Wings blow two-goal lead, fall in OT
DETROIT — Maybe if the Red Wings had more time for their captain to be himself, maybe if they’d won that late regular-season game against Carolina and were playing Pittsburgh instead, maybe if Jimