The Detroit Red Wings clawed their way back from a 2-goal deficit to force a Game 6 in Detroit with a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night.
Through a stellar third period, the Red Wings scored 3 unanswered goals and left the Sharks shocked and shaken. The Sharks dominated play from the opening face-off right up until the start of the third period. Going into the second intermission, it looked like this would be it for the Wings. They didn’t play nearly as hard or with as much desperation as they did in Game 4, and the situation looked bleak unless they could turn it around.
As it was in past games, it wasn’t the X-Factor that contributed the extra goal to the winning team. It appeared that the Wings finally put it together and were able to gel enough to get the momentum they needed to silence the streaking Sharks and their home crowd at HP Pavilion. But at an expense…
Johan Franzen missed a good chunk of the second period and all of the third when he exacerbated an ankle injury which had already left him hobbling a bit as it is. Now it appears he could miss some additional time in a clutch situation where Detroit needs him to be his old Playoff self. It also appeared that Pavel Datsyuk was favoring a wrist injury, and didn’t take any face-offs. His stick-handling didn’t appear the worse for wear though, as he happily dangled and weaved through the tricky sharks defense...setting up three of the Wings’ four goals. Jiri Hudler was also a healthy scratch last night as Mike Babcock decided he was a little lacking defensively, so the Czech forward got the night off to regroup.
It sounds like a broken record, but Jimmy Howard was still the number one star on the team, stopping 39 shots, along with a number of beautiful saves to give the Red Wings that third period opportunity. He’s been completely solid all series, and there’s no sign that he’s getting fatigued. He’ll feed off any adrenaline rush from Detroit goals and is really dreaming of an historic comeback. I can’t say that Antii Niemi played horrible though. The numbers don’t look good for him…4 goals on 22 shots, but the goals themselves were really not soft. It appeared that a panicked and overly aggressive Sharks defense crashed their own net and allowed the opening for the Wings to bury the puck.
With Game 6 now a reality, the Red Wings will have the opportunity for a huge swing in momentum in this series. An extra game at the Joe will really have the fans rocking as their team tries to add onto a two game winning streak against a team that has frustrated them for over a year now. The Sharks, on the flip side, may have history beginning to creep into their minds as well, wondering if their Playoff curse is starting to rear its ugly head. If they win Game 6, they’ll be on a serious tear and likely no stopping them. However, they need to put together 60 full minutes worth of hockey. The Sharks are going to turn it on even more than they already have, and Detroit needs to be ready to go all the way. 120 more minutes of solid hockey, and the Detroit Red Wings could be advancing to the Western Conference Finals. Any less, and they’re gambling with an early summer.