Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Wings 1 step away from history

Categories: Detroit Red Wings, SJS vs. DET, San Jose Sharks

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The Wings are one win away from overturning a 3-0 series deficit. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) The Wings are one win away from overturning a 3-0 series deficit. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Three Game 7s down. One to go.

The Detroit Red Wings moved another step closer to joining the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and 2010 Philadelphia Flyers in Stanley Cup lore, posting a 3-1 verdict over the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal series Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena.

With three successive victories, Detroit has rallied to force a seventh and deciding game in this set and to within one win of becoming the fourth team in Stanley Cup history to rally from a 3-0 deficit to capture a best-of-seven series.

"I'd lie if I said I didn't think about it," Wings forward Dan Cleary said of their chance to achieve legendary status in Stanley Cup play. "Of course we've thought about it."

Rally time

For the second straight game, the Wings trailed in the third period, and came back to forge a victory, as Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Darren Helm scored to overcome an earlier marker by San Jose's Logan Couture.

"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."

The Wings credited their veteran depth for allowing them to rally when being so close to elimination two games in succession.

"One of the things we're fortunate to have is the leadership and the calmness of the guys who are a bit older," Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall said. "They have been around.

"There's no panic at any time."

Belief system

How have they done this? How have the Wings come back from the brink to get to a Game 7 showdown?

The strategy is not all that complicated, they insist.

"We still believe," Wings centre Pavel Datsyuk said. "Simple as that."

It was Datsyuk who set up Filppula's game winner, while Kronwall's point shot was tipped home by Zetterberg to knot the count at 1-1.

"That's the only way you can do it," Kronwall said. "If you don't believe, then you're done."

Added Cleary: "We believe that we can. That's the one thing. If you believe you really, really can, if you're not kidding yourself, then you've got a chance.

"Experience is a factor for sure, but we've got a lot of will and a lot of skill. Beyond that, we've got a good team, a good structure. We believe in each other. Everybody likes each other, respects each other.

"For us, being down 3-0, we believed in ourselves, believed we'd get to Game 7."

Filling the void

Filppula's goal was his first point of the series, and it came off another magical set-up from Datsyuk.

"It was a really good pass," Filppula said. "That's the way he plays. He makes those really amazing plays. When you're out there with him, there's always a chance you're going to get it."

Filppula was one of the players Wings coach Mike Babcock felt the Wings needed a better performance from in order to survive in this series.

"I thought he was excellent," Babcock said. "He was a guy we obviously needed more from. He's an important guy for us."

Feeling better

The ongoing debate regarding the status of Datsyuk's injured right wrist took another interesting turn.

Asked if he was hurting, Datsyuk smiled. "I hurt when it was 3-0," he said. "Now I'm OK."

Game 7 showdown

Each team has won three in a row to get to this stage, but Babcock didn't think it was fair to read into those numbers that this has been two different series in one.

"There hasn't been much to pick between the teams," Babcock said. "I didn't think we should have been down 0-3, we could have won them all, so could have they. That's how tight this has been."

Babcock also wouldn't buy that the Wings would carry any momentum into Game 7. "It'll be a new game with both of us having an opportunity," he said, while adding that the veteran presence on his roster could be an edge.

"We have lots of guys who've risen to the occasion many times in their career.''

Sharks don't rise to occasion

Well, not only did San Jose not rise to the occasion Tuesday, they knelt in front of it and let it run them over. What is more, they know it, and they seem for the moment to be at sixes and sevens to do anything to stop it.

"One team skated, the other did not skate at all and that was evident right through the first two periods," head coach Todd McLellan said after the Sharks played easily their worst game in several playoff seasons, losing 3-1 to Detroit in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Or as it is coming to be known, the California Tracheotomy Special.

"We're fortunate our goaltender [Antti Niemi] even gave us a chance to be remotely involved in the game in the third period."

In short, he was disgusted, and he put the burden of cheating history squarely on the players.

"Each player has a tool kit, a skill set, that he brings to the rink," he said, "and then he's got a commitment level he's got to bring to that rink.

"A lot of you asked me before the series started what home ice meant. I guess we'll find out now."

One last shot

Maybe it means a burial ground. Maybe it means cheating the defibrillator. But Tuesday night was a night for widespread and thorough recriminations.

"We just weren't very good at all," said Logan Couture, who scored San Jose's goal but made the bad pass that created Detroit's winner. "It could really have been four or five. Nemo [Niemi] stood on his head for us, and we let him down."

"We have one game to figure this out," captain Joe Thornton.

"Ahead in the third period?" McLellan said when asked to refer to Couture's goal at 3:54, that became another blown third period lead for San Jose. "We were very fortunate just to still be in the game in the third period. We could have been down 4-0 or 5-0."

"You can't take much out of this game other than Nemo was great," defenceman Douglas Murray said.

"We put up an embarrassing effort. It's nothing to do with X's and O's. It's about whatever it takes to get yourself ready. We weren't skating, we weren't making quick plays, we weren't doing anything right. This was unacceptable. But we have to move away from it. We've got an important game Thursday.''

These are the eight instances where teams have gone up 3-0, then lost the next three.

Year 0-3 Team 3-0 Team Game 7 Result
2011 Red Wings Sharks ??????
2011 Blackhawks Canucks Canucks 2, Blackhawks 1
2010 Flyers Bruins Flyers 4, Bruins 3
1975 Islanders Flyers Flyers 4, Isles 1
1975 Islanders Penguins Isles 1, Penguins 0
1945 Red Wings Maple Leafs Leafs 2, Wings 1
1942 Maple Leafs Red Wings Leafs 3, Wings 1
1939 Rangers Bruins Bruins 2, Rangers 1, 3OT

SAN JOSE LINES

Logan Couture-Joe Thornton-Devin Setoguchi
Benn Ferriero-Patrick Marleau-Dany Heatley
Torrey Mitchell-Joe Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood
Ben Eager-Scott Nichol-Jamie McGinn

Douglas Murray-Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Jason Demers
Ian White-Niclas Wallin

Antti Niemi
Antero Niittymaki