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The Malik Report

Red Wings-Sharks Game 4 wrap-up: Nick Lidstrom’s team survives to fight another day

The Detroit Red Wings will end up paying a $2,500 fine (five octopuses’ worth of disorderly conduct tickets) to San Jose International Airport as the Wings chose to head west on Red Bird II despite long after the airport’s 10:30 PM curfew—the Wings landed in San Jose at 1:30 AM PDT—after defeating the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Friday night, staving off elimination and reminding the ever-confident Sharks that the supposed speed bump along the Sharks’ way to a Stanley Cup championship isn’t ready to roll over and die just yet.

So the Sharks are putting tickets for Sunday night’s Game 5 on sale today at 10 AM PDT, and while the Sharks rallied from a 3-0 deficit and pushed the Wings very, very hard, Dan Boyle told the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch that it wasn’t that Nicklas Lidstrom stepped up and scored two goals, nor that the Wings’ crowd helped lift a team that looked to be on the ropes, or at least attempting to win in rope-a-dope fashion, to a much-needed, confidence-building win against a team that’s become a boogeyman. No, instead, the Sharks failed to complete their first playoff sweep because they came out flat, surrendering three goals:

“One could argue we lost that game in the first 17 or 18 minutes,” said Sharks blueliner Dan Boyle. “We were a little sloppy defensively. Regardless, we showed some character, we showed some heart. We fought back. Unfortunately, at the end, they showed more poise than we did and got the winning goal. We certainly fought. We just needed to show a bit more poise coming out of the gate early. It probably cost us the game.”

The good news is the Sharks still have a 3-1 lead and can close this out at home Sunday.

“We wanted to finish it here,” said Boyle. “I’m not happy with the split. I don’t think anybody here is. We all wanted to win and now they’ve got momentum on their side. We need to get back to work and use our home-ice advantage.”

As NHL.com’s Brian Hedger noted, the Sharks lost to the Wings at Joe Louis Arena exactly one year ago Friday, and Boyle and the Sharks seemed to suggest that a team that’s supposedly evolved to the point that it “owns” the Wings simply had a hiccup:

“We fought,” said Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, whose second-period marker cut Detroit’s lead to 3-2 and made it a game again. “We certainly fought and got a big goal at the end of the first period. Got one in the second and got one in the third. We just needed to show a bit more poise coming out of the gate early and it probably cost us the game.”

Those three early Red Wings goals had this game all set up for a Detroit remake of last season’s Game 4 rout. It certainly had that same feel, especially after Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom scored his second goal of the period and fourth of the series to put his team up 3-0 with just 1:59 left in the first. Instead, Logan Couture gave the Sharks new life just 15 seconds later—after his sharp-angle shot that he flipped at the Red Wings net from just above the goal-line snuck between Jimmy Howard and the left post to make it 3-1 Detroit. Ryane Clowe assisted in that one and also had helpers on San Jose’s next two goals, as Boyle scored at 13:44 of the second and Dany Heatley tied it 3-3 just 1:14 into third.

At that point, much of the life was sucked out of Joe Louis Arena and Red Wings fans were getting that same old feeling they’d had in seven previous one-goal losses to the Sharks in the past two postseasons—all decided by scores of 2-1 or 4-3. By the time the Sharks got a pair of power plays on penalties to Todd Bertuzzi and Justin Abdelkader in the first half of the third, it seemed almost like a foregone conclusion that San Jose would again find a way to come out on top. The fact Helm changed the trend was beside the point for San Jose coach Todd McLellan—who’s happy his team is still up two games heading back home after two performances that he considers sub-par.

“I like the fact that we were resilient when we weren’t playing real well,” McLellan said. “We found a way to claw our way back into it. Early in the game and even in the second period, we didn’t have our legs. Detroit won a lot of races to loose pucks. They deserve full marks for the win. They were the better team. We have to regroup.”

Ryane Clowe suggested to Hedger that the Wings have yet to ding the Sharks’ confidence...

Q: Sum up the mood in the room right now.

Clowe: It wasn’t a heart-breaking loss. It wasn’t like we blew a lead or anything. They scored at the end of the game and they deserved to win. They were better. They probably deserved to win last game, but you know what? We came back tonight and kept going. We had a couple power plays there in the third and that would’ve been a good opportunity. We won two at home, then we came in here and got a split, so we’re still going back in command, up 3-1. We won the last game and lost tonight in the last minute and we weren’t close to being on top of our game, so we’ve just got to regroup. Give them credit. They’re a good team, but we’ll be better.

Q: Did it feel like an uphill battle for most of this game, Ryane?

Clowe: Yeah, we were chasing mostly. It felt good when we scored early in the third and I thought we might do it there. We had a couple power plays pretty close together and it was a good opportunity. The power play was there last game and the PK was here tonight, so we’ve got to try and get it together.

Q: How do you explain giving up the 3-0 lead in the first?

Clowe: It’s funny, because we have been so good on the walls and having composure … details early. They’re do-or-die right now, so it kind of went the opposite. Just little details on the goals. Didn’t have the coverage. Weren’t very good on the boards in our own end. They had a lot of momentum. We were chasing too much.

Q: Can you talk about the sustained pressure they put on Antti Niemi leading up to that last goal?

Clowe: They had a couple shifts there, where they had sustained pressure, but at that stage you’re breathing heavy and you’ve got to get the puck out. That’s just one of those things where you’re tired and you lose coverage. Obviously it was a wide-open cage.

And, regarding his decision to first jostle and then drop the gloves with Justin Abdelkader before Abdelkader could doff his mitts, getting a few sucker punches in at the end of the game—and incident for which both Clowe and Abdelkader got double minors for roughing? Well, that was simple, as he told the Dettroit News’s Ted Kulfan:

Ryane Clowe assisted on all three Sharks goals, but it was his scuffle with Justin Abdelkader at the end of the game which had Wings fans angry. Both players were assessed roughing penalties.

