The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/09/11 at 06:31 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings basically did everything a team fighting for its playoff life shouldn’t on Sunday night, surrendering the game’s first goal, 2-0 and 3-1 leads and three consecutive power plays to the San Jose Sharks, all while allowing Jimmy Howard to be peppered by an average of 14 shots per period, but Howard did his best to bail his teammates out for the first two periods, and his teammates backed him up in the third period, scoring three consecutive goals and staving off elimination via a 4-3 win over the Sharks.
Despite the fact that Pavel Datsyuk saved his sore wrist from further aggravation by skipping faceoffs, and the fact that Johan Franzen barely played in the second period and sat out the third after Joe Thornton corkscrewed Franzen along the boards, using a classic “can opener” to, in Mike Babcock’s words, “tweak” Franzen’s ankle, and despite the fact that the Wings were out-shot, out-hustled and almost out-classed at times during the first and second periods…Pride took over in the 3rd, and so did the Red Wings. Datsyuk ended up registering 3 assists, Niklas Kronwall had a goal and an assist, Jonathan Ericsson made up for a gaffe which resulted in Logan Couture’s 3-1 goal by putting a puck past Niemi under three minutes later, Tomas Holmstrom’s ability to distract the Sharks’ defenders led to Ericsson and Danny Cleary’s goals, and he tipped in the third as the Wings may have been out-shot, but were neither out-hit nor out-competed.
The series shifts back to Detroit on Thursday, and while the Wings have made things “interesting,” the Sharks do remain in command of the series, and as such, coach Todd McLellan suggested to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch that his team incurred a temporary setback...
“The fact we lost the game is the most disappointing thing,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “We didn’t play a poor game. That’s hard to swallow. We didn’t give up many opportunities. They took advantage of some of our mistakes and they put it in the net. We get five minutes to feel sorry for ourselves, hang our heads and start the recovery process. If we play that game again, we’ll give ourselves a good chance to win.”
McLellan’s players backed him up, and then some, as NHL.com’s Eric Gilmore noted…
“This is hockey,” said Sharks defenseman Niclas Wallin. “We didn’t relax. I thought we fought hard today and put up a lot of shots. But they’re a good team and they’re not going to give up. Today, it (stinks) right now. Just got to forget about this and come back. We know we can play against these guys. We showed that tonight. Right now it’s obviously frustrating, but we’ll come back. It’s going to make us stronger. We’re still in control here. You’ve got to remember that.”
“We just knew they were going to press us,” Setoguchi said. “I think our special teams kind of let us down a little tonight, too. We had a couple of power plays we needed to score goals on and we didn’t get it done.”
“I think you put yourselves in a very dangerous position if you put yourselves back on your heels against that team, and I don’t think that was the case tonight,” [McLellan] said. “We gave up six shots in the third period and three of them went in. We wanted to keep the foot on the gas pedal. We wanted to keep going after them. We made some mistakes, and world-class players capitalize on them, and that’s what they did tonight.”
Joe Thornton being Joe Thornton, he went a step further in shrugging off the loss while all but stating the Sharks’ unspoken mantra that the Wings simply represent a speed bump for a team that’s supposedly evolved past the Wings—okay, well he shrugged off the loss, anyway, in a Q and A with NHL.com’s Gilmore:
Q: There was a lot of scoring in the third period, but how would you describe what happened in the last 20 minutes?
A: We go up 3-1. We’ve usually finish teams off when that happens. They’re a good club and they just came back and fought their way back. Just a couple careless plays. Against their skill, they’re going to put those in. Just a tough third.
Q: The Red Wings kind of put it before the game that if they won this game that it would get a lot tighter in the San Jose locker room. Do you feel that way?
A: We’re confident. We’re a very confident team. We played well, I thought. We only gave them twenty-some odd shots. We’re still feeling good about ourselves. Yeah, it’s a tough loss, but hey, we just got to go and win in Detroit, which we’ve done in the past.
Q: It seemed like in the second period you guys had some good opportunities to put it in the net.
A: Yeah, we did. For whatever reason, we scored the one goal, but we did have some great chances. Just didn’t find the back of the net.
The “no worries” vibe persisted in the Sharks’ locker room, as noted by SanJoseSharks.com’s Allison High:
“It’s tough and it hurts right now, but we have to look at it like we’re up 3-2 in the series,” said Sharks center Logan Couture. “And we’re going to Detroit with a chance to win it again. We have to continue to play better. It was a tough one tonight, but we’ll come out tomorrow and get ready for Game 6.”
“We’re trying to get to four wins,” said Sharks center Joe Pavelski. “But we’re not there yet. We’re going into their building and we just played two games there so we know what to expect. We’re going to come in ready to go. We’re not backing down. We still have the lead here.”
“We can’t hang our heads,” said Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi. “We can’t get down on ourselves. We have to refocus and come back tomorrow and get ready for another game.”
McLellan made sure to not single out Niemi for unduly harsh criticism…
“He could be better; we can all be better,” McLellan said. “I thought he made some really good saves when he had to,” he continued. “We had a little miscommunication on the wrap around goal, Cleary’s goal and that was costly. When you’re in the thick of it, playing such intense hockey, mistakes are made. I don’t think we gave Niemi the verbal cues he needed at that point and there was a hesitation getting to the puck and it ended up in our net.”
If the Sharks were upset about anything other than losing, they were angry about giving up Danny Cleary’s goal, as SanJoseSharks.com’s Tony Khing noted…
At 5:29, Niklas Kronwall brought the puck down the left wing into the Sharks zone. His shot went wide left and the carom off the end boards went to the right side of the net. Dan Cleary had been skating ahead of the play, went behind the net and with four Sharks plus Niemi looking for the puck, Cleary somehow found it and put it past the goal line to tie the score at 3-3.
“The puck was still alive,” Niclas Wallin said of the goal that tied the game. “It was a lucky goal to get. They kept fighting.”
Detroit’s winning goal was a play very familiar to Red Wings and Sharks fans. At 13:52, Datsyuk tossed a backhand pass from the middle of the left faceoff circle in the San Jose end to Nicklas Lidstrom. He took a few steps and wound up for a slap shot. Right in front of Niemi was Tomas Holmstrom, who got a stick blade on the shot and got the puck past Niemi to complete the comeback and a 4-3 win.
“We tried to get the puck out (of the zone),” Wallin said. “Lidstrom is a good shooter. I couldn’t really see the shot. Holmstrom did a good job.”
“They’re a good club,” Thornton said. “They fought their way back. In just a couple of careless plays, with their skill, they’re going to put those in. It was just a tough third.”
Devin Setoguchi took the blame for the Cleary goal, as he told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser...
“He just threw it from behind the goal line and it hit my skate and it hit my shin pad and went in,” Setoguchi said. “A lucky bounce for them.”
Finally, with 6:08 to play, Detroit refused to give up along the boards in the San Jose zone, with Datsyuk picking not one but two Sharks’ pockets, according to San Jose coach Todd McLellan. Datsyuk, who was a game-time decision with a sore wrist according to the Detroit Free Press, then gave an extra effort to hang onto the puck with a spin-o-rama that prevented Patrick Marleau from regaining possession. Datsyuk shoveled it to Nicklas Lidstrom, who took a shot from up top that Tomas Holmstrom ticked in behind Antti Niemi.
And Patrick Marleau took the blame for that one, as he told the Mercury News’s David Pollak:
“I had it in my feet and got it up to my stick,” Marleau said. “I was just trying to get it out and he was able to get it from me. I tried getting it back. He lost it for a second and we could have got it, but he got it back.”
From McLellan’s perspective, it was a case of Marleau and his linemates being unable to get off the ice for a line change while the Red Wings had fresh legs. That and the fact they were up against Datsyuk.
“He is without a doubt the best in the world at picking pockets and lifting sticks. He not only did it once, he did it twice,” the Sharks coach said. “Fatigue sometimes causes us to err and that was that situation. We were tired, we were worn out, they got a change ahead of us and they made us pay for it.”
After their 4-3 loss, the Sharks were intent on looking for positives in the events that just transpired, rejecting the notion presented before the game by Detroit coach Mike Babcock that if the Red Wings crawled back into the series, “things get tighter and tighter” for San Jose.
“We’re not backing down and we’ve still got the lead here,” Pavelski said. “We can play our game. We can handle it.”
Wallin told the Mercury News’s Pollak that he also may have erred in his coverage…
“There’s another guy on the side, too, and it’s like a two-on-one down below,” Wallin said. “I see Lidstrom get the puck, but when he starts winding up, it’s just a split second, and I decide to take Homer.”
Wallin said he isn’t sure “where the shot comes in, if it goes between my legs. Obviously it hit him (Holmstrom) somewhere, and I have no idea what happened. He’s good at it. It is what it is—a hockey goal.”
And Marleau was willing to give Datsyuk a stick-tap for his play, as NHL.com’s Gilmore noted:
“He hounds pucks relentlessly all the time,” Marleau said of Datsyuk. “We’ve been doing a good job at it, too. It’s one of those things, those areas you need a little extra help and get it out.”
Aside from being somewhat upset about their power play’s inability to sent a penalty-killing unit bolstered by Drew Miller, as the Mercury News’s Pollak...
Players did gather for a morning meeting at HP Pavilion, however, and the Sharks power play was at the top of the agenda. San Jose had two attempts with the man advantage in the third period of Game 4, but didn’t click on either. Later, McLellan talked about the possible adjustments his team needed to make to counter those by the Detroit penalty kill in Game 4.
“They made some adjustments on their forecheck and on their stand at the blue line,” McLellan said. “We obviously have to adjust and make sure that if they do throw that at us, we’re a little more prepared.”
But, McLellan added, “the way the game was going and the power plays coming so late, I don’t think we engaged ourselves enough early to be sharp in those situations.”
And the San Francisco Chronicle’s Slusser noted…
“Our power play can be better,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “Look at the people we put on the ice and the numbers they’ve put up the last three years. We need our power play. They’ll be challenged to create at least little more momentum.”
Otherwise, however, the Sharks didn’t feel particularly concerned about the loss, and the Mercury News’s Mark Purdy bought into the temporary setback theory (big time):
“It’s going to sting a little tonight,” Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi said after the 4-3 loss Sunday.
“We had two-on-ones, three-on-ones,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “We had to find a way to finish some of those.”
