Pavel Datsyuk’s goal with 1:24 remaining gave them a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, tying the NHL Western Conference semifinal series 1-1.
San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov was down in his crease after stopping a Mikael Samuelsson shot when Datsyuk got the rebound and, with the puck on his backhand, smoothly slipped it into the gaping net and raised his arms in celebration.
Henrik Zetterberg and Daniel Cleary also scored for the Red Wings, who were down 2-0 after five minutes.
Goals by Jonathan Cheechoo and Joe Thornton staked San Jose to the early lead.
Game 3 is Monday (10 p.m. ET).
A shot by Kyle McLaren opened the scoring 36 seconds after the opening faceoff, which was briefly delayed while octopus slime was scraped off the ice. McLaren took a soft blue-line shot that touched Cheechoo’s stick and changed direction only slightly but enough to handcuff goaltender Dominik Hasek.
Thornton made it 2-0 at 4:17 thanks to a Hasek blunder. The 42-year-old Czech went behind his net to get the puck, hesitated, and lost control on his clearing motion. The puck slid to San Jose’s Milan Michalek in the corner. A quick relay out front and the puck was in the vacated net for Thornton’s first goal and ninth post-season point.
It took Detroit 13 minutes to get a shot on Nabokov. On its third shot, an attempted pass out of a corner by Zetterberg, the puck struck McLaren in front of the net and caromed between Nabokov’s right leg and the post at 17:30 for Detroit’s first goal of the series.
The goal spurred the Red Wings. After being outshot 9-3 in the first period, they held San Jose without a shot on Hasek for the first 13 minutes of the second and had a 9-4 advantage in the period. But it was still 2-1 after 40 minutes.
Overall, this had to rate as one of the poorest games of the post-season in any series. San Jose was doing the same thing it did in its 2-0 Game 1 victory, shifting into neutral after getting a lead, while Detroit again seemed incapable of mounting any concerted offence.
The Red Wings would have to find a higher gear in the third period or risk heading west down two games.
Cleary gave them some high-test gas at 1:23. Christian Ehrhoff’s giveaway in his own end allowed Kirk Maltby to gain possession of the puck while the Wings’ Kris Draper served a holding penalty. He fed Cleary in the middle of the zone and Cleary slapped a shot that sent the puck off a kneeling Nabokov’s left shoulder and on into the net for a short-handed goal that tie it 2-2.
The goal brought three octopi flying onto the ice.
Then Datsyuk won it.
The Red Wings got lucky. Maybe coach Mike Babcock’s tie was a charm. He had sent a message earlier in the week to McGill University in Montreal, where he played hockey during the 1980s, asking that he be sent a school tie to wear behind the bench Saturday.
The Red Wings outshot the Sharks 10-6 in the third period and 22-19 overall.
The Sharks went 0-for-6 and Detroit was 0-for-3 on power plays.
Notes: The average size of San Jose players is six foot two and 214 pounds, while the Red Wings average six feet and 198. . . . San Jose reinserted Mark Bell and deleted Joe Pavelski. Bell had missed the previous four games with a groin injury. He skated on a line with Patrick Marleau and Bill Guerin . . . Detroit remained without F Tomas Holmstrom (left eye) and D Brett Lebda (left ankle) . . . Detroit D Chris Chelios appeared in his 236th playoff game, tying Mark Messier for second place on the all-time list. Only Patrick Roy (247) played more . . . With the Tigers playing baseball at home, the Pistons on TV in an afternoon NBA playoff game, football fans glued to the TV with the NFL draft in progress, and the weather outside beautiful, hockey was a tough sell. There were hundreds of empty seats in Joe Louis Arena . . . Of the 24 players on the Sharks roster, 16 were original Sharks draft selections by director of scouting Tim Burke and his staff . . . Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom turned 37 Saturday . . . Fin fact: Sharks F Ryane Clowe is from the Newfoundland community of Mount Pearl and says that if he wasn’t in hockey he’d be working on his dad’s fishing boat . . . This date in Stanley Cup history, April 28, 1996: a sold-out crowd at Winnipeg Arena said goodbye to the Jets following a 4-1 loss to Detroit in Game 6 of a first-round series; it marked the final game for the team before moving to Phoenix and becoming the Coyotes.