“Just a little scrum,” said Clowe, who brushed off the incident.

Clowe wished it was another Wings player involved in the fracas rather than Abdelkader.

“I wish it was (Niklas) Kronwall lined up against me,” Clowe said. “Oh well.”

Clowe did admit to the Free Press’s George Sipple (who penned a superb game narrative) that the Sharks committed the same mistake that the Wings have so very regularly in chasing the puck carrier...

“We harped so much on being good on the walls, having some composure early, detail early because they’re do or die right now,” Clowe said. “It kind of went the opposite way. Just little details. Didn’t have the coverage, weren’t very good on the boards in our own end and they had a lot of momentum. We were chasing too much.”

The Sharks insisted to the Mercury News’s Mark Purdy (and Purdy argued that the Sharks now “own the Wings” before the game) that they’ll simply rebound and finish off the Wings on Sunday. Purdy agrees, suggesting that Mike Babcock’s suggestions that the Wings can rally with two games to be played in San Jose are silly, and that the Sharks are the ones who can decide whether to “allow” the Wings to claw back into the series:

We’ve got to be hard from the start,” said goalie Antti Niemi, in his succinct Finnish way.

“Our start wasn’t good enough,” agreed forward Patrick Marleau, who is still pointless in this series and needs to end that streak. “But we were right there. I guess the key is to not let them get up on us.”

Say this much, as well: Friday had a much different feel than Game 4 a year ago in the same building, when the Sharks were also holding a 3-games-to-none lead over Detroit. Our beloved Los Tiburones then basically decided to take a spring vacation during the entire first period and fell behind 5-0 on the way to a 7-1 embarrassment. That lopsided result made a Detroit comeback seem more possible—but the Sharks won Game 5 back at HP Pavilion to finish off the Wings. You’d think that the one-goal loss this time would give the Sharks even more confidence they can close it out at home once more. Right?

“I don’t know if it matters,” said the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski. “I think we took a little energy out of them. It kind of started out the same way as last year. We showed a little courage, I think, in coming back. Other than that, it’s hard to say.”

Give some credit to the Joe Louis chorus, too. With about three minutes left in the third period, as the Wings began pressing and buzzing around the Sharks’ net zone, the crowd noise became almost a palpable entity. Three shots by Detroit hit Niemi, all stopped. Then came a faceoff between Pavelski and the Wings’ Darren Helm that nobody really won.

The Mercury News’s David Pollak picks up the narrative from the faceoff...

“It was a 50-50 puck. We kind of had it, and it bounced over a guy’s stick or whatever as we were coming out,” Pavelski said. “They fired it back in, and now we’re broken down a little bit. Guys are sliding around in desperation.”

Niemi made one more save on a shot by Brian Rafalski, but a cross-ice pass went straight to Helm’s stick, and he had a wide-open net in front of him.

Initially, it seemed as if the eerie nature of this series, which has almost mirrored the events of a year ago, would continue as Bertuzzi got the first Red Wings goal—just as he did exactly 365 days earlier. And he scored it at 6:22—only 42 seconds later than the one he potted in 2010. A little less than 12 minutes later, it appeared the rout was on once again as Detroit got two goals by Lidstrom—one at even strength when he pounced on a rebound off Niemi’s pads at 11:09, the other when he batted the puck out of the air and bounced it toward the net on a power play at 18:01. But 16 seconds later, a turnover by Helm led to a goal by Couture, who deflected Clowe’s shot from a harsh angle past Howard, and the Sharks felt they were back in the game.

“Going into the end of the period 3-0, we would have been in a little bit of trouble,” Couture said, “but to get that goal kind of changed the momentum a little bit.”

San Jose narrowed the gap to 3-2 when Boyle pinched into the right faceoff circle, took a pass from Kyle Wellwood and scored at 13:44 of the second period. The Sharks then drew even at 1:14 of the third period when Heatley went unnoticed into the slot, took a pass from Clowe and punched it past Howard. Sharks coach Todd McLellan said that while disappointed in his team’s start, he did like its resiliency even when it wasn’t playing very well.

“We found a way to claw ourselves back into it, but again, early in the game and even throughout the second period, we didn’t have very good legs,” he said, acknowledging Detroit was the better team and won a lot of the battles for loose pucks. “We’ve got to go home now and regroup and get better in that area.”

The Sharks weren’t happy with their power play, as Pollak noted:

The Sharks are having trouble getting both of their special teams clicking at the same time. After tying things at 3-3 early in the third period Friday night, San Jose earned its only two power-play chances for Game 4. The Sharks failed to score on either one after getting two goals with a man advantage in the previous game. Meanwhile, San Jose’s penalty kill did give up one goal after killing 1:56 of an interference call against Ian White, but otherwise kept Detroit off the score sheet on three other occasions.

“We had a couple power plays pretty close together and it was a good opportunity,” Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said after Game 4. “The power play was there last game, and the penalty kill was there tonight—we’ve got to try and get it together.”

Even going 0-for-2 on Friday night, the Sharks power play against Detroit is still improved over its paltry 8.7 percent success rate in the first-round matchup with the Los Angeles Kings. With four power-play goals on 17 chances, the Sharks are operating at 23.5 percent efficiency against the Red Wings. Overall, San Jose’s power play has a 15 percent success rate in the postseason, ahead of only the Boston Bruins among the six teams whose Stanley Cup hopes are still alive.

Overall, the Sharks believe that they at least learned enough from Friday night’s setback to advance to the Western Conference Finals on Sunday, as they told the Sharks’ website’s staff:

[“E]arly in the game, and even throughout the second period, we didn’t have very good legs tonight. It was hard to find six or seven guys that really skated well and Detroit (had more),” McLellan said. “They won a lot of races to loose pucks and they established body position over loose pucks and did a better job of it than we did. They deserve full marks for the win. They were the better team. We’ve got to go home and regroup and be better in that area.”\
...
“We have an opportunity to win at home,” McLellan said. “We’re going to learn from this one. We’re going to go back and work on our game tomorrow and be better. Recovery from a lopsided loss or one by one goal, it doesn’t matter. You lost the game and move on.”