“I don’t think it was a problem with concentration,” Couture said. “Just execution.”
We have actually been here before. In 2004, the Sharks took a 3-0 series lead over Colorado—an Avalanche team with Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg playing the Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg roles—only to see the Avalanche claw back to win Game 4. The Sharks then suffered a crushing Game 5 loss in overtime at HP Pavilion. If you remember, that defeat created a cloud of doom and sent the series back to Denver. Many predicted the Sharks would collapse there in a puddle of anxiety and doubt. Instead, they beat Colorado 3-1 to finish off the series. Will the Sharks also gain from that knowledge?
“You think about a little bit of everything,” Marleau said. “But you can’t dwell on anything.”
Our beloved Los Tiburones are writing their own history from this point. They alone get to determine how the last sentence is written.
Sure, right. This was just a little let-up. Two losses’ worth of little set-backs, just as the Wings’ first three losses were no sign of trouble. While we’re at it, Antti Niemi got a serious “mulligan” on Cleary’s goal from the Mercury News’s Cam Inman...
It was an awkward play. I went to seal the post, and I don’t know if it hit my skate or stick, but it went off my shin,” Setoguchi said. “I didn’t know where the puck was, I turned around, and it was in the net. It’s happened to us before—last year when (Dan) Boyle put one in the net. We just need to refocus.”
Ease up there. Hold on a second. While Boyle’s own goal doomed the Sharks in overtime against the Colorado Avalanche, Setoguchi’s contribution was not so clear-cut, especially when considering Cleary’s jab sent the puck in motion. Yes, Niemi should have smothered it, but he didn’t. He also should have hoisted up the glove on his left hand to stop Tomas Holmstrom’s winning goal with just over six minutes remaining.
Niemi should not need a reminder about how to come through in the clutch. He’s a reigning champion goaltender. He still has time to play like it. Do you want to blame Niemi for the Sharks’ offense going 0 for 4 on power-play opportunities? Do you want to forget those sensational glove saves he had in the earlier periods? No, and no. Do you want him to play like Jimmy Howard did in the final period for the Red Wings? Actually, yes.
“He was very good in the third period,” McLellan said of Howard. “You expect that of goaltenders this time of year.”
So Joe Pavelski summarized the Sharks’ bottom line, as noted by the Mercury News’s Pollak:
“A loss is a loss kind of regardless,” he said. “Yeah, giving up two goal leads is tough, especially in the third period. But that’s why we play the game. we’ve been on the other side of it and it feels good. It’s a bounce here or there and we’ve got to find ways to win.”
“We’re trying to get to four wins and any way you do it is satisfying, but we’re not there yet,” Pavelski said. “We’re going into their building. We’ve just played two games there and we know what to expect. We’re committed and we’re ready to go. We’re not backing down and we’ve still got the lead here. You saw tonight, we put on a pretty good push. We can play our game. we can handle it.”
And Logan Couture was willing to take it a step further while speaking to the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s Jim Seimas:
“They’re playing for their season,” Couture said of the intensity level. “They’re not going to give up easy. They fought hard. They’ve fought hard all series. Games could’ve gone either way the whole series. It just so happens that we’re up 3-2 right now. We got another chance to put them out Tuesday.”
Only Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Ray Ratto was willing to sound any sort of alarm, and it’s a minor one...
Three goals in 10 minutes, on the road, with Datsyuk playing with one hand because of a wrist injury and being unable to take any draws, and wing Johan Franzen sitting for the last 14 minutes because of a bad ankle. That’s after scoring three goals in 11 minutes to start Game 4, with elimination staring the Wings in the face. That shows how hard the Red Wings are to kill, and how hard it is for the Sharks to be that instrument. Five one-goal games tell a story. Not playing a full 60 minutes tells a different one. The one the Sharks need to heed is the second of the two.
Whether they can do that is always a matter of conjecture with this team. Los Angeles should have been an easier dispatch than it was, and a 3-0 lead even over a team like Detroit should also be so. Instead, they have drawn out this series by failing to start fast enough in one game, close well enough in the other, and to miss another four power plays to drop to a preposterous 2 for 26 at home in that category on the postseason. Game 6 will be on the road, if that helps at all. And barring a return to the form that got the Sharks here to begin with, don’t bet there won’t be a Game 7, either. In a very very tense building.
But even Ratto noted the following:
San Jose has blown two chances to take care of business, but statistics show that teams up 3-1 that lost Game 5 still have won 80 of 103 series, a casino-ready percentage of .777.
If you’re interested in the out-of-towners’ takes on the game, whoever wrote The Hockey News’s recap suggests that the Wings’ “role players” haven’t scored yet (Darren Helm?); Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon disagrees (didn’t know that Kronwall was a depth player); Sportsline’s A.J. Perez notes that Joe Thornton’s corkscrew sent Johan Franzen to the bench; SI’s Adrian Dater was, well, Adrian Dater, and Darren Eliot omitted Jimmy Howard from his three star selection because he thinks that Howard isn’t a very good goalie (seriously); TSN’s Scott Cullen also broke down the game statistically, and I like this quip from Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski, in the notes below his three stars:
Lidstrom’s assist on the game-winner moved him to within one point of Bryan Trottier (184) for No. 10 all-time in playoff points; Steve Yzerman is ninth at 185.
