After blowing a 3-0 first-period lead, the Detroit Red Wings were in serious trouble. The Sharks were outplaying them, and just like every loss to San Jose in the last two playoffs, another one-goal defeat appeared to be imminent. With the score tied 3-3 and only a few minutes left in the third period, though, the crowd came to its feet and the Joe was rocking. The fans were doing their best to give the Red Wings the will to fight another day, and Detroit responded by bringing the heat in the Sharks' end.
Finally the pressure paid off with 1:27 left in regulation as Darren Helm put the puck into a wide-open net thanks to a great feed from Patrick Eaves. The goal gave the Wings a 4-3 lead, and thanks to a couple great saves by Jimmy Howard, that is what the final score was as well. The Red Wings won Game 4, and just like last year they have forced a Game 5 in San Jose.
Early on, this game looked like it might be a repeat of last year's blowout victory by Detroit in Game 4. The Red Wings beat San Jose by a score of 7-1 a year ago, and late in the first period this year they were up 3-0. Keeping with the theme of history repeating itself, Todd Bertuzzi again opened the scoring in Game 4 against the Sharks. It was a much prettier goal than last year's deflection, though. This year Bertuzzi did a 360 around a Sharks defender and sniped a backhand past Antti Niemi for the game's first goal only 6:22 into the first period.
Five minutes later, Nicklas Lidstrom scored his first of two goals in the game's opening period. He came in from the blue line on a big rebound that Niemi gave up and smacked it into an open net. Six minutes after that, Lidstrom knocked a bouncing puck out of the air and one-hopped it into the net for a power-play goal. Just like that the Wings were up 3-0 and appeared to be on their way to another Game 4 blowout, but an ugly goal on a tip in by Logan Couture only 15 seconds later made this a 3-1 game.
The story of the second period was the Wings' inability to convert power plays. They had three and didn't even come close to sustaining pressure on any of them. The Sharks did a great job on the penalty kill and turned the momentum from stunting the Wings' power play into a backdoor goal by Dan Boyle. It was exactly like the game-tying goal Boyle had in Game 3, and this one cut the lead in half.
Only 1:14 into the third period, Dany Heatley camped out in front of the net and was able to score an uncontested goal. Red Wings defenseman Ruslan Salei seemingly got lost and hung Howard out to dry, as Heatley had all day to wait for what turned out to be the game-tying goal.
The next 15 or so minutes of the third period were nothing but dominance by San Jose. The Red Wings looked gassed, and although they did kill off two penalties effectively, it just seemed like it was only a matter of time until the Sharks were going to score and effectively end Detroit's season.
In the final five minutes, with the crowd on its feet, the Red Wings turned up the heat and finally were able to sustain pressure in the Sharks' zone. There were a couple of close calls but no goals, and now the game seemed destined to overtime and destined to finish on another bad bounce that would give the Sharks the series victory.
With a minute and a half to go, however, Detroit won a faceoff in the San Jose zone and Brian Rafalski threw a shot on net from the point. A big rebound was wrangled in by Eaves, who sent it across the zone to a wide-open Helm. Helm quickly sent the puck at the net and it went in, giving the Red Wings a 4-3 lead. The Joe exploded, and the Red Wings fought off pressure by the Sharks in the final minute to win the game and force a Game 5.
So far, aside from Game 4 not being a Detroit blowout, this series has followed a script very similar to the one we saw last year. There is a sense of deja vu with all of these one-goal games and the Wings losing in overtime in Game 3 by a tally of 4-3, and that sense of deja vu is especially kicking in with a Game 5 at San Jose scheduled for Sunday, May 8. May 8 was the day the Red Wings' season ended a year ago in a 2-1 loss in Game 5 at San Jose.
If the Red Wings want their season to extend past May 8 this year, they will need to alter the script for the 2011 edition of Detroit vs. San Jose and win Game 5. That would bring the series back to Detroit on Tuesday, keep hope alive for a comeback and keep hockey season going for Red Wings fans for another couple days at the least. This Red Wing fan is certainly not ready for the season to end yet, and hopefully on Sunday night Detroit takes that attitude into the Shark Tank in San Jose and prevents history from repeating itself.