“We came in here and got a split and we’re still in command 3-1,” Clowe said. “We won the last game and lost tonight in the last minute and we weren’t close to being on top of our game. Give them credit, they’re a good team.”
...
“We need to get back to work and use our home ice to our advantage and get back to starting quickly and playing well,” Boyle said.

The Sharks’ press corps’s master of bombast, Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Ray Ratto, technically speaking, grumbled about Sharks’ fans’ disappointment at the fact that there was no handshake line at the end of Friday night’s game:

No complaining about a penalty discrepancy, or the bad luck that accompanies late-game scrambles, or even the odd goals Detroit got to establish their lead. Detroit was better, and that was that.

“They get a goal on a spinarama,” Boyle said, describing Todd Bertuzzi’s opening score at 6:22 of the first, “and one that a guy bats out of the air (Nicklas Lidstrom’s second, which he actually one-hopped into the bet at 18:01), so there’s some bad luck, but you have to live with those. That’s the game.”

For the most part, though, the Red Wings created their breaks by winning the battles to which McLellan referred. The best San Jose can say of this game is that it wasn’t the 7-1 piano-wiring of a year ago, which frankly is a generous interpretation. The Wings have now improved their play in each game from a fairly low threshold in Game 1, and have found the gaps in the Sharks’ game. But the Sharks also found some inner reserve that prevented the 7-1 thrashing this might have been. Couture scored on a tip-in of a Ryane Clowe drive 15 seconds after the Lindstrom grounder, Boyle pinched and took a sweet pass from redoubtable Kyle Wellwood at 13:44 of the second to find an open net and make it 3-2, and Heatley took a pass from Clowe at 1:14 of the third to tie the game and turn a loud Joe Louis Arena crowd into a grumbly, fingers-up-to-the-man crowd.
...
A proud team decided it was not yet a good day to die. They still have to decide that three more times, of course, and the Sharks have much to say in the interim. But for one night, the Red Wings showed why beating them is such a big deal. Because it comes at such a cost in effort and stress.

We’ll let the AP’s Larry Lage’s recap shift our focus from the Sharks’ side of things to the Wings’ version of events, but not before noting several comments from the out-of-town “experts”:

TSN’s Bob McKenzie stated the obvious in suggesting that the Wings capitalized on their scoring chances; the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek rather ironically gushed about the Sharks’ overtime dominance; the Sporting News’s Ray Slover pointed out that the Wings may have received a break on Bertuzzi’s goal as Danny Cleary’s left skate preceded the puck over the blueline; Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon argues that both teams have room for improvement going into Sunday’s game; the National Post’s Michael Traikos filed a solid recap; Lidstrom and Helm merited second and third-star status in Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski’s take on Friday’s games, and it was only the Hockey News’s recap which sounded a bizarre note:

THN’s Take: It’s not often a team finishes the playoffs with a 4-4 record: sweeping in Round 1, getting swept in the second round. And the Detroit Red Wings barely made sure it didn’t happen to them. The Wings looked their age after crashing the net and carrying the play to build a 3-0 lead in 18 minutes, but running out of gas after to be thoroughly dominated. San Jose erased its third third-period deficit in four games 1:14 into the final stanza, but a Darren Helm score with 90 seconds to play stanched Detroit’s collapse. Make no mistake, however, San Jose deserved to win this game. Detroit will have to play a full 60 minutes Sunday to further extend the series.

That sounds like Ken Campbell, who’d hoped to depart for a Vancouver-San Jose series on Saturday, wrote the “blurb” up. It’s rather vicious, and, quite frankly, so was the Detroit News’s Terry Foster’s quote-less recap, who’s still comparing the Wings’ faults to “blemishes.” He’s just waiting to swing the “dynasty is dead” scythe, and his take is as ugly as Campbell’s.

The Wings didn’t deny that they won a close, close game, as the AP’s Lage noted:

“For us it was an overtime game, a game we obviously had to win,” Helm said.
...
“It’s a great feeling just finishing on top and finally getting a win,” said captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who scored twice in the first period to give Detroit a three-goal lead that slipped away.
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Detroit is trying to become the fourth NHL team to win a series after trailing 3-0.

“We think we have an opportunity,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

Helm told the Ottawa Sun’s Garrioch that the Wings may have faltered at times, but they showed some serious team spirit while staving off the “R word” for Lidstrom, Chris Osgood, Kris Draper (who was superbly physical and downright nasty at times) and Mike Modano:

“Some guys may not be back, this might be one of our last chances to have a really good team so yeah you want to win and play hard for everybody in here,” said Helm. “It’s about the logo on your chest. There’s a lot of pride in this dressing room and guys knew it was a desperate situation and they didn’t want to be embarrassed by being swept. We feel like we have a good chance here. We have an opportunity to win Game 5 and hopefully we can keep those guys (older teammates) around a little longer.’’

Though there was plenty of retirement talk surrounding Lidstrom after the Wings fell behind 3-0 with a 4-3 OT loss in Game 3, he sent notice there’s a lot of hockey left by scoring twice and leading the charge. After Bertuzzi opened the scoring with a beauty in the first, Lidstrom then scored twice. Once from the circle at 11:09 and then on the powerplay to give the Wings a 3-0 lead. He took matters into his own hands.

“It was very important to come out with that strong start,” said Lidstrom, who played 22:42. “It was important to get those goals early on. I thought we played with a little bit more desperation. Even though they climbed back into the game, we were still staying within our gameplan.”

What was said before the game?

“We’ve got to go out there and play with confidence,” said Lidstrom. “We know we can play and we just have to go out there and do it. We’ve said a lot of things in here but now it’s time to go out there and do it.”