The AP’s Antonio Gonzalez’s recap allows us to shift focus to the Wings, who didn’t mind suggesting that they may have delivered a clutch performance in the third period…
“There’s a lot of character on this team. There’s not any quit,” said Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 39 saves. “Our season was on the line there in the third period, and we found a way.”
Detroit came back again with a strong push up ice and sent several shots at Niemi after going down two goals. In a span of 1:46, the Red Wings got a goal from Ericsson and another from Cleary on a wraparound shot for the equalizer. Then Nicklas Lidstrom sent a slap shot from the center that was deflected on net by Holmstrom, redirected top shelf to beat Niemi and shock a towel-waving crowd that was ready to toast a berth in the Western Conference finals for the second straight season.
“I didn’t know it went in right away,” Holmstrom said. “But I saw the ref point at the net and I felt pretty good.”
But the Wings weren’t willing to suggest that they played their best game by any means. Instead, Wings coach Mike Babcock summarized his team’s first two periods, in which they were out-shot 30-16, succinctly, as the Ottawa Sun’s Garrioch noted:
“Howie got us to the third period,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock. “He was good and our goaltending was good. We weren’t competitive enough up front. Howie played really well and he gave us a chance to win it. Before the third, we talked about how he was giving us an opportunity and if we wanted to take advantage of it, we could win this game. We got down 3-1, but we answered back. I thought Pavel was unbelievable in the third. We didn’t have enough guys up front (all) night.”
So the Wings’ defense did so, literally and figuratively:
“We weren’t giving up at all,” said Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom. “We kept going after them. We kept getting the pucks at the net and we tried to be active with the defencemen when we could We just kept shooting and getting pucks on the net. We’re not going to give up. We had to win. That’s what we did.”
Howard told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that he simply tried to keep the Sharks from getting nail-in-the-coffin goals...
“I just wanted to stay there and hold the fort for the guys,” said Howard, who did just that after the Sharks took a 3-1 lead in the first minute of the third period. “I just wanted to not give up another one. If you give up another one, your season is done. We knew they’d come out hard and we knew they didn’t want to come back to Detroit. Now they’re flying with us.”
But Danny Cleary put things a little more bluntly while speaking to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:
“Jimmy stole us the game tonight,” said Wings forward Daniel Cleary, who scored his second goal of the series and playoffs Sunday night. “They had a lot of good chances to put this game away, but he’s really battling in there. He’s really stepped up in these playoffs and proven himself.”
“I just wanted to keep it close for the guys,” Howard said. “You knew the Sharks were going to come out and fire away. I just wanted to keep it close because I knew the character of our team.”
The Wings hung around even though they didn’t deserve it based on their early play.
“The bottom line is that we were in a one-shot game and we hadn’t been very good,” said Babcock. “That’s what I said to the guys. ‘We can have Game 6 at home in Detroit if we just want to get playing here. Let’s just get competing here.’”
And then there was Datsyuk:
“He was outstanding tonight. He’s been great all playoffs,” said Cleary. “He’s our driving force. He’s got a lot of will and determination in him. ... He’s got great strength on the puck. He steals pucks and it’s hard to get it off him. He’s a real inspirational player for us and a big leader.”
Babcock made a sharp move in reuniting Datsyuk with Henrik Zetterberg in the second period, and the reshaped line won its battle with Joe Thornton’s top line for the rest of the game. Still, for the Sharks, this felt like robbery. They outshot the Wings 42-22 and had a two-goal lead early in the third period.
Datsyuk didn’t take a faceoff in the game, but I didn’t get this, “Oh, his wrist is clearly terribly sore and he’s not going to play” business. Datsyuk’s wrist is sore and he’s not taking faceoffs to reduce the wear and tear on it, but despite the Versus’ commentators’ suggestions that he looked like a “one-handed man” (and my Gord, Forslund, Reaugh and Engblom were terrible), the press didn’t really know what was going to happen with Datsyuk or Johan Franzen until nearly game time because both players skipped practice on Saturday and there simply was no morning skate on Sunday, resulting in a bit of tea-leaf-reading and some eventual clarification.
Datsyuk’s not at 100%, but he’s clearly capable of making a difference, as his teammates told MLive’s Ansar Khan:
With Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals tied at 3-3, Datsyuk out-battled Patrick Marleau for the puck along the boards and then fought off a check from the struggling Sharks forward to pass to Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom’s shot was tipped in by Holmstrom with 6:08 remaining in the third period.
“He just plays with that determination, that you can’t take that puck away from him,” Lidstrom said. “It’s great to see he’s skating hard with the puck, too, whether it’s forechecking or back-checking he’s just relentless out there.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock didn’t think Datsyuk was great early, but said he was outstanding in the third.
“Obviously, he’s a world-class player,” Babcock said. “There’s a lot of nice players during the regular season. But if you don’t have a drive train, if you don’t compete at the highest level, you can’t win at this time. … It’s all about competition and winning the battles and that’s what Pavel does.”
The full quote, per NHL.com’s Dave Lozo, is worth reading:
“I thought Pavel was unbelievable in the third,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s a world-class player. It’s interesting as you watch the playoffs. There’s lots of nice players during the regular season and they’ve got good skill and all that. But if you don’t have a drive, and you don’t compete at the highest level, you can’t win at this time of year. It’s all about competition level and digging in and winning those battles. And that’s what Pavel has.”
