Red Wings force Game 7 in Anaheim

DETROIT — Some of the things that happen in an NHL playoff game could make you lose your mind.

The ones who can forget — and overcome — are the ones who eventually succeed.

Cue Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg.

The Wings on Friday were trying to force a Game 7 vs. the Anaheim Ducks, but late in the third period, it looked like the hockey gods were conspiring against them.

The Wings had a 3-1 lead with less than four minutes to play in Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena, then everything fell apart.

Emerson Etem scored at 16:32 after Valtteri Filppula turned the puck over, cutting the lead to 3-2.

Then Bobby Ryan had a wide-open net on the left doorstep and scored the tying goal with 2:37 remaining in regulation.

“I guess we can never do anything the easy way around here,” Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “We like to keep everyone on their toes.”

A mentally weak team — especially one with several players experiencing the playoff roller coaster for the first time — could easily have rolled up the tent and packed it in when the Ducks forced overtime.

But Zetterberg didn’t allow his Wings to succumb.

Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said Zetterberg had a simple message for the team: “Our leader stepped up and said, ‘Guys, put it behind us. There’s nothing we can do about it now, It happened.

“Let’s refocus. We still have a chance to win a hockey game.'”
Zetterberg said you have to have a short memory when things like that happen, just like a closer in baseball who blows the game in the ninth inning.

“You just have to flush it out,” Zetterberg said. “That’s what we did. What’s done is done. It’s overtime and it doesn’t matter how you got there.

“We just had to start doing good things again and not just sit back like we did there.”

Coach Mike Babcock said he didn’t even have to tell the team anything before they headed out for overtime.

“They had already covered everything I was going to talk to them about, so it was real simple: ‘Let’s just get out there and play,'” he said. “You can’t hope yourself to win; you have to play yourself to win.”

Zetterberg, who scored his first goal of the series in the third period, delivered barely a minute into overtime after Pavel Datsyuk won the face-off.

“He’s our captain for a reason,” Howard said. “He’s a true leader, and when the cards are laid, there’s no one else I’d rather have on the ice.”

If the Wings defy the odds and win Game 7 on the road Sunday, it would be almost fitting the way this year has gone.

“I think that could be the story of our season,” Colaiacovo said. “We’ve been a resilient group. We’ve been through a lot all season, with the injuries and bounces and travel.

“We’ve never once made that an excuse in here.”

No excuses. Just flush it out and go play.