Jimmy Howard, who gave up 3 goals but was still superb in not surrendering a fourth and stopping 25 shots, stated the obvious to NHL.com’s Dave Lozo:

“I just told myself tonight, whatever happens, just keep battling because you never know what can happen,” said Howard, who stopped Patrick Marleau from point-blank range seconds after Helm’s goal. “Don’t quit. And what can I say about the guys who played in front of me? Those guys did an absolutely tremendous job. Even though they came back, guys stuck with it, stayed patient and found a way.”

Nicklas Lidstrom, who scored his third and fourth goals of this series during the first period, felt the Red Wings’ perfect start was a necessity for staving off elimination.

“I thought we played with a little bit more desperation,” Lidstrom said. “Even though they climbed back into the game during that third period, we stayed within our game plan and were able to pull it off there in the end.”

Lidstrom was particularly impressed by Todd Bertuzzi’s spin-o-rama and backhand goal, which opened the scoring…

“It was great to see how he controlled the puck and got it on net,” said Lidstrom, who would turn what was a candidate for goal of the second round into the second-prettiest goal of the night later in the period. “He had a guy on him that he spun away from. It was great to see him make a play like that.”

It turns out that Bertuzzi had a slightly different motivation than one might think, as DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose noted. Bertuzzi felt that Devin Setoguchi slew-footed him off the opening faceoff (which he did), and Bertuzzi responded with a goal, an assist and the kind of hard-charging play that the Wings had hoped he’d bring in Games 1-3, chugging up the ice with speed and protecting the puck well to help the Wings generate and sustain a solid forecheck:

“I thought that it was a pretty noticeable slewfoot and should’ve been called,” Bertuzzi said. “But that stuff happens and I’m just glad we won and get out to San Jose.”
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“It’s just playoffs,” said Setoguchi, who scored the Game 3 overtime winner. “It’s the guy you line up against and you play against, nothing really going on there. Just playing and competing, that’s what playoffs are all about, that’s about it.”

While Bertuzzi was clearly angry at Setoguchi, who used his right leg to take Bertuzzi down hard from behind, the two players continued to jaw at one another from their team benches. And though Bertuzzi landed hard on his back side, he didn’t take the worst of the hit. That went to linesman Derek Amell, who was crushed between the big power forward and the boards. A few shifts later, Bertuzzi got the ultimate hockey payback when his second goal of these playoffs gave the Wings a 1-0 lead at 6:22 of the first period. Bertuzzi entered the Sharks’ zone and spun away from Dany Heatley before back-handing a laser from the middle of the right face-off circle, which was re-directed off of Douglas Murray’s stick and into the top half of the net.

“I got a good pass up there and just tried to take it to the inside and I got it moving in the right way,” Bertuzzi said. “I got around them and tried to get a good hard shot on the net and it was nice to see it go in.”

For the Wings, several themes were repeatedly revisited after the game, with the first being the fact that the Wings killed off two third period penalties while the Sharks were threatening to take the lead, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted…

“That’s when we needed it the most,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “The game was on the line, it was tied, and they could have gone ahead with a goal. We responded real well.”

After the Sharks had scored twice in Game 3, and had four power-play goals in the series, the Wings made an adjustment focusing on the Sharks entry — which led to so much success in Game 4. The Sharks had a much more difficult time setting up Friday. The Wings’ pressure upset the Sharks’ rhythm.

“We just kind of changed our forecheck to give them a different look and it did pretty well,” Patrick Eaves said.

Said Darren Helm: “Instead of a box it was more of a 1-3 and we put more pressure on the entry. The guys were battling for pucks and made sure to get down (for shots).”

The Wings also scored three even strength goals, which all but delighted Babcock, as the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa noted...

“The whole series, every game, has been very tight and they’ve found a way to score equal strength goals,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We were able to score some goals tonight. I thought puck came off of their goalie tonight. We got the puck to the net tonight.”

Darren Helm also made up for a gaffe which led to the Sharks’ 3-1 goal by scoring the gamer, and as the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky noted, Babcock chose to place Justin Abdelkader on the Helm-Eaves line when he tried to match the Sharks’ three-line rotation late in the game (as a result, Tomas Holmstrom, Kris Draper and Jiri Hudler were used sparingly down the stretch):

“I put them back out there because they are good players,” Babcock said. “Each day is a new day. We all make mistakes. This is a game of mistakes. You just try to make less (mistakes) than they do.”
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The threesome also helped kill two power plays in the third period; another nice recovery after the Sharks had scored four power play goals in the first three games.

“Yeah, we didn’t cost us the game tonight,” Helm said. “So that was nice.”
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“You try to play guys you think are going best,” he said. “Abby’s been great on the forecheck. Patrick Eaves makes good decisions with the puck all the time and I thought Helmer was due. He had made a turnover on their first goal. Helm is a real good player and it didn’t go his way last game. He made a mistake but he’s played good. I just thought maybe they’d get an opportunity. That’s a good line. We always play them because they do everything right. They wear on other teams and we’re not typically shy who we play them against. We had three lines rotating and they were up next.”

When they were up, Eaves made a superb play, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted (and Helm engaged in a little Q and A with NHL.com’s Dave Lozo if you’re interested)...

Darren Helm more than amended for a turnover that led to Logan Couture’s goal Friday by scoring in the last 90 seconds of regulation to give the Wings the victory. Patrick Eaves caught Brian Rafalski’s rebound and passed to his left, finding Helm with an open net.

“I normally would have shot it, but I saw guys going down and getting in the way,” Eaves said. “Helmer found a lane and I just threw it over to him. It was a good play by all five guys.”
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“We made a good push there the last 4 or 5 minutes and it paid off,” Helm said. “Patty made a good play to me, and it was nice to see an open cage, and I just put it in there.”