And his injury? Well both Babcock and Datsyuk were pleasantly coy about the nature of his right wrist flaring up a few months after he broke it (these things happen), as ESPN’s LeBrun noted:
Meanwhile, Pavel Datsyuk was dynamite Sunday with three assists despite talk he might be nursing some kind of hand/wrist injury. The fact he didn’t take a single faceoff Sunday suggested something is wrong. Not that Babcock would confirm that.
“He just didn’t feel like taking them,” Babcock joked when asked why Datsyuk didn’t take any faceoffs.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m OK. I’m fine,” Datsyuk said when asked about a possible wrist problem. “Anyway, I’m not a shooter. It doesn’t help me anyway. My job is to chip in goal, hit somebody hard.”
He did, but after Thornton took Franzen into the boards while corkscrewing his ankles open with the old “can opener” (in which one places his stick between an opposing player’s legs and twists) in the first period, and Franzen didn’t take a shift after the second period—though those of you who think that he was invisible might take note of the fact that Franzen took two of the Wings’ 19 shots, attempted 2 others, registered 2 hits and blocked a shot in only 9:19 of ice time—and Babcock had to admit to the Free Press’s Helene St. James that Franzen will make the final determination as to whether he’s fit to play after the Wings return home…
And I have to pause here to make one more note: both teams chose to make their flights to Detroit in the daylight hours, so it’s probably unlikely that the Wings will practice today, and as the beat writers have to cross the country as well, it’s entirely possible that we won’t really know the bottom line regarding Franzen’s ankle until Tuesday.
Anyway, per St. James:
“It’s been hard for the Mule,” Babcock said. “The Mule is a star at playoff time, and playing on one leg has been real tough for him.”
Babcock said it would be up to Franzen if he played Tuesday. “If he can go,” Babcock said, “we’re going with him.”
Babcock did make significant lineup changes, however, both before and during the game:
Babcock changed his lines and lineup for Game 5, putting speedy role player Drew Miller in and pulling Jiri Hudler, who had no points through four games against the Sharks. Babcock also took Tomas Holmstrom off the top line with Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk and put Valtteri Filppula up there for starters, dropping Holmstrom to play with Miller and Justin Abdelkader on the third line. Henrik Zetterberg began the night with his usual wingers, Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi, but ended it playing with Datsyuk while Filppula took over centering the second line.
“We didn’t like the match-up in the first with Mule, Pavel and Fil, and so we switched and put Z there,” Babcock said. “We thought Z was real good in the first, and we knew we’d draw (Joe) Thornton with that matchup. We expected the rest of the guys to respond. I thought the (Logan) Couture line had a good night against Filppula and Cleary and Bert, until the third period when Fil got to another level and dug in there. Suddenly we were a better-off team.”
Babcock went with Miller over Hudler because “I wanted skating. I just thought that if we skated better, we’d have more opportunity. The other thing I knew we’d be doing is penalty killing tonight—that was just automatic, they were going to be in and on top at times. We knew we’d be shorthanded. I think Millsie and Patty Eaves are our best penalty killers.”
Miller was eased back into the lineup with about 9 and-a-half minutes of ice time, but despite registering a single blocked shot attempt, he worked his butt off and gave the Wings’ breakout some pop, while Eaves registered 3 hits and 2 blocked shots in a little over 13 minutes of ice time.
Mostly, and perhaps thankfully, the Wings readily admitted that they weren’t out-played over the first forty minutes—more like out-classed—and they told NHL.com’s Dave Lozo that, thankfully, pride kicked in in the third period:
“We didn’t play our best hockey in the first two periods,” said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who scored his second of the postseason to pull the Red Wings within 2-1 with 3:35 left in the second period. “Jimmy played a great game. In the third period, we said we have to start playing hockey otherwise we’re going home for the season.”
“We weren’t giving up at all,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We kept going after them, getting pucks to the net. We tried to be active on ‘D’ when we can. We just kept shooting pucks on the net, because we’re not going to give up. We had to win today and that’s what we did.”
Kronwall put things a little more bluntly to the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
“We found a way to dig ourselves out of the mess,” Kronwall said.
The third-period rally began with Datsyuk backhanding a pass out front to Henrik Zetterberg, who had his shot blocked. Ericsson quickly pounced, slipping the puck behind Antti Niemi. Cleary showed his tenacity less than 2 minutes later when he picked the puck up behind the net, wrapped it around to the right goalpost and then kept whacking until he got it into the net. Holmstrom tipped Lidstrom’s shot at 13:52, silencing the crowd and showing the Sharks the Wings weren’t done yet.
“I think we realized the situation,” Cleary said. “We had a good push. They got that quick goal to make it 3-1, and we got a big goal by E and then I got one and then we kept coming. We didn’t sit back. We tried to be aggressive and force the issue. Great play by Pav, for sure. He’s a great player. He works hard. That work ethic and his skill level combined, that’s why he’s so good.”
As Howard suggested to the Detroit News’s Kulfan, if there’s one thing the Wings patented this season, it was how to rally from a multi-goal deficit in the third period:
Said Howard: “It says a lot about the nature of the room (rallying from the two-goal deficit). There’s a lot of character on our team and never any quit. We demonstrated that during the season and it showed tonight. Our season was on the line in the third period.”
