DETROIT – There’s getting caught out on a long shift and then there’s getting caught out on a long shift.
Drew Miller and his fellow penalty killers experienced just that in Game 3 Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Niklas Kronwall had a shift length of two minutes and 46 seconds and Patrick Eaves was out there for 2:15.
But both of those shift lengths paled in comparison to the ones Miller and Jonathan Ericsson had to endure with Brendan Smith in the penalty box for holding. The stopwatch wasn’t clicked off on their shifts until it read 3:15.
“Three minutes, that must have been some sort of record,” Ericsson smiled after the game. “I was kind of standing still there in front of the net for a little while so I was able to catch some big breaths. I wasn’t as tired after three minutes as I was after two I think.”
Normal shift length for forwards is roughly 45 seconds and a bit longer for defensemen.
Penalty kill shifts tend to be shorter, as teams try to get quick changes as soon as possible.
“I’d like to forget that one,” Miller said. “It was a long one. When you get stuck on the penalty kill there it’s tough to get off. You try and stay tight, guys were blocking shots and Jimmy (Howard) made some big saves for us. The key is to just to survive it and get off the ice as fast as you can when you can. You have to fight through long shifts like that.”
Not helping matters was the fact that Smith’s penalty occurred in the second period, which meant the Wings had to cross center ice to get a shift change.
“We were pretty tired, we got caught out there and we couldn’t get the puck out,” Eaves said. “They had a lot of skill on the ice and had the puck. We just tried to keep them to the outside.”
Miller was playing in just his second game back after breaking his right hand on April 20 in Vancouver.
“That’s one of those shifts you don’t want to have but you try to get through it,” Miller said. “I felt like my legs were a lot better (Monday). You’re on the penalty kill trying to kill it off and you get stuck out there. From there it’s just desperation, you try and get through it and get the puck out.”
Miller blocked three shots on the three-minute plus shift, finishing with four total to go along with three hits.
“He does all the little things right, blocking shots, getting in on the forecheck, penalty kill and just working hard,” Howard said. “That (penalty kill) was huge. I think (Miller) blocked about five shots on the penalty kill. He’s such a key player for us. He does his job so well.”
Once Smith was released from the box, he joined the play giving the Wings three defenseman on the ice and two forwards.
It took another 1:15 until Detroit could finally get a clear long enough to get a change.
“They had some good chances,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “(Chicago) held onto the puck for a long time there. We stayed composed and Howie was there when we needed him.”
The Wings killed off all four of the Blackhawks’ power plays in Game 3.
“The biggest improvement we’ve seen with him in the lineup is our penalty kill,” Carlo Colaiacovo said. “(That) shift there in the second period I think he blocked five shots in a row. It was huge for that line to get a goal as well. Millsie is a guy who skates real well, blocks shots, plays with that edge, finishes checks and he’s been really key to us since he’s been back.”
The kill was huge and it may have been the spark the Wings’ offense needed as Gustav Nyquist scored just under four minutes later and it was followed up 31 seconds later by a goal from Miller.
“And (Miller) got rewarded with a goal, it just shows you that hard work pays off,” Howard said.
After scoring a goal on their first power-place chance in the series, Chicago has gone 0-for-8 with the man advantage.
“We weathered the storm there and then Gus made that great move to score and fortunately our line got out there and caused a little havoc down low,” Eaves said. “We jammed one in. It was a huge second period. You always want to set yourself up for the third period.”
Over half of Miller’s ice time, 6:25, came on the penalty kill.
“I take pride in the penalty kill and I want to get it done and killed off. Scoring a goal is big, too. I’ll take both. How about that?”