It's hard to write something after a loss like this one. We all knew what was at stake: a win and the Wings were right back in the series; a loss and they were facing a hole that only 3 teams in the history of the NHL have ever successfully dug themselves out of.
The Sharks opened the scoring in the first. After a Darren Helm high-sticking penalty, Joe Pavelski's shot went high, and Joe Thornton batted the rebound off the glass right to Devin Setoguchi, who collected the garbage for an easy power play goal. The Wings were undaunted, however, and continued to apply pressure in what was their best period up to that point of the series. The Wings were rewarded late in the first when Henrik Zetterberg dropped a pass to Nicklas Lidstrom, who shot it over a prone Antti Niemi to tie the game at 1 heading into the second period.
Follow the jump for the rest of the highlights and analysis.Heading into the second period, Wing fans everywhere were nervous, because the Sharks have owned the Wings in the middle frame throughout this series. However, it was the Wings who controlled the pace of play, and for the first time in this series the Wings were able to get 2 pucks past Niemi in one game. After some dogged forechecking by the fourth puck, a loose puck found its way to Patrick Eaves, who backhanded the puck off of Niemi and in to give the Wings their first lead since Game 1. Unfortunately, on the ensuing faceoff, Brian Rafalski took an interference penalty, and the Sharks scored on the power play. Setoguchi whiffled a shot that dribbled under Jimmy Howard's glove and into the net to tie the game at 2. Despite being split up 5-on-5, Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk teamed up to give the Wings their second lead in the game. Zetterberg found a streaking Datsyuk at the faceoff circle, and he ripped a wrister through Niemi.
In the third, it was all about maintaining pressure while playing disciplined hockey and not giving up any easy chances to the Sharks. Unfortunately, despite a strong third by the Wings, Dan Boyle was left all alone in front, took a pass from Kyle Wellwood and shot it through a diving Howard to tie the game at 3 with 4 minutes left. For the 15th night in these playoffs, overtime was needed to settle a game.
The Wings had their chances in the extra period. A Setoguchi penalty led to a power play that the Wings were unable to convert on, and after several good chances for the Wings, Setoguchi's shot went off Zetterberg's stick and past Jimmy Howard, and just like last year the Sharks stole Game 3 in OT to take a commanding 3-0 lead.
No video today. I know I don't want to re-live that game any time soon. Let's just get right to the bullets.
- Let's get this out of the way early: this was clearly the Wings' best game of the series. They lost because they played "careful" (in the words of Mike Babcock) in the third period and because the Sharks turned it on and came at the Wings. I'm upset at the loss, but I can at least say the effort was there.
- There was a lot of talk about whether splitting up Datsyuk and Zetterberg was a good idea, and I think the answer is "yes". I thought both lines were dangerous offensively, and they did a good job not allowing the Sharks to gain any traction in the Wings' zone. Datsyuk had 5 shots on net (including a goal), and Zetterberg had 2 assists. Before the game when the lines were announced, there was also a lot of concern about the third line of Hudler-Filppula-Abdelkader, but if you're asking me, that line was pretty good tonight. They had 8 of the Wings' 38 shots, including a glorious opportunity for Hudler on a power play in the first period.
- There are many out there who want to paint the Wings as some sort of "Evil Empire" based on their years of success and domination of the league. I guess that somehow makes the Sharks the "Rebels" in this series, but so far this matchup is less "A New Hope" and more "Return of the Jedi", because the Wings are an "Empire" that is not with a fully armed and operational Death Star. There are holes there, and the Sharks are exploiting them with relative ease. And yet, I can't help but think that the roles are reversing a little; the Sharks are the ones dominating the Wings in the series, and have won 11 of the last 13. At what point can they stop playing the "Wings' mystique" card?
- I had this whole thing about how Joe Thornton was like Han Solo because while he was a main character, he didn't really "do" anything spectacular, unlike Luke Skywalker, who was the real hero. But he did have 3 assists tonight, including on the GWG, and I just don't want to sound as bitter as it would have come across. Maybe I'm finally maturing.
- Let me preface this entire point by saying that the Sharks deserve the lead they have in this series, as they were clearly the better team through the first 2 games. However, tonight, the Wings really could have used a bounce tonight. Some of the signs of the Wings' bad luck: the first goal batted out of mid-air by Thornton and hits Setoguchi in the chest, giving him an open net to put in an easy goal; Setoguchi flubs on his shot/his stick breaks/the light gets in eye and yet the puck still dribbles in past Howard; Wellwood makes a basically blind pass that ends up right on the stick of Boyle who is alone in front to tie the game, and then the coup de grace, the puck going in off of Zetterberg's stick in OT for the GWG. For those counting at home, that's now 2 OT winners that have gone in off of Wing sticks. Again, I am not making excuses or saying the Wings should be winning this series; I'm simply pointing out that the Sharks are not only out-playing the Wings, they are also getting the bounces.
I think we all know the score here. The chances of the Wings coming back to win this series are extremely small, and the Sharks are a damn good team. Full credit to them for how well they've played. As for the Wings, I refuse to give up hope, because we've seen a team do this just last year. Hell, the Blackhawks came back from being 3 down to the President's Trophy winners to force a 7th game. Anything can happen, but it's got to start Friday night. One game at a time, one period at a time, one shift at a time. It ain't over until it's over.