Cue the understatement machine:
“Timely goals are a key,” Cleary said. “We stayed with it and we didn’t get frustrated.”
Couture put the Sharks ahead 3-1 just 54 seconds into the period. But Ericsson cut the deficit to 3-2 at 3:43 moments after the Sharks had just killed a Wings power play, the result of Heatley’s high-sticking penalty. Ericsson pinched in between the hashmarks, took a pass from Datsyuk, and fired a shot past a defenselss Niemi.
“If you look at the whole series, it’s frantic hockey,” coach Mike Babock said. “You’re pros and you’re supposed to be composed, but that’s not what I’m seeing. No one seems to lose the other team.”
And if you’re looking for the team’s x-factor, well…The man with the big hockey pants played a huge role in the Wings’ three third-period goals, too, as the Mercury News’s Mark Emmons noted:
“We just kept battling and found a way,” said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom after the Red Wings’ stormed back with three goals in just over 10 minutes to stun the Sharks 4-3 to force a Game 6 in this playoff series. “We’re a team that’s never going to give up. Our character really showed in the third period.”
It also was the usual suspects who did the final damage to cap a wild comeback that hushed what had been a raucous Shark Tank crowd. Tomas Holmstrom scored with 6:08 remaining by deflecting a Lidstrom slap shot that was set up by Pavel Datsyuk’s brilliant puck-handling.
For the Sharks, it was a sickeningly familiar scene watching Holmstrom notch a goal by creating havoc in front of the crease.
“He’s one of the best at what he does, planting himself in front of the net and making the big screen,” Lidstrom said.
Just part of the job, Holmstrom told the CBC’s series blogger:
Holmstrom was parked in his usual spot in the slot not only when he tipped in Lidstrom’s goal, but was also absorbing abuse from Niclas Wallin on the edge of the San Jose goal crease when Niklas Kronwall fired home Detroit’s first goal.
“During the season, you have those bang-bang plays,” said Holmstrom, a four-time Stanley Cup winner. “In the playoffs, everyone is more careful with the puck, playing more defensively, making good decisions. You usually see a bunch of goals from around the net.”
You’ll have to excuse me for saying it, but I was getting worried when Homer’s butt had yet to make an appearance. The Sharks had done such a good job of “boxing out” the Wings’ forwards and preventing the Wings from sustaining possession and control of the puck in the offensive zone that all Holmstrom could do was try to retrieve loose pucks and shovel them to his teammates as a slow but effective forechecker. When the Wings set up in the offensive zone, Holmstrom can go to his office and cause havoc, and good things happen when Homer goes to the front of the net.
As Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji noted, however, while both Niklas Kronwall—who “Kronwalled” Ryane Clowe and then told the Free Press’s Helene St. James that he was simply trying to, “Play as hard as possible” and step up when the opportunity presented itself—and Justin Abdelkader have gotten into the Sharks’ players’ heads, Abdelkader made a bit of a boo boo late in the game, and the Wings’ penalty-kill had to bail #8 out:
It just wouldn’t have been a Wings-Sharks playoff game without a late penalty, though, and unfortunately once again, Justin Abdelkader was the culprit. He was called for elbowing at 14:55. But for once, the Wings were perfect on the penalty kill and the Sharks were 0-for-4 for the game.
“Obviously it saved us, right?” Babcock said. “They had opportunities on it and it saved us tonight. We did a real good job. I didn’t like some of our forechecking on it or our entries or their entries, whatever you want to call it. We battled and hung in. Good goaltending’s always helps the penalty killing, obviously.”
While we’re at it, the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa noted that Henrik Zetterberg helped the Wings’ cause big time in his “Five Keys,” and the stats back him up there—while taking faceoffs for Datsyuk, Zetterberg went a stellar 16-and-9, he took 3 shots, had 6 attempts blocked by Sharks players, blocked a Sharks shot and registered a takeaway and a well-earned +2, and as DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples noted in his “Breakdown,” Z inadvertently registered an assist of sorts…
When Logan Couture scored 54 seconds into the third period, it looked as though he gave the Sharks a two-goal lead that would be insurmountable for the Red Wings. However, a bouncing puck off the stick of Henrik Zetterberg changed the game’s storyline. Pavel Datsyuk tried to pass to find Zetterberg to the right of the San Jose goal, and Zetterberg partially fanned on a shot attempt. The puck bounced to Jonathan Ericsson, who was left all alone in the slot in front of Antti Niemi. The young defenseman fired the puck past the Sharks’ goaltender, cutting the Sharks’ lead in half, and putting the Wings on the right rack for the comeback.
And Zetterberg’s faceoff stat was nearly eclipsed by this one:
25 Hits by the Wings. San Jose had 21.
That’s utterly ridiculous given how badly the Wings were on their heels, but as the Sharks are most certainly bigger and probably stronger than the Wings, I think it’s important to emphasize the fact that the Wings have, for the most part, out-hit the Sharks, even in their building.
