DETROIT – Valtteri Filppula and the Detroit Red Wings kept their season going with another late rally.
Now, they’re on the verge of an even greater comeback.
Henrik Zetterberg and Filppula scored less than two minutes apart in the third period, and the Red Wings came from behind again for a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night, forcing a decisive seventh game after trailing 3-0 in the pulsating second-round series.
After a night full of missed chances and agonizing bounces, Detroit scored three times in the final 9:22 in front of a delirious crowd at Joe Louis Arena.
Game 7 is Thursday night at San Jose.
“I think you have to believe all the time, whatever the score is, even if you’re behind, that you can come back,” Filppula said. “Believing we can, it’s definitely a big part of it.”
San Jose must defend home ice to avoid becoming the fourth NHL team to lose a best-of-seven series after leading 3-0. Logan Couture scored early in the third period for the Sharks, but Zetterberg tied it with 9:22 remaining, and Filppula scored the winner with 7:28 left.
Darren Helm added an empty-net goal. Every other game in the series was decided by one goal.
“I didn’t think we should have been down 0-3, we could have won them all, so could they,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “That’s how tight this has been. Not much to pick between the teams.”
Detroit scored the last three goals of Game 5 to win 4-3.
The Red Wings are the second team this season to erase a 3-0 series hole. Chicago did it in the first round before losing Game 7 at Vancouver. Philadelphia came all the way back last year in the second round, winning the final four games against Boston.
Those recent successes make Detroit’s task seem less daunting.
“One of the things we’re fortunate to have is the leadership and the calmness of the guys who are a bit older,” Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall said. “They have been around. There’s no panic at any time. We just stuck to the game plan for 60 minutes. That’s the only way you can do it. If you don’t believe, then you’re done.”
Skating with confidence and desperation, the Red Wings outshot San Jose 45-25, but they were on the verge of elimination after Couture batted a rebound out of midair and the puck trickled past goalie Jimmy Howard with 16:06 remaining. The puck barely crossed the goal-line before Howard covered it with his glove, but the goal stood after a review.
San Jose’s lead was short-lived, and now the Sharks head back to California with only one more chance to close out the series.
“Just ask Detroit. They lost three in a row and their confidence wasn’t frayed,” San Jose forward Joe Thornton said. “We’re a confident group, still. You work 82 games to get home ice in these Game 7s. Now we just have to make it work.”
Zetterberg tied it by deflecting a wrist shot by Kronwall past goalie Antti Niemi, and the Sharks never regained momentum. Filppula put Detroit ahead, converting a nice cross-ice pass by Pavel Datsyuk.
The Red Wings outplayed the Sharks from the start. At the midway point of the first period, Detroit had an 11-1 edge in shots, to the delight of the home crowd that had given the Red Wings a standing ovation when they took the ice.
“We put up an embarrassing effort. It’s nothing to do with Xs and Os. It’s about whatever it takes to get yourself ready,” Sharks defenceman Douglas Murray said. “This was unacceptable, but we have to move away from it. We’ve got an important game Thursday.”
Jiri Hudler had a good scoring chance from a severe angle with Niemi slightly out of position, but the Detroit forward was unable to score.
The Sharks managed a couple of early chances on counterattacks. Immediately after coming out of the penalty box, Dan Boyle found himself with space in the Detroit zone, but he fanned on a backhand attempt while bearing down on Howard.
Howard stopped Benn Ferriero on a breakaway later in the period—the San Jose right-wing didn’t have much time to control the puck before trying to slip it in.
The action was just as intense at the start of the second. Detroit’s Drew Miller shot wide on a rebound with Niemi sprawled in front of the net. With 15:25 left in the period, the normally mild-mannered Datsyuk was involved in a brief scrap with San Jose’s Torrey Mitchell.
Datsyuk was given two minor penalties to Mitchell’s one, but it was the Red Wings who ended up with the best scoring chance to that point. Danny Cleary, who was serving one of the penalties, had a clean breakaway when he came out of the penalty box just as Detroit was clearing its zone. Cleary made a nice move around Niemi but hit the side of the net with the goalie down and out.
The Red Wings outshot San Jose 32-13 in the first two periods.
NOTES: San Jose F Ryane Clowe missed Game 6 because of an undisclosed upper body injury. Clowe leads San Jose with 13 points this post-season. … The Red Wings were without RW Johan Franzen, who reinjured his left ankle in Game 5. Veteran forward Mike Modano rejoined the lineup after playing in only one other game this post-season. … According to STATS LLC, four NHL teams have rallied from a 3-0 deficit but lost a seventh game. … San Jose F Patrick Marleau, called “gutless” on national television after Game 5 by former Sharks player and current analyst Jeremy Roenick, had one shot on goal and no points.