DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings figured out a way to be on the winning side of a one-goal game against the San Jose Sharks.
For Detroit, it was about time.
Darren Helm scored with 1:27 left, lifting the Red Wings to an elimination-avoiding 4-3 win over San Jose in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal series on Friday night.
“For us it was an overtime game, a game we obviously had to win,” Helm said.
The Sharks won the first three games of the second-round rematch by a goal after beating the Red Wings by one goal for a fourth time in Game 5 last year.
“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.
The Sharks will take their 3-1 series lead back to San Jose with a chance to advance on Sunday night to the NHL’s final four.
“We have an opportunity to win at home,” coach Todd McLellan said. “We’re going to learn from this one and we’re going to be better.”
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.
The Red Wings had a chance to win Game 4 big as they did last year, but couldn’t put away San Jose.
Logan Couture had a goal 15 seconds after Lidstrom’s second, Dan Boyle scored midway through the middle period to pull San Jose within 3-2, and Dany Heatley tied it early in the third.
“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.”
Helm put Detroit back ahead for good, scoring from the left circle off a cross-ice pass from Patrick Eaves, who got the puck off a long rebound following Brian Rafalski’s shot.
“When I saw the puck, it was on the other side,” said San Jose’s Antti Niemi, who stopped 26 shots.
Jimmy Howard made 25 saves for the win.
The tightly contested series has mirrored last year’s matchup between the highly talented, puck-possession teams. San Jose won the first three games by a goal each time, but again failed to complete the sweep.
Todd Bertuzzi scored first this time 6:22 in, just as he did last year in Game 4, when he gave Detroit a 1-0 lead at 5:40.
The Red Wings went on to win that game 7-1 before getting eliminated in Game 5.
Detroit appeared to be on the way to another blowout win after Lidstrom scored twice in the first period to make it 3-0.
“We didn’t answer the bell as well as we could’ve,” San Jose forward Joe Pavelski said.
The Sharks, though, refused to get routed.
Couture quieted Joe Louis Arena at 18:16 of the first, and Boyle silenced the fired-up fans when he made it 2-1 at 13:44 of the second.
The Sharks had their first power play 4:12 into the third, shortly after tying the game, but didn’t take advantage. San Jose had another power play with 8:25 left and failed to score.
“It was getting hairy near the end,” Bertuzzi said.
Bertuzzi started the scoring with a spectacular play, making a 360-degree spin with the puck and beating Niemi with a backhander from the right circle.
From the other circle, Lidstrom’s slap shot off a long rebound made it 2-0 midway through the first period. The defenceman got control of a pass with his left skate, whacked the puck out of the air, and bounced it past Niemi.
“You guys were talking about retirement,” Babcock said when asked about the 41-year-old Lidstrom’s performance. “I think he answered that pretty good.”
The cheers turned to groans seconds later when Helm had a giveaway, and Howard gave up what seemed like a soft goal to Couture. Howard went low and Boyle shot high after a cross-ice pass caught back-checking forward Jiri Hudler out of position to make it 3-2 midway through the second period.
The Red Wings were scrambling to keep up with San Jose on the tying goal, too, leaving Heatley alone in front for a shot that Howard couldn’t stop.
In front of a standing crowd, Detroit made the big play in the heart-pounding final minutes to avoid elimination.
“It was a huge adrenaline rush,” Howard said. “Our fans were going crazy the last 10 minutes of the game. That really helped energize us.”
NOTES: The 2010 Flyers, 1942 Maple Leafs and 1975 Islanders are the only NHL teams to overcome 3-0 deficits to win a best-of-seven series. … Lidstrom’s first goal gave him 181 career playoff points, breaking a second-place tie with Ray Bourque for scoring by a defenceman, and broke an 11th-place tie overall with Jaromir Jagr. … LW Ryane Clowe assisted on each of San Jose’s goals, giving him 12 points to rank among scoring leaders this post-season.