Statistical interlude over. I guess it was a bit of a warm-up given the Free Press’s Michael Rosenberg’s bluster...
t felt like the Wings could have been down 6-1 instead of 2-1. As hockey people say, Jimmy Howard needed to stand on his head. Also, he needed to hide the goal in a dark basement so the Sharks couldn’t find it. Alas, that is not legal. Trust me. I checked. The Wings were playing for their season, but coach Mike Babcock said bluntly that “we weren’t competitive enough up front.” Yet Howard, who has been perpetually underestimated, kept his team in the game. The final shot totals were Sharks 42, Wings 22. My first question for Howard was borne of curiosity: Aren’t you tired?
“I had a great night’s sleep last night,” he said. “I had a good nap today after the pregame meal. So I felt good out there.”
If sleep is all it took to play like this, the best goaltenders in the world would be cats. Howard had a night for the ages. And still that doesn’t explain what happened.
Whatever happens the rest of the way, give the Wings credit for winning this one. They had every reason to crack. They did not get catch any breaks from the officials. Nicklas Lidstrom was whistled for tripping when his stick got caught, and Datsyuk was whistled for holding for reasons that remain a mystery to me. And, as I may have mentioned: They were severely outplayed.
It didn’t matter. Howard was so great, Datsyuk was so masterful, and the Wings so mentally tough that they somehow found a way to win. I don’t know what that way was, exactly. It might take me six months and four private detectives to figure it out. I just know they did it. The Red Wings are alive, well and going home for Game 6. What a resilient team. What an incredible sport.
Aside from mentioning a few dueling complements via the Free Press’s St. James...
Lidstrom on Howard: “He played great. We owe it to him. He kept us in the game the first two periods of the game. Even in the third, they had some chances, and he made himself big.” ...
Howard on the character the Wings showed: “I think it just says a lot about the nature of how the room is, how we have the presence of guys with a lot of leadership. Nick never gets rattled, he’s so calm, and I think that trickles down to the team.”...
Coach Mike Babcock: “Before the third we talked about how Howie had given us an opportunity to win the game. I thought Pavel was unbelievable in the third and I thought Zetterberg was great the whole game up front.”
The most encouraging part of the Wings’ rally is that they understand how very slim their margin of victory was, and that, without Howard, there could have been a handshake line at the end of a very ugly defeat. Lidstrom suggested as much to the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek...
“I thought we got a little bit fortunate tonight, the way Howie played especially in the first two periods,” said Lidstrom, “but we’re a team that isn’t going to give up. We’re going to keep battling until this is over - and that really showed in the third period.
As well as NHL.com’s Lozo:
Q: Were there any worries after the second period?
A: We knew we hadn’t played our best in the first two periods. They were playing better and they were playing harder. They were winning all the battles too. That’s why we were down in the game.
Q: How excited are you to go back to Detroit?
A: We’re happy to push this to a Game 6. We’ve got some momentum now, but we have to continue to play the way we did in the third period. We can’t play the way we did in the first two periods because they were taking the game to us early on.
That’s the theory, as the Detroit News’s John Niyo...
“There’s a lot of character on our team, and there’s never any quit,” said Jimmy Howard, who stopped 39 shots and proved again he’s an asset, not a liability for the Wings. “We demonstrated that during the season, and it paid off tonight. Our season was on the line there in the third period. And we found a way.”
Now they’ll have to find a way to do it again. But as loud as the Shark Tank was Sunday night, I imagine Joe Louis Arena will be that much louder Tuesday for a game few expected would even be played, the Sharks included. If this was, as the Wings’ Kris Draper had insisted Saturday, “the big one,” what’s left is even bigger now for both teams.
“We don’t want to prolong this any longer,” the Sharks’ Dan Boyle admitted Sunday morning.
Yet that’s exactly what they’ve done.
“They’re still in the driver’s seat — we understand that,” Cleary said. “But we’re going home with a chance to force (Game 7).”
And MLive’s Ansar Khan suggested:
“I don’t know what it was, but we’re not happy with the way we played in the the first two periods,” Kronwall said. “I thought we did a better job in the third, hard on pucks in both zones.”
“We’re basically playing Game 7 every game here,” Kronwall said. “We were able to steal one here. Jimmy played great, kept us in the game, gave us a chance to win.”
But, Babcock knows they must be much better at home.
“Tonight, we weren’t as good as we could have been,” Babcock said. “We’re going to be better for sure in Game 6.”
Did Babcock go further? Of course he did, and it’s the Sharks’ website’s staff that captured his bottom line—a defiant one at that:
“We’re going to be better for sure in Game 6. We are going to take it back to Detroit. We think we played real well here. We probably should have won Game 3 and we didn’t so now we’ve got to go back there and win Game 6.”
Easy? Hell no. Probable? Not necessarily—the Sharks still have at least one, if not two more chances to knock the Wings out here. Possible? Very much so. DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose notes that, 3-0 deficit excluded, the Wings have at least been in this situation before:
This is the 23rd time in team history that the Red Wings will head into a Game 6 trailing 2-3 in a best-of-seven game series. And in order for the team to advance to the Western Conference finals this time, they will have to become just the third Wings’ team ever to win three straight games after beginning a series in a 1-3 hole. The two times that it’s happened were in 1987 over the Toronto Maple Leafs and 1992 against the Minnesota North Stars.
The Wings have a 10-12 overall record, 3-4 at home, when facing elimination in Game 6.
