PHOENIX — Ruslan Salei and Drew Miller had goals 44 seconds apart to open the game, and the Detroit Red Wings scored early in each period to push Phoenix to the brink of elimination with a 4-2 win over the Coyotes on Monday night.
Detroit leveled the Coyotes in its last playoff game in the desert, eliminating them with a 6-1 win in Game 7 of last year’s first round. The Red Wings put the lights out on Phoenix’s whiteout this time with the two goals in the opening 2:41, another by Valtteri Filppula nearly as quickly in the second period and Johan Franzen’s score 45 seconds into the third.
Detroit can complete the sweep Wednesday in Phoenix after struggling to get past the Coyotes last season.
The Coyotes fell behind 4-0 in Game 2 in Detroit and, despite a raucous atmosphere inside Jobing.com Arena, were in a quick hole again. Unable to fight its way back again, Phoenix is left with little besides a face-saving chance in what could be their last game in the desert with a murky ownership issue still hovering.
David Schlemko and Ray Whitney scored for the Coyotes.
The Red Wings have skated all over Phoenix throughout the series, their waves of scoring lines keeping the Coyotes on their heels. And they’ve done it without Henrik Zetterberg, their leading scorer who missed his third straight game with a sprained left knee.
Pavel Datsyuk made up for Zetterberg’s absence the first two games, having a hand in five of his team’s eight goals (two goals, three assists). The rest of the talented Red Wings took their turn in Game 3, making it look as though there were six skaters in front of goalie Jimmy Howard at times.
And, boy, did they take the life out of the Coyotes.
Phoenix rallied with three power-play goals to make Game 2 close and hoped to carry that little bit of momentum back home, where 17,000 fans in white T-shirts made Jobing look like the inside of a popcorn popper before the game.
Juiced by the atmosphere, the Coyotes opened with several hard hits along the boards.
The Red Wings answered with a shrug and two quick, spirit-crushing goals.
Salei scored 1:57 in on a one-timer from beyond the right circle after Darren Helm knocked Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski off the puck behind the goal. Miller added to it 44 seconds later, redirecting a shot by Niklas Kronwall past stunned Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov that gave the big pockets of red-clad Detroit fans reason to be more vocal than they already were.
Howard turned back several good chances late in the first period, including consecutive kick saves on close-range shots, and Filppula drained the life from the building 2:50 into the second by flipping a shot past Bryzgalov after needing a couple of seconds to gather the puck.
Schlemko added a little life by lifting a goal past Howard late in the second period, but Franzen scored on a breakaway before many of the fans had returned to their seats in the third.
Whitney scored on another power play — Phoenix’s fifth with a man advantage in two games — on a rebound that caromed off the back of Salei past Howard, but Phoenix couldn’t get another after pulling Bryzgalov with 2 minutes left.
NOTES: Jovanovski returned after leaving Game 2 with an upper-body injury. ... Franzen played despite missing practice Sunday after a hard hit into the boards by Shane Doan left him with a bloodied face. ... Phoenix D Derek Morris still hasn’t played in the series with an upper-body injury.