2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Semifinals Game 4 Recap
Western Conference Semifinal Game 4 - Detroit 4, San Jose 3 – Sharks lead series, 3-1
Is this the year 2010 on one continuous loop? It certainly feels that way in the second round of the NHL’s Western Conference postseason. The San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings are crafting a West semifinal series whose trajectory is following the 2010 template.
The real question now is this: Can Detroit alter the script when the scene shifts to Silicon Valley on Sunday for Game 5?
Yes, Detroit fell behind three games to none for the second straight year against San Jose, and for the second straight time, the proud Red Wings avoided a second-round sweep by taking Game 4 on home ice at Joe Louis Arena. The Friday night win in the Motor City gives the Winged Wheel a chance, at the very least, to create some drama in this series. If the teams can come back to Detroit for a Game 6 on Tuesday, one never knows what could happen. However, this game only seemed to prolong the Wings’ life for a few more days… at least if 2010 is any indication.
Yes, 12 months ago, this same pattern unfolded in a Sharks-Wings West semifinal showdown. The Sharks took the first two games at home and then won Game 3 in Detroit after mounting a third-period comeback and scoring a stunning game-claiming goal in overtime. The Sharks and coach Todd McLellan – a former disciple of Detroit head man Mike Babcock – were trying to register the sweep they failed to attain in Detroit last season, and when they erased a 3-0 deficit in this game, it appeared that a Game 3 replay – and a Game 4 plot twist – were about to emerge in stunning fashion.
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Indeed, when San Jose’s Dany Heatley beat Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard just 1:14 into the third period, the visiting Sharks had erased a three-goal deficit created largely by the Wings’ old-man wizard, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. The steady and ageless Swede scored two goals, one of them a spectacular kick-the-puck, steady-the-puck, whack-the-puck feat of extraordinary whole-body coordination to beat San Jose netminder Antti Niemi late in the first period. Detroit swarmed the Sharks much as it did in last year’s Game 4, but this time, the Sharks and Heatley were able to deliver a big-league response. As the teams battled through a tense third period in a 3-3 deadlock, it was hard to shake the notion that the Sharks, who had played and won five overtime games in the playoffs to date, were about to force a sixth overtime game and emerge from it with a sweep in their hands.
That’s when Darren Helm begged to differ.
The Wings’ fast-skating 24-year-old received a terrific pass from teammate Patrick Eaves and beat Niemi from the left side of the net with 1:27 left in regulation. The Wings held on and managed to book one more plane flight to the West Coast. It seems likely to be the last trip either team will make in this series, but at least the Wings have a chance to avoid the five-game loss they suffered last year against the Sharks.
This series has been a carbon copy of 2010. We’ll see if Detroit can flip the script when Chapter Five begins in San Jose.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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