Going Back to Cali: Red Wings 3 - Sharks 1 (Series tied 3-3)

After we win Game 7, I take you out for Borscht.

After Game 6, we referenced LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" with the "don't call it a comeback". Tonight, thanks to WIIM reader ahtrap, the title is our theme tonight. You want to talk about delivering in the clutch? If you're a Wings fan, that's exactly what the Wings did tonight.

The first period was a spirited affair, and the Wings came out with the fire and determination that you'd expect from a team facing elimination for 3rd straight game. Despite an 18-6 advantage in shots and the majority of the period being spent in the Sharks' zone, the Wings were unable to get any pucks by Antti Niemi.

Follow the jump for the rest of the highlights and the analysis.

The second period saw the Sharks come out and assert themselves in the first couple of minutes, but after that the Wings once again took over and carried the play. They had 3 glorious opportunities that they could not capitalize on, due to a combination of good defense by the Sharks, a good save by Niemi, and plain old-fashioned luck. Unfortunately, the Wings were once again unable to solve Niemi, and the teams headed to the third in a scoreless tie.

We've talked a lot about bounces in this series, and despite being outplayed for the first 44 minutes of this game, it was the Sharks that scored first when Logan Couture tipped a spinning puck threw Jimmy Howard and barely over the line. However, halfway through the period the Wings got the goal they deserved to tie the game. Niklas Kronwall's shot was tipped ever so slightly by Henrik Zetterberg, and the Wings had finally gotten to Niemi. 3 minutes later, Valtteri Filppula took a pass from Pavel Datsyuk and went back door on Niemi to give the Wings their first lead of the game. The Wings continued to press, and Darren Helm's empty net goal sealed the victory and sent this game to Game 7.
  • The analysis is going to be light tonight. This was Detroit's game to lose from start to finish, and they were miles better than the Sharks throughout the game. The Wings absolutely deserved to win this game, unlike Game 5 when they stole a victory. As good as they played tonight, they have to be even better on Thursday.
  • Admit it: after 2+ periods, as the Wings were outshooting, outhitting and outplaying the Sharks, when Couture's tip went just past Howard and in the net, you were thinking "oh my goodness, it's one of 'those' games". It looked just like Wing games in the past, where they dominate the game but get beat by a hot goaltender. However, the Wings never gave up and they kept pushing and pushing and eventually were rewarded. This was like the exact opposite of Game 5, except this time the team that deserved the win actually got it.
  • A stick-tap to Niemi, who was the only reason why the Sharks were even in this game in the third period. He was incredible. If I have a real concern going into Game 7, it's that Niemi can steal the game.
  • I was nervous about the Wings when I heard that Hudler was in for Draper, but good gravy, the Filppula-Hudler-Abdelkader line was outstanding tonight. They spent a ton of time in the Sharks' zone and when it's your 3rd line doing that, you not only take a ton of pressure off the top 2 lines to generate offense, you also take away any potential momentum that the other team's depth players might generate.
  • Pavel Datsyuk. Ridiculous. I'm going to invest in a thesaurus this summer so I can come up with more words to describe just how good he is. After the game, he was asked how the Wings were able to mount this comeback. His response? "We still believe."
  • I think back to a couple of moments in this series and remember my feeling: Setoguchi's OT winner in Game 3 and Couture's goal in Game 5. At each of those moments, I was down, so much so that I was almost ready to proclaim the series over. However, the players never gave up, and have fought so hard to get to this moment. For that, I love them.

We all know the score here. It's a one game, winner-take-all Game 7, a game that most of us never thought we'd see the Wings playing in. They proved all the naysayers wrong, and now they have a chance to win this series, not just stay alive.

Make no mistake: the pressure is on the Sharks to win this game and this series. They have a reputation of being unable to get it done when the stakes are raised, and if they end up losing this series, they will never shake that label. They finished with more points, they outplayed the Wings (by a large margin) in 3 of the games, and the game is in their home barn. To the Sharks players, while I appreciate the "message" you were trying to send to the Wings, but you failed. The only message that was sent by your actions at the end of the game is that the Wings are in your head.

See you Thursday.

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