Lidstrom stated the very, very obvious about Helm’s goal to MLive’s Ansar Khan...

“We didn’t want to get this to overtime (where the Sharks are 5-0 in this year’s playoffs),” Lidstrom said. “We wanted to get one before the 60 minutes were up. We showed some character, we showed some heart and fought back.”

Who also noted that, yes, the Wings did indeed feed off the energy of their raucous, utterly fantastically loud crowd:

“Our fans were going crazy the last 10 minutes of the game,” Howard said. “That really helped energize us.”

Or, as Babcock put it to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...

“It kind of looked like overtime the other game,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose squad squandered a 3-2 lead in the third period in Game 3 and then fell in overtime. “The whole series has been very tight. They’ve found a way to score even-strength goals.”

Or, as Lidstrom put it to the Free Press’s Helene St. James...

“For us it was an overtime game, a game we obviously had to win,” said captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who scored twice in Game 4. “We were fighting for our lives there. Hopefully we can carry that momentum.”
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“Every game has been a battle,” Lidstrom said. “We didn’t want to get this to overtime. We wanted to get one before the 60 minutes were up. It was great to see our team respond the way we did.”

Ah yes, the Captain. The man who did what he’s done so many times over the past 18 seasons. He took the Wings on his back, scoring the game’s second and third goals. Lidstrom attempted to shrug off his performance while speaking to the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff...

“It took a lot of effort for us to pull this one off,” Lidstrom said. “It’s great to see that we finished on top.It meant a lot.”

A lot? How about everything? Ever since Detroit’s 4-3 overtime loss in Game 3 that left the Wings staring at elimination at the hands of the Sharks for the second straight spring, one question seemed at the forefront of everyone’s mind: Would this be it for Lidstrom? Perhaps it’s time to shelve such notions. The Wings may not come back to win this series, but there’s no reason at all for Lidstrom not to come back for another NHL season.

With Detroit’s season on the line, the old man with the ‘C’ gave the type of performance you’d expect from a leader. He skated 30 shifts, played 22:42, put six shots on goal and delivered three hits. The Norris Trophy finalist also scored twice, one of them a spectacular batted-in goal out of mid-air that made Lidstrom appear more cricket batsman than future Hall of Fame defenceman.

“I’m not much of a cricket player, but I’ll take that one,” said Lidstrom, who got in front of a Henrik Zetterberg feed with his body, then swatted the puck goalward. It one-hopped the ice and jumped into the roof of the net behind a startled Niemi.

Jimmy Howard felt that Lidstrom’s goal finally gave the Wings a favorable bounce, as he told USA Today’s Kevin Allen...

“He’s a special player,” said Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. “Maybe that’s the type of bounce we needed, something like that where he takes a swing out of mid-air, it takes a bounce and goes top shelf. Maybe that’s something finally going our way. He’s so cerebral when he’s out there. He never puts himself in a compromising position. “

Lidstrom just took the bounces he earned, as he told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness…

Lidstrom notched his third goal of the playoffs, doing what he does best. He unloaded a bomb of a slap shot from the point after San Jose goalie Antti Niemi gave up a huge rebound. Then, Lidstrom struck on the power play using some of the best hand-eye coordination you will have seen from a hockey player that isn’t even half his age.Lidstrom knocked down a high pass with his left shin from Henrik Zetterberg and then gave the puck a good whack to bounce his shot high over Niemi.

“Hank was trying to feed me in the slot and I think he got too much on it,” Lidstrom said. “I just tried to block it with my shin pads and keep it in front of me. The puck was still there, so I took a whack at it to try and get it on net. I’m not much of a cricket player, but I’ll take that one.”

But Mike Babcock pointed out that the press had all but given Lidstrom’s career last rites…

“You guys were talking about retirement,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I think he answered that pretty good.”

And even McLellan had to agree on that point:

“He stepped up and led his team,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. “That’s what captains do. Their captain did. He has a calming effect on his team. He had a helluva night.”

Todd Bertuzzi offered one take on Lidstrom’s performance…

“That’s why he’s played 20-plus years, the guy is magical,” Todd Bertuzzi said. “He steps up at big times and carries a lot of the load of this team on his shoulders. We needed that kind of performance out of him.”

And Patrick Eaves offered quite another to NHL.com’s Dave Lozo, who noted that Lidstrom refused to budge from his decision to not talk about retiring, or not retiring, until after the season’s over:

“I don’t know. We’ll see about that after the season,” Lidstrom said. “I feel good. My ice time is probably down a little bit from past seasons, so I feel good.”

Lidstrom made the most of his 22:42 on Friday. The Red Wings undoubtedly hope he’ll do the same thing Sunday night during Game 5—and for another 82 games next season.

“There’s no question who our leader is and he showed it once again,” forward Patrick Eaves said. “He’s one of those special players. We all shake our head at what he does.”

While the Toronto Sun’s Steve MacFarlane offered from-the-TV take of Lidstrom’s performance, the Detroit News’s John Niyo raved about Lidstrom’s performance, and MLive’s Ansar Khan let the players do the talking, while ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun consulted a higher power (so to speak)...

“He’s a special competitor. In an elimination game, he’s our best player and steps up and led the way tonight,” Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com just outside his team’s dressing room.

Retire? Heck, this guy showed again Friday night why he can play a few more years—if he chooses to.

“There’s no doubt he has lots of hockey left in him. Lots of hockey this year, and I think lots of hockey beyond this year,” said Holland, who might have been crossing his fingers when he said that to us.

“I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of players who other people looked at the birth certificate, players like Steve Yzerman, Igor Larionov, Dominik Hasek, Chris Chelios; Nick Lidstrom is right there at the head of the class,” added Holland. “Age is only a number. He’s just so great, so focused, so committed, so determined that the birth certificate is just a number.”

Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika agreed while noting that Lidstrom was more comfortable talking about the team than himself:

“There’s a lot of pride in this dressing room, and guys knew it was a desperate situation, and they didn’t want to be embarrassed by being swept. We feel like we have a good chance here. We have an opportunity to win Game 5 in San Jose, and hopefully we can keep those guys around a little longer.”

How much longer will Lidstrom be around?

“When he’s had enough,” Babcock said, “he’ll have had enough.”

He hasn’t yet.

Mostly, however, the Wings admitted that, possible “blemishes” included, that they simply wanted to avoid their first sweep since (as the CBC’s series blogger noted) Mike Babcock’s Anaheim Mighty Ducks did Detroit in back in 2003 because there’s something more basic than pride on the line, as the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell noted:

“Maybe not having a full 20 (minutes) to do it (close out the game),” Helm said. “Maybe just having the two minutes with the lead was the difference. We saw the end of our season coming. Being able to fight those last five minutes, we did a really good job forcing them and being in their zone.”

The Sharks now lead the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal 3-1 with Game 5 Sunday in San Jose. The thought of seeing some teammates possibly complete their NHL careers with a losers’ handshake at home was clearly a huge factor in Friday’s win.

“There’s a lot of pride in this dressing room and guys knew it was a desperate situation and they didn’t want to be embarrassed by being swept,” Helm said.

On a night when the best defenceman of his generation, Nicklas Lidstrom, was the best player in the game with two goals and a plus-2 rating, it was the Wings’ fourth-line grinders that delivered the kill shot. With the Sharks’ defence lost at sea, Patrick Eaves dished off to Helm to zip into an unguarded goal.

“We were a desperate team that still wanted to play hockey,” Lidstrom said. “We had a couple of real long shifts. We had a lot of motion and they got tired.”

Did the Wings catch a break? You bet, as the Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp so astutely pointed out…

The Wings got a huge break on the game’s first goal, 6:22 in. Todd Bertuzzi’s spin-around backhander shouldn’t have counted. Danny Cleary was clearly in the attacking zone before Bertuzzi carried the puck over the blue line. Maybe that finally will silence those weeping fans that the Wings can’t get any breaks.

The Wings took a 3-0 first-period lead, but same as they’ve done all series long, the Sharks kept circling, hanging around, staying patient. When they tied the game barely more than a minute into the third period, Game 4 suddenly resembled its three predecessors. Last goal would win. And it was always the Sharks getting that last goal.
...
Who knows if there’s any carryover? The Wings spent every last ounce of guile and guts. It was pointless saving anything for next game because had they not survived Friday, next game would have been next September in the exhibition season. They were relentless in those final minutes in how they hammered the hammerheads. Can they maintain that frantic sense of urgency?

The odds still strongly favor the Sharks, who already had accomplished their mission before the opening face-off. They needed a Joe Louis split. Regardless of Friday’s outcome, they knew they would have two chances at home, if necessary, to finish off the Wings in Round 2 for the second straight year.

Only three times in the storied history of the Stanley Cup playoffs has a team down 0-3 successfully climbed all the way back. That third time was last year, when Boston fumbled a 3-0 series over Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference finals. Chicago barely missed becoming the fourth time in the first round this year, taking Vancouver to overtime in Game 7. The future remains dim, but that shouldn’t diminish the Wings’ inspired resistance Friday.

That’s true—everything but the whining, because Wings fans happily say, “Yep, we got a break,” too—but the Wings don’t buy that, nor are they thinking about rallying from a 3-1 deficit and pulling off a miraculous comeback. It was about winning and staying alive, as they told the Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski...

“I thought the last two, three games were pretty darn even,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We think we have an opportunity. We really believe that as a group. We don’t think we’ve played poor, we just haven’t found a way to score goals.”

They scored in creative ways on this night, from a spectacular Bertuzzi spin-o-rama backhander, to a Lidstrom swat of the bouncing puck, which sent a skip shot past Niemi. The Sharks could be excused if they brought all sorts of garage equipment to the game — brooms, shovels, etc. But something was due to turn for the Wings, if they turned it on. It was as if the pressure was momentarily lifted, because expectations naturally drop with a 3-0 series deficit. The Wings skated loose, until Ryane Clowe scored 17 seconds after Lidstrom’s second goal. From there, it was back to being tight as ever.

“I think we felt that we had more to give,” Lidstrom said. “Even though they came back, we were a desperate team that still wanted to play hockey. That really came out late in the game.”

Going forward, well…The Wings will practice later today in San Jose, have one more morning skate on Sunday and hope that they can earn the opportunity to play in one more home game by taking the Sharks on their home ice on Sunday night. As they told Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji, the task will be extremely difficult, but that’s the point:

“We know that we have to go out there and just focus on the next game,” Lidstrom said. “We did what we had to do tonight to stay alive and stay in this series, and that’s going to be the same mentality going out there now.”
...
“We still have to win to play another day,” said Howard, who made 25 saves. “We’re going to have to play hard on Sunday because they’re going to come at us.”

The Wings will keep fighting because that’s all they know how to do, and because they want to keep playing for as long as possible. They might come back, or they might not, but it won’t be for a lack of effort.


Of statistical note from DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples:

5 Combined points by the Henrik Zetterberg, Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi line.
29 Hits by the Wings. San Jose had 17.
12 Blocked shots by the Sharks, with the Wings recording 7.
5 Hits by Justin Abdelkader, leading both teams.
52 Percent of the face-offs won by the Wings, which marks the first game they have won the face-off battle in the series.

Multimedia:

Highlights: ESPN posted a 3-minute highlight clip;

The CBC posted a 2:21 highlight clip;

Sportsnet posted a 3:13 highlight clip;

Fox Sports posted a 1:10 highlight clip;

TSN posted a 2:59 highlight clip which includes some comments from Mike Babcock and Nicklas Lidstrom;

NBC Sports posted a 6:04 clip of Versus’ highlights and John Forslund and Darryl Reaugh’s recap of the game;

And NHL.com’s highlight clip is narrated by Versus’ announcers.

