to them, they played an unbelievable game. We had no answer no matter what we were doing. They just turned it up another level that we couldn’t get to tonight.”
He added, "The reality is we just got thumped."
Nicklas Lidstrom had two goals and an assist, Pavel Datsyuk scored twice, and Henrik Zetterberg and Brian Rafalski each notched three assists to lead Detroit, which beat the Coyotes three out of four times in Glendale in this series.
"They played unbelievable," said Bryzgalov, who kept the game scoreless by stopping all 17 shots he faced in the first period. "You can say maybe we didn't play good enough, maybe we had some mistakes. It's tough to say, but they were unreal tonight."
Detroit scored four goals in the second period to seize control. Datsyuk netted the first two. His second goal - see KEY MOMENT below - was quite spectacular.
Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler pulled Phoenix to within 2-1 at 8:23 of the second period when he scored a goal as part of a face-off win in Detroit's zone. To their credit, the Red Wings didn't let Fiddler's goal rattle them and they quickly regained the two-goal cushion when Lidstrom beat Bryzgalov with a slap shot from between the circles on a power play less than six minutes later.
After the Coyotes failed to score on a five-on-three advantage that lasted for 72 seconds, Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart popped out of the penalty box and notched an unassisted goal with five seconds left in the second period to end the drama.
"Our big guys were fantastic today," Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock said. "I'm not taking anything away from anybody else on our team, but the big guys really came to play. To be successful at this time of year, that's what you need."
After the game, Coyotes fans gave their team, which set franchise records for wins (50) and points (107) in a season, a standing ovation. The players raised their sticks in gratitude before leaving the ice for the last time before next season.
Tippett, who likely will be named one of three finalists for the Jack Adams Award on Wednesday, praised his players for the way they battled adversity all season.
"This is a very special group of players," Tippett said. "The camaraderie and the way these guys interact, it's very rare. There's a lot of things that really went very well for this group this year. It's a good foundation."
Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk scored two goals 1:41 apart early in the second period. His second goal capped a breakaway that Henrik Zetterberg helped set up with a precise pass through the nuetral zone during a four-on-four sequence. After receiving the puck, Datsyuk skated in on Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, froze him with a backhand-to-forehand deke and then gently lifted the puck into the net.
• The Coyotes again played minus captain Shane Doan, who also missed Games 4, 5 and 6. After Game 7, Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett revealed that Doan suffered a Grade 3 shoulder separation in Game 3 on April 18 and that the standard recovery time for that injury is at least three weeks. The fact that Doan was even practicing the past few days speaks volumes about his desire to play and commitment to the Coyotes. (Click here to watch a post-game interview with Doan.)
• The Coyotes went 0 for 5 on power plays on Tuesday, and were 0 for 23 combined in Games 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7.
• Center Martin Hanzal won 14 of 19 face-offs and generated a game-high eight shots on goal.
• The Coyotes again failed to escape the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the sixth time in six tries since moving from Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996.
• The Coyotes scratched Paul Bissonnette, Shane Doan, Petteri Nokelainen, Viktor Tikhonov and Jim Vandermeer. The Red Wings scratched Doug Janik, Jakub Kindl, Daniel Larsson, Brett Lebda, Brad May, Thomas McCollum, Derek Meech, Logan Pyett, Mattias Ritola and Jason Williams.
"It's hard to put words together when you suffer a loss like that... It's not the way you want to go out."
"It’s terrible. It’s a tough pill to swallow. No one in here wanted the season to end today. They’re a great team and... they deserved to win that game."
"If you're going to go deep into the playoffs you have to be able to play well on the road and we've been able to do that in this series. They've been a tough opponent. It took us seven games."
• GAME 3: PHX 4, DET 2
• GAME 4: DET 3, PHX 0
• GAME 6: PHX 5, DET 2
• GAME 1: PHX 3, DET 2
• GAME 2: DET 7, PHX 4
• GAME 5: DET 4, PHX 1
• GAME 7: DET 6, PHX 1
1 - 0 DET