DETROIT - Darren Helm has been earning the praise of his coaches and teammates for his gritty, hard-working style of play all throughout the playoffs.
All the Detroit Red Wings center had to show for his
efforts, however, was one lonely assist and a plus-minus rating of plus-1 in seven postseason games entering last night's contest against Dallas.
The 21-year-old rookie also had yet to score a goal in his NHL career, spanning an
additional seven regular-season games.
Helm picked an opportune time to crack the scoring column last night when he put the Red Wings ahead 1-0 just 5:56 into the contest en route to a 2-1
victory over the Stars for a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals.
Helm's contribution was a clear necessity for Detroit in the absence of Johan Franzen, who sat out with concussion-like symptoms.
"He's been playing hard for us and playing great," Red Wings center Kris Draper said. "Not a bad time to get your first playoff goal."
Skating in from the left wing, Helm took a pass from linemate Jiri Hudler and fired the puck top shelf from just outside the faceoff circle over the left catching glove of Stars goaltender Marty Turco.
A fifth-round draft pick of Detroit in 2005, Helm had been a healthy scratch to start the playoffs until being inserted into the lineup for Game 5 of the first-round series with Nashville. Helm's contributions have clearly made a difference, since the Red Wings have yet to lose with him on the ice.
"It's an exciting moment for me," Helm said. "I'm glad to contribute in scoring for the team tonight."
The game was marred by some ugliness in the final seconds when Dallas forward Mike Ribeiro slashed Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood with a two-hander across the chest from behind the net.
Osgood crumbled to the ice, although he was no worse for the wear except for being a "little sore" after the game. Ribeiro on the other hand will likely face a suspension.
"The league makes it very clear they're going to look after any stuff at the end of games, so I'm going to wait and see," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
"I wasn't sure what he was thinking," added Draper. "That's just crossing the line."
Ribeiro claimed after the game that Osgood purposely stuck him with the butt end of his stick, an accusation Osgood denied.
"I was just standing out there to make sure our best player Nick Lidstrom didn't get run," Osgood said. "I was just standing my ground. Whether I hit him or not, it was an accident. I mean he probably skated through my stick and that would be it."
Ribeiro was also involved in Dallas' only goal 10:41 into the second period. Stephane Robidas scored 14 seconds into a power-play chance on a one-timer from Ribeiro following a delay of game call on Lidstrom for flipping the puck over the glass.
Detroit answered right back with 7:34 left in the period when Pavel Datsyuk chipped the puck over Turco's shoulder in front of the net, but the goal was disallowed after Henrik Zetterberg was called for a hand pass on the play.
The next Zetterberg-Datsyuk scoring combination was allowed to stand, though, and proved to be the game-winner.
While Turco had his hands full with Tomas Holmstrom in front of the net, Datsyuk lasered the puck to Zetterberg on the right wing, and he slapped it past the outstretched left pad of the Dallas netminder for a 2-1 lead with 4:47 left in the first period.
The goal extended Zetterberg's seven-game point streak and tied him for second in the NHL in scoring with 15 points in the playoffs.
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