Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Wings are not done yet

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

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Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, second from right, led Detroit’s Game 4 win against the San Jose Sharks with a pair of goals. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press) Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, second from right, led Detroit’s Game 4 win against the San Jose Sharks with a pair of goals. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press)

To be the king, you have to beat the king, in the immortal words of that elegant old Anglican bishop Ric (Nature Boy) Flair, and even if the king is one step removed from his crown, as the Detroit Red Wings are, they still remember how to do that king thing.

And the San Jose Sharks still haven't learned how to deliver the prompt boot in the groin when needed.

The Sharks failed yet again to achieve their first-ever series sweep by losing Friday in Game 4 of this Western Conference semifinals, 4-3. A goal 1:27 from the end by Darren Helm after a prolonged scramble in front of the net put force to the assertions that the Wings were the better team, but the Sharks were less than thrilled to discover that they were partly at fault.

Even though, in coming back from a 3-0 first period deficit, they nearly put lie to head coach Todd McLellan's assertion during the Los Angeles series that "we got a mulligan, and we won't get any more."

That was after spotting the Kings four goals in Game 3 and winning 6-5 in overtime. This time, they held the damage to three early Detroit goals, rallied with scores from Logan Couture, Dan Boyle and Dany Heatley (all assisted by Ryane Clowe), but could not finish the job.

"I like the fact that we were resilient when we weren't playing very well, so that's a positive we'll take from the game," McLellan said, opening with the up before bringing the down.

"We found a way to claw back into it, but again, early in the game and even throughout the second period we didn't have very good legs tonight. It was hard to find six or seven guys who were really skating well, and Detroit did. They won a lot of loose pucks, they established body position over loose pucks, and they did a better job of it than we did."

As a result, the two teams go back to San Jose for a fifth game Sunday night (8 p.m. ET) that a year ago resulted in the Sharks finishing off the Wings. This time, it may not be so easy, as the Wings have gotten better with each passing game to the point where they dominated early and in the middle, and especially when the chips went to the middle of the table.

"We have to be hard from the start," Sharks goalie Antti Niemi lamented. "That's the key."

Niemi got caught on some oddball goals early, including a spinarama from Todd Bertuzzi of all people, and a one-hop base hit out of the air by Nicklas Lidstrom, who is all people. Indeed, for the most part, Niemi was stalwart, but the Sharks paid for their early profligacy by using all their energies to get even and being unable to put the Wings away with even a fluky goal at the other end.

"We can say we lost the game in the first 17, 18 minutes," Boyle said. "We were a little sloppy defensively, they got too many chances. We showed character and heart and all that by coming back, but we still lost, and we have to go back."

And the king is not yet dead.

Lidstrom leads in similar fashion

With their season in the balance, the Detroit Red Wings got the sort of out-of-this-world performance they've grown accustomed to from their captain. Nicklas Lidstrom leads in similar fashion to his predecessor, Steve Yzerman, by example.

He set a winning example Friday at Joe Louis Arena as the Wings pulled out a victory over the San Jose Sharks to stay alive in the set.

"I think we felt that we had more to give," Lidstrom said. "That we could play better. We were a desperate team that still wanted to play hockey."

Lidstrom scored two goals for Detroit, the second on a pass he batted out of midair on a bounce into the roof of the net, as if he were a cricket batsman.

"I'm not much of a cricket player, but I'll take that one," said Lidstrom, who moved past Jaromir Jagr (181 points) in 11th place on the Stanley Cup all-time scoring list."
He leads all scorers in this series with four goals and three assists.

"The guy is magical," Detroit forward Todd Bertuzzi said. "He steps up at big times and carries a lot of the load of this team on his shoulders."

Captain Karma?

Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard saw Lidstrom's batted-in goal as a sign that the hockey gods were suddenly smiling on the Red Wings after the Sharks seemed to get all the breaks through the first three games.

"Maybe that's the type of bounce we needed, something like that where he takes a swing out of midair, it takes a bounce and goes top shelf," Howard said. "Maybe that's something finally going our way."

The performance should also aid in silencing questions to Lidstrom, 41, about whether he's considering retirement at season's end.

"I think he answered that one pretty good, Wings coach Mike Babcock said."

Rally Wings

As much as they were excited to finally win a game in the series, the Wings couldn't ignore the fact that they allowed a 3-0 first-period lead to vanish and needed Darren Helm's goal with 1:27 left in regulation time in order to garner the victory.

"We just told ourselves that we weren't going to be denied and came out with the win," Helm said.

"The last five minutes, whoever scores next wins the game. We were fighting for our lives there."

Detroit poured it during those final five minutes of regulation and the relentless pressure finally led to Helm's goal.

"I think to a man, we came out and played with a lot of determination," Lidstrom said. "Even though they battled back, we stuck to our game plan. We didn't start panicking and it paid off for us in the end.

Battling Bert

Bertuzzi opened the scoring for Detroit at 8:22 but earlier in the period, sought to mix it up with Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi, who took Bertuzzi out along the boards with what Bertuzzi felt was a slew foot.

The two jawed back and forth at each other from their respective benches for quite some time after the shifts ended.

"I just thought it was a pretty noticeable slew foot and should have been called, but that stuff happens," Bertuzzi said. "I'm just glad we won and get to go off to San Jose.

Put Away the brooms

For the second straight spring against the Sharks, Detroit avoided a sweep. In fact, the Wings haven't been swept in a series since 2003.

The last coach to lead a team to a sweep of the Wings? That would be Babcock, who guided the Anaheim Ducks past the Wings in a four-game opening-round triumph in 2003.