The first game in this series to be decided by more than a goal, but it was an empty netter. After falling behind 1-0 early in the third period, the Detroit Red Wings scored three unanswered goals and defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in Game 6 of their Western Conference Semifinal. They fell down 3-0 in the series and have come back to even it up, forcing a deciding seventh game at the Shark Tank on Thursday night.
It was a hard-fought first two periods, with Detroit driving the offensive play and getting more of the chances by far, out-shooting the Sharks in the game 44-25 and in the first 40 minutes 32-13. Antii Niemi was terrific for San Jose in the first two frames, as the only thing keeping the game close. Jimmy Howard was solid for Detroit as well, but after two periods we were stuck at nil-nil.
Finally, at 4:03 of the third, after being out-shot more than 2-to-1 throughout the game, the Sharks broke through. Logan Couture came down the right wing and just blasted a shot on Jimmy Howard. The puck squibbed between Howard's legs and crawled just barely across the goal line and in, despite Howard and the Detroit defense's best, last gasp attempts to desperately save it. It was Couture, the Calder Trophy nominee, with his fifth goal of the post-season to make it 1-0 San Jose.
Full marks to Detroit for finally getting on the board when their backs were on the wall, however. Valtieri Filppula found Niklas Kronwall at the point. Kronwall, who had raced on the ice from his own bench on a change to make the play, ripped a shot that was re-directed and past Antii Niemi to tie the game. Henrik Zetterberg was the one who got a stick on it in front of the net, and Zetterberg's second goal of the series made it 1-1 at 10:38.
Filppula made the pass to set up the first Red Wing goal by Zetterberg, and shortly after, had the favor returned. Pavel Datsyuk made a terrific pass across to find Filppula, who shot it between the legs of a defending Shark, and by the prone Niemi to give the Red Wings the lead of all things, after being dealt the game's first deficit just 10 minutes earlier. It was Filppula's second of the playoffs, while it was Datsyuk's 11th assist at 12:32.
From there, Jimmy Howard made good on what some would call a weak goal. He made some grand saves for the rest of the third period, as the Sharks were suddenly forced to go hard at Detroit and get a goal to avoid a Game 7. Howard was solid, as if making a statement to the hockey world that he is deserving of his starting job, something many are still unwilling to recognize him as. He was especially good on a San Jose power play a few minutes after the goal.
Late in the period, San Jose pulled their goalie, and they found the chamber with the bullet in hockey's Russian roulette. Henrik Zetterberg deposited into the open cage from center ice. The replays afterward showed the Red Wings had too many men on the ice, but it wouldn't have mattered, as San Jose could not score on Howard before the end of the game. What a comeback by Detroit to force Game 7. See you in two nights.