DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings played their best game of the Western Conference semifinals.
It wasn’t good enough.
Devin Setoguchi scored his third goal of the game 9:21 into overtime, giving the San Jose Sharks a 4-3 win over Detroit and a commanding 3-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday night.
Just three teams in NHL history, including Philadelphia last year, have won a series after trailing 0-3.
Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard isn’t counting out his team’s chances.
“Why not us?” Howard asked. “That’s the mentality I think we have to have.”
The Sharks will have their first of four chances to advance to the conference finals Friday night in Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena.
San Jose won the first three games of last year’s second-round series—including Game 3 by 4-3 in OT—against the Red Wings and lost the next game by six goals before eliminating Detroit with another one-goal victory in Game 5.
“We’ve tried very hard as a coaching staff to separate last year’s series from this year,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “There will be a lot made out of that, but it’s completely irrelevant in my opinion. I hope it is because we took one hell of a licking last year in game 4.”
The Sharks’ last eight wins in the post-season against Detroit have been by exactly one goal. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs have done that, beating the Montreal Canadiens by a goal in seven straight victories from the 1947 to 1959 playoffs, according to STATS LLC.
A much-needed win got away from Detroit after Dan Boyle scored the tying goal with 4:08 left in regulation, setting up the Sharks’ second overtime win of the series and fifth this post-season.
“We just take some deep breaths,” said Joe Thornton, who assisted on the winning goal. “We feel we’ve got so many gifted players that can end games at any time.”
Pavel Datsyuk scored a go-ahead goal late in the second period, but Detroit couldn’t hold off the Sharks.
“It’s hard to hold the lead right now,” McLellan said. “There’s so much tension and stress.”
The Red Wings were really rattled when they didn’t capitalize on Setoguchi’s penalty box at 5:14 of overtime for holding, failing to score a third power-play goal.
“All you’re thinking is, ‘Don’t score, don’t score, don’t score,'” Setoguchi said. “I thought our penalty killing did a great job on that power play.”
San Jose made the Red Wings pay for the missed opportunity. Thornton patiently got the puck to Setoguchi at the top of the right circle for a wrist shot that went across goalie Jimmy Howard and into the net.
“He kind of had the hot hand all night,” Thornton said. “So give it to him and let him do all the work.”
Howard made 34 saves.
“Point blank, I thought we deserved to win,” Howard said.
But the Red Wings didn’t in large part because Antti Niemi stopped 38 shots for the Sharks.
Setoguchi scored first Wednesday night, a power-play goal midway through the first period, and made it 2-all late in the second with another man-advantage goal.
The fourth-year pro had previously scored two goals in one playoff game and notched his first hat trick earlier this year.
“He’s got a tremendous trigger,” McLellan said.
Lidstrom does, too, and he showed that off of Henrik Zetterberg’s no-look, between-the-legs pass with 22 seconds left in the first period to get the Red Wings even. Patrick Eaves put Detroit ahead 2-1, but Setoguchi tied it 50 seconds later in the second period.
The high-pace, hard-hitting game with shots trickling to the side of the posts at both ends of the rink fired up the sold-out crowd in the first period. The towel-twirling fans roared when Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall put Dany Heatley on his back with a clean check.
The Sharks got even where it mattered. Setoguchi got to a loose puck in front ofthe net and shot it past Howard with 7:03 left in the first to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.
Lidstrom didn’t waste Zetterberg’s highlight-worthy pass, slapping a shot that went in and out of the net in the final minute of the first. The power-play goal was the 29th of Lidstrom’s career in the playoffs, breaking Denis Potvin’s mark for a defenceman and matching Mario Lemieux’s fifth-place total in NHL history. He had an assist on Datsyuk’s goal for the 128th of his post-season career, equalling Doug Gilmour for fifth place on the NHL list.
Eaves scored Detroit’s first go-ahead goal, getting a backhander past a sprawling Niemi with 6:01 left in the second period. Setoguchi tied it less than a minute later.
Late in the second period, Detroit took advantage of Setoguchi’s holding penalty.
Lidstrom carried the puck up ice and got it to Zetterberg, who pulled up and feathered a pass that directly set up a second power-play goal that wasn’t enough.
“They’re finding a way,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “That’s what good teams do.”
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 playoff series. The Flyers became the first to trail 0-3 and force a Game 7 since the ’75 Islanders. Chicago repeated the feat in the first round this year before losing Game 7 at Vancouver. … Heatley was slow to get up after Kronwall’s hit and went to the dressing room, but returned to play late in the period. … Faces in the crowd included musicians Hank Williams Jr. and Kid Rock, who were sitting together, along with NHLPA chief Donald Fehr, the longtime head of baseball’s union, with former player Mathieu Schneider.