Post-game: TSN’s panel of Craig MacTavish, Paul Bissonette and Bob McKenzie spend 3:30 talking about the Wings’ “survival”; Nicklas Lidstrom’s second goal was picked as TSN’s goal of the night; TSN also posted a 1:23 clip of Darren helm, Nicklas Lidstrom, Jimmy Howard; Henrik Zetterberg engaged in a 1:01 1-on-1 interview; and TSN posted Todd McLellan’s full 3:04 presser and Mike Babcock’s full 7:04 presser;

Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area posted clips of Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe;

WXYZ posted clips of Babcock’s presser and Tom Leyden’s post-game report, which includes comments from Darren Helm, Nicklas Lidstrom and Jimmy Howard:

WDFN posted clips of Nicklas Lidstrom and Darren Helm’s post-game comments;

The Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell posted clips of Lidstrom, Helm and Jimmy Howard’s post-game comments;

NHL.com posted McLellan’s presser, NHL On the Fly’s analysis of the game, a quick interview with Nicklas Lidstrom…

And Babcock’s presser:

 

And the Red Wings’ website posted a clip of Howard’s post-game comments…

 

As well as Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves’ comments:

 

Photos: The Detroit News posted a 51-image gallery;

The Detroit Free Press posted a 37-image gallery;

The Mercury News posted a 51-image Flash gallery;

Fox Sports Detroit posted an 11-image gallery, and Fox Sports posted a 15-image gallery depicting both of Friday’s games;

The CBC embedded a 12-image gallery in its website’s recap;

Yahoo Sports posted a 28-image gallery;

NHL.com posted a 53-image gallery and today’s Frozen Moment depicts Jimmy Howard making a save;

Daylife posted some Reuters images in its Red Wings gallery;

The Sharks’ website posted a 29-image gallery and embedded an image in its website’s recap;

And the Red Wings’ website posted a 49-image gallery and embedded an image in its website’s recap.


Statistics: Shots 40-28 Detroit overall, breaking down as 17-12 Detroit in the 1st, 10-6 Detroit in the 2nd and 13-10 Detroit in the 3rd.

The Wings went 1-for-4 in 7:56 of PP time; the Sharks went 0-for-2 in 4:00 of PP time.

Howard stopped 25 of 28; Niemi stopped 36 of 40.

Our goals: Bertuzzi (2) from Zetterberg (3) and Cleary (3);

Lidstrom (3) from Cleary (4) and Bertuzzi (3);

Lidstrom (4) from Zetterberg (4) and Datsyuk (7), PP;

Helm (2) from Eaves (1) and Rafalski (1).

The 3 stars, per Paul Harris: Bertuzzi, Clowe and Lidstrom.

Faceoffs: 33-31 Detroit (52%);

Blocked shots 12-7 San Jose;

Missed shots 10-7 Detroit (total attempts 62-42 Detroit);

Hits 29-17 Detroit;

Giveaways 10-7 San Jose;

Takeaways 5-5.

Individual Stats:

Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 13-and-9 (59%); Filppula went 10-and-7 (59%); Helm went 4-and-4 (50%); Franzen went 2-and-5 (29%); Abdelkader went 1-and-2 (33%); Datsyuk went 1-and-2 (33%); Cleary went 1-and-1 (50%); Draper went 1-and-1 (50%).

Shots: Lidstrom led the team with 6 shots; Bertuzzi had 5; Abdelkader had 4; Cleary, Eaves, Helm and Franzen had 3; Rafalski, Draper, Filppula and Kronwall had 2; Stuart, Salei, Zetterberg, Ericsson and Holmstrom had 1.

Blocked attempts: Eaves and Hudler had 2 shot attempts blocked; Lidstrom, Cleary, Rafalski, Zetterberg, Helm, Bertuzzi, Kronwall and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Franzen missed the net 2 times; Cleary, Datsyuk, Salei, Rafalski, Draper, Helm, Bertuzzi and Filppula missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Abdelkader led the team with 5 hits; Lidstrom, Cleary, Hudler and Zetterberg had 3; Eaves, Stuart, Draper, Bertuzzi and Franzen had 2; Salei and Holmstrom had 1.

Giveaways: Cleary had 2 giveaways; Abdelkader, Stuart, Helm, Ericsson and Howard had 1.

Takeaways: Lidstrom, Cleary, Helm, Franzen and Holmstrom had 1 takeaway.

Blocked shots: Ericsson blocked 2 shots; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Stuart, Salei and Draper blocked 1 shot.

Penalties taken: Abdelkader and Bertuzzi took minor penalties.

Plus-minus: Salei finished at -2; Datsyuk, Hudler, Draper, Filppula, Ericsson, Kronwall, Franzen and Holmstrom finished at -1; Abdelkader Eaves and Helm were even; Stuart and Rafalski were +1; Lidstrom, Cleary, Zetterberg and Bertuzzi finished at +2.

Points: Lidstrom had 2 goals; Cleary had 2 assists; Zetterberg had 2 assists; Bertuzzi had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Helm had a goal; Datsyuk, Eaves and Rafalski had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 24:04 played; Lidstrom played 22:42; Datsyuk played 20:39;

Rafalski played 19:58; Zetterberg played 19:54; Cleary played 19:22;

Stuart played 19:22; Franzen played 18:59; Ericsson played 17:34;

Salei played 16:20; Filppula played 15:53; Bertuzzi played 14:01;

Abdelkader played 13:27; Helm played 12:44; Eaves played 11:56;

Hudler played 11:05; Holmstrom played 10:57; Draper played 7:05.

