A season that started with such promise ended with a mad dash of six-on-four hockey that wasn't enough.
For the fourth time in the series, the Detroit Red Wings lost a one-goal game. This time, it was Patrick Marleau's goal with 12:01 left that gave the San Jose Sharks a 2-1 victory and wrapped up this Western Conference Semifinal four games to one.
It was a game that featured all sorts of oddities: eight different Red Wings taking faceoffs as the linesmen were tossing players from the faceoff circle; a penalty shot to San Jose on a questionable hooking call that would rarely get called in almost any other situation, Marc-Edouard Vlasic going knee-on-knee with Valtteri Filppula in a moment that drew gasps for both players; and finally, a violent Douglas Murray elbow-to-head shot on Johan Franzen that drew no penalty just before the game winning goal.
If anything, the sole reason the Red Wings were even close in this game was the spectacular performance by Jimmy Howard. San Jose had plenty of chances, but it was Howard making 30 saves on a night where the offense couldn't seem to get much going.
After a scoreless first period, Brian Rafalski set the puck up at the blue line and fired a shot that deflected off the stick of Patrick Marleua and past Evgeni Nabokov for Rafalski's third goal of the playoffs. He was set up by Franzen, extending Franzen's point-scoring streak to all 12 games in the playoffs.
But the lead would be short lived. Just 2:14 later, while Brad Stuart sat in the penalty, the Sharks would parlay a faceoff win by Jason Demers to a nice shot by Dany Heatley. Howard would make that stop, but the rebound would go to Joe Thornton, who picked up his third goal of the playoffs.
In the third period, Niklas Kronwall tied up Joe Pavelski going towards the net, on a play that was clearly a penalty. Pavelski was awarded a penalty shot, but managed to push it wide after being challenged by Howard.
But just three minutes later, Rafalski had the puck behind Howard. Instead of trying to play the puck out, he tried to pass it out to his right, only to have it intercepted by Thornton. He found Marleau, who fired a wrister for his third goal of the playoffs, which would prove to be the game winner.
Nabokov would end the night with 33 saves.
Player of the game: Jimmy Howard. How can a losing goaltender get this? Easy: had Howard not made the saves he made, this game would've been a 4-1 blowout. He wasn't able to steal a game, but given the fact that he's a rookie goaltender, that's quite alright.