Forget the rout indicated by the 6-1 final score, or the territorial advantage suggested by a 50-33 shot advantage.
To be sure, the Detroit Red Wings outplayed the gritty but ultimately overmatched Phoenix Coyotes pretty much from the moment the puck dropped at 8:10 p.m., MST. But the decisive seventh game, as well as the series, basically came down to three minutes of hockey (RECAP | BOX SCORE).
With the Wings holding a 3-1 lead late in the second period, Detroit forward Drew Miller was sent to the box after hauling down Keith Yandle. That gave the Coyotes power play -- so effective while scoring three goals in Game 6 -- the chance to close the gap and generate some momentum heading into the final stanza. Just 48 seconds later, Detroit's Brad Stuart was penalized for hooking Ed Jovanovski as he was about to capitalize on a glorious scoring opportunity.
So there it was: a five-on-three opportunity for 1:12.
What followed was Phoenix's best burst of sustained offensive pressure. Not surprisingly, all of the action was generated from the back end. Between Mathieu Schneider, Derek Morris and Keith Yandle, the Dogs fired four shots on net, saw three bids go wide and had two others blocked as they controlled the puck for the duration and turned the Detroit zone into a shooting gallery.
It was an impressive display of firepower. Only problem? Nothing got past Jimmy Howard or the bend-but-don't-break defensive corps of the Wings.
That failure alone might have been enough to deflate a Coyotes team whose legs were starting to weaken under them. But then, the turning point. Moments after hopping out of the box, Stuart pounced on an errant pass from Lee Stempniak as it skittered through the neutral zone, danced around Yandle then sent a wrister toward Ilya Bryzgalov. The weak shot bounced off his blocker, over his shoulder and into the net to give Detroit a 4-1 lead and start the miserable parade to the exits with just 4.6 seconds left in the second period.
Full marks to the Coyotes, who gave an honest account of themselves in the third, but the game was over the minute that puck crossed the goal line. And they knew it.
Nick Lidstrom was a deserving first star on the night, scoring a pair of power play goals. Pavel Datsyuk dazzled with two of his own, including the critical opening tally 2:01 into the second and a spectacular backhand-forehand move that doubled the lead just 1:41 later. But as obvious as they were offensively, it was the 72 stalwart seconds of defense crafted by them, Howard and Niklas Kronwall that ultimately turned the game, and the series, in Detroit's favor.