The last time the Wings won such a big game was in the conference finals against the Colorado Avalanche in 2002. No doubt, Wings fans know how that series turned out, as goalie Dominik Hasek pitched back-to-back shutout wins, 2-0 and 7-0, to advance to the Stanley Cup finals against Carolina.
This series isn’t about looking that far ahead, however. The Wings have a long way to go, and it’s all about playing a much better 60-minute game on Tuesday so that there’s no handshake line at Joe Louis Arena. That is all that concerns the Wings and it’s all that really matters. Win Tuesday. Worry about the rest later.
Highlights: ESPN posted a 2-minute highlight clip;
Fox Sports posted a 1:05 highlight clip;
The CBC posted a 2:13 highlight clip;
Sportsnet posted a 2:59 highlight clip;
Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area posted a 2:10 highlight clip;
NBC Sports posted a 4:05 highlight clip;
And NHL.com’s highlight clip is narrated by TSN’s announcers:
Post-game: Amongst TSN’s clips and comments:
• TSN’s panel spends 3:53 talking about Pavel Datsyuk (who was spectacular), Jimmy Howard (who wasn’t?) and Johan Franzen (who’s obviously hurt);
• Its 1:17 clip of Red Wings post-game comments includes Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom and Jimmy Howard;
• It’s 1:04 clip of Sharks post-game comments includes Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi;
• And yes, Pavel Datsyuk can do more with the puck with one hand than most can do with the puck with two…or three or five…and it’s nice to hear Steve Kouleas and Darren Eliot praise the Wings’ defenders.
Via Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski, I’m not upset with or surprised by what Joe Thornton did after Johan Franzen gave him a whack—I’m pissed off because Thornton aggravated Franzen’s ankle sprain with a can opener and got away with it;
NHL.com and the Sharks ‘website posted clips of McLellan’s presser, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau speaking to the media, as well as NHL on the Fly’s take on the game, Howard’s one-one-one with Brian Engblom and Babcock’s presser:
And, of course, hello, Mr. Clowe:
Photos: The Detroit News posted a 28-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 32-image gallery;
The Mercury News posted a 52-image Flash gallery;
The San Francisco Chronicle posted a 38-immage gallery;
NHL.com posted a 43-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 47-image gallery;
Daylife.com posted several Reuters images in its Red Wings gallery;
The CBC embedded a 15-image gallery in its website’s recap;
The Globe and Mail posted an 8-image gallery;
Shots 42-22 San Jose, breaking down as 16-7 San Jose in the 1st period, 14-9 San Jose in the 2nd period nad 12-6 San Jose in the 3rd period.
The Wings went 0-for-2 in 4:00 of PP time; the Sharks went 0-for-4 in 8:00 of PP time.
Howard stopped 39 of 42 shots; Niemi stopped 18 of 22.
The 3 stars, per Dan Rusanowsky, were Jimmy Howard, Joe Pavelski and Pavel Datsyuk.
The Wings’ goals: Kronwall (2) from Datsyuk (8) and Stuart (1);
Ericsson (1) from Zetterberg (5) and Datsyuk (9);
Cleary (2) from Kronwall (3) and Bertuzzi (4);
Holmstrom (3) from Lidstrom (4) and Datsyuk (10).
Faceoffs 30-29 San Jose (Wings won 49%);
Blocked shots 20-17 San Jose;
Missed shots 14-7 San Jose (total shot attempts 73-49 San Jose);
Hits 25-21 Detroit;
Giveaways 20-13 San Jose;
Takeaways 11-6 San Jose.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 16-and-9 (64%); Filppula went 4-and-8 (33%); Helm went 4-and-6 (40%); Cleary went 4-and-2 (67%); Abdelkader went 1-and-1 (50%); Draper went 0-and-2 (0%); Eaves went 0-and-1; Miller went 0-and-1.
Shots: Rafalski, Zetterberg and Ericsson had 3 shots; Lidstrom, Cleary, Kronwall, Franzen and Holmstrom had 2 shots; Datsyuk, Eaves and Salei had 1.
Blocked attempts: The Sharks blocked 6 Zetterberg attempts; Rafalski had 3 attempts blocked; Draper, Helm and Franzen had 2 attempts blocked; Lidstrom, Cleary, Miller, Stuart and Kronwall had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Filppula missed the net 3 times; Helm, Bertuzzi, Kronwall and Holmstrom missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader led the team with 5 hits; Cleary and Eaves had 3 hits; Draper, Helm, Bertuzzi, Kronwall and Franzen had 2 hits; Datsyuk, Salei, Rafalski and Ericsson had 1 hit.
Giveaways: Ericsson had an ugly 5 giveaways; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Stuart, Helm, Bertuzzi, Filppula, Holmstrom and Howard had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Datsyuk had 2 takeaways; Abdelkader, Zetterberg, Filppula and Ericsson had 1 takeaway.
Blocked shots: Kronwall blocked 3 shots; Eaves, Stuart, Salei and Ericsson blocked 2; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Salei, Zetterberg, Helm and Franzen blocked 1.
Penalty minutes: Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Stuart and Franzen were tagged with minor penalties.
Plus-minus: Rafalski, Draper, Helm, Filppula and Franzen finished at -1; Abdelkader, Clea
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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.