SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Detroit Red Wings are coming home with a chance to take a step toward history.
Suddenly, that seems well within reach.
Tomas Holmstrom broke a tie with 6:08 remaining, and the Red Wings scored three third-period goals to avoid elimination with a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night.
“There’s a lot of character on this team. There’s not any quit,” said Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 39 saves. “Our season was on the line there in the third period, and we found a way.”
Danny Cleary and Jonathan Ericsson also scored in the final period to send the series back to Detroit for Game 6 on Tuesday night. After winning the first three games, San Jose is clinging to a 3-2 lead.
Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi scored to help the Sharks take a 3-1 lead early in the third period. Then the Red Wings scored two quick goals before Holmstrom redirected the winner past Antti Niemi, leaving a sellout crowd stunned and silent.
Niklas Kronwall also scored and Pavel Datsyuk added three assists for Detroit.
“I think you put yourselves in a very dangerous position if you get back on your heels against that team,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “I didn’t think we did that tonight. They just outplayed us in the third period.”
The Red Wings moved closer to adding to their already storied history.
The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and 2010 Philadelphia Flyers are the only teams to win a series after losing the first three games. With Chicago winning three straight to force a Game 7 against Vancouver in the opening round, that’s enough of a precedent to give Detroit hope that it can push San Jose to the brink.
The Red Wings already have overcome a repeat of last season, when they went down 3-0 to the Sharks—just like this year—before being eliminated in Game 5 at San Jose.
No encore this time.
Detroit came back again with a strong push up ice and sent several shots at Niemi after going down two goals. In a span of 1:46, the Red Wings got a goal from Ericsson and another from Cleary on a wraparound shot for the equalizer.
Then Nicklas Lidstrom sent a slapshot from centre that was deflected on net by Holmstrom, redirected top shelf to beat Niemi and shock a towel-waving crowd that was ready to toast a berth in the Western Conference finals for the second straight season.
“I didn’t know it went in right away,” Holmstrom said. “But I saw the ref point at the net and I felt pretty good.”
Fans had reason to be optimistic: the Sharks had controlled the puck and forced the action from the start.
But they failed to convert on two power plays in the opening period—not even registering a shot on the first—and nearly fell behind again if not for a spectacular save from their goalie. Niemi kept the Red Wings from going ahead first, diving to his left to rob a slap shot by Ericsson with a glove save.
A few minutes later, Joe Thornton won a faceoff in Detroit’s territory and passed it back for a Dan Boyle slapshot from just inside the blue-line. Boyle’s shot was redirected by Setoguchi for his fifth goal of the playoffs to put San Jose up 1-0 with 2:42 left in the period.
The Red Wings were able to kill off another power play in the second to give themselves a chance, only to fail to even get a shot off when they had their own man advantage. Then Pavelski made them pay when he took a pass from Ryane Clowe on a 2-on-1 break, flicking the puck past Howard to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead.
The goal also was Pavelski’s fifth of the playoffs, although he didn’t have much time to celebrate. Kronwall scored 53 seconds later with a wrist shot that beat Niemi top shelf with 3:35 left in the period.
Any momentum the Red Wings had entering the final period seemed to end with a thud.
Dany Heatley came out of a scrum along the side boards and shoved a pass ahead to Couture, who finished on a wide-open breakaway past Howard’s left leg 54 seconds into the third period to give the Sharks a 3-1 cushion.
“When we go up 3-1 we usually finish teams off,” Thornton said. “They fought back very hard. We made a couple of careless plays and against their skilled players, they put those in.”
NOTES: Red Wings F Johan Franzen tweaked his ankle and was limited in the third period. … The Red Wings inserted left winger Drew Miller into the lineup and scratched Jiri Hudler. … The Sharks are 7-0 when they lead a series 3-1. … The announced attendance was a sellout crowd of 17,562. … The Sharks fell to 5-1 when they score first in the playoffs.