Wings and Sharks notebooks: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan picked Clowe, Lidstrom and Helm as his three stars;

• The Free Press’s Octopus Garden takes note of some praise for Pavel Datsyuk from TSN;

• MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the Wings are just as frustrated by the linesemen’s inability to drop pucks without tossing players out of the faceoff circle as we are:

“It is tough for both teams to know what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong,” Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg said before Game 4 on Friday. “All the sudden you’re kicked out and next time you’re not kicked out. So it’s a fine line there.”

Red Wings forward Kris Draper said linesmen have been “a little antsy” about tossing players.

“Watching Games 1 and 2, I thought (the Sharks) might have been getting away with a little more,” Draper said. “We’re the home team (in Game 3) and trying to do similar stuff and we’re getting tossed a bit.”

That’s why it is important to have two centers on the ice during offensive and defensive zone draws.

“It puts an onus on the importance of faceoffs,” Draper said. “Both teams obviously want to start with the puck, especially on the penalty kill.”

Said Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader: “It’s frustrating with how they’re calling it. We’re both trying to cheat, we’re both trying to battle for those loose pucks.”

• In Swedish, part 1: Lidstrom told Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom that he believes that the Wings can rally if they Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

Excellent work George, as usual.

If DET can maintain the pace, then as Zetterberg said:  “f we can win the fifth game over there and push it to a sixth game at home, then things will get really interesting.”

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 05/07/11 at 09:53 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Thanks, George.

The Sharks can blather all they want about their confidence, but last night’s game had to get into their heads.  I almost liked last night better than the 7-1 spanking from last year.  In last night’s game, the Sharks slowly fought back to tie the score, but the Wings fought even harder late in the third and, this time, it was the Wings who “found a way to win.”  As good a road team as the Wings have been, I think we have just as good a chance to win Sunday as they do.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/07/11 at 10:47 AM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

George, I’m not a Red Wings fan, so I don’t always read your posts, but when I start reading one of the post-game posts, and then I realize I have basically just started a book, it seems a little ridiculous. Why quote soooo many articles? I realize people will probably respond that my opinion doesn’t matter because I’m not a Wings fan, but I enjoy reading news on all teams. I feel that you are more likely to increase your readership by cutting some of the ‘fat’ and getting to the point. At the very least, would you mind shortening the portions of your posts that appear on the front page? Thanks.

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 05/07/11 at 10:55 AM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

By the way, I do applaud all of the effort you put forth.

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 05/07/11 at 10:57 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 05/07/11 at 09:55 AM ET

Jeff, I’m not saying this because you’re not a Wings fan, but some of us really, really like all this stuff.  George does a great job of pulling together all the info there is from every available source, saving his readers the chore of going to various sources looking for information.

You’re not the first person who has been a little overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information here.  My suggestion is always to read what interests you and skim through the rest.

George, don’t change a thing!

cool smile

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/07/11 at 12:07 PM ET

CC Moor's avatar

NHL Jeff:

I cannot resist saying, in response to your post, it’s nice to hear from you because we did not know Pittsburgh fans who live in Chicago, who are therefore human beings who should be jailed for two reasons, could actually read! 

Of course I am kidding—Chicago is one of the great cities of the world, and many of us have great respect for the Pittsburgh Penguins; what your team did this year without both Crosby and Malkin (and Staal for much of the first half) was simply amazing, and Dan Bylsma is a terrific coach.  The only guy on your team I am not too fond of is Matt Cooke, and frankly I’m not sure why he is in your organization as it is not a fit….. but that is another conversation.

To answer your question, George Malik is one of the best hockey bloggers in the country. He undoubtedly has a future as a hockey scribe in the mainstream press.  It’s hard to quibble with his intensity or passion or commitment to excellence.  Readers here are like a family.

That being said, there is an art to reading a Malik write-up: you have to treat it like a newspaper.  Read the first paragraph or two for specific comments, then scroll down looking at the links and the quotes.  On the game wraps, the visitors’ side is always first and I personally usually skip all that and scroll to the Wings write-up.  Then you look for who you want to hear from.  For me, I NEVER miss a word Babcock says.  And then Lidstrom, Pavel, Zetterberg, et al.

Then you read the last paragraph as George sometimes wraps up with substance.

Long story short, it’s better the way he does it as it is one stop shopping….I do not need to go read Ansar Khan anymore, for example, as George will make sure to include anything important that Khan says here in his write-up.  Good luck to the Pens in 2011-12.

Posted by CC Moor from Washington DC on 05/07/11 at 12:48 PM ET

Avatar

Did the Wings catch a break? You bet, as the Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp so astutely pointed out…

  The Wings got a huge break on the game’s first goal, 6:22 in. Todd Bertuzzi’s spin-around backhander shouldn’t have counted.

Evil Drew could also have astutely pointed out that Marleau blatantly removed both of Erickson’s legs from the ice with his stick as the pass was coming across to Boyle on SJ’s 2nd goal:

MarleauErickson.jpg

Posted by BobTheZee on 05/07/11 at 12:59 PM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

Guys, thanks for the tips on reading these posts and the well-wishes for my Penguins next year.

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 05/07/11 at 01:45 PM ET

bobinnocal's avatar

Evil Drew could also have astutely pointed out that Marleau blatantly removed both of Erickson’s legs from the ice with his stick as the pass was coming across to Boyle on SJ’s 2nd goal:

I caught that also and wondered if anyone was going to make a comment.  If that was Homer doing what Marleau did do you think a resulting Red Wing goal would have counted?  The refs have a tough job watching all that happens and if their eyes are not on something when it happens, it can easily be missed at the speed everything occurs.

Posted by bobinnocal on 05/07/11 at 03:36 PM ET

Wings_Fan_In_KC's avatar

Evil Drew could also have astutely pointed out that Marleau blatantly removed both of Erickson’s legs from the ice with his stick as the pass was coming across to Boyle on SJ’s 2nd goal:

Drew is a tool and the Refs are blind idiots.

Posted by Wings_Fan_In_KC from ...somewhere southwest of The Motor City... on 05/07/11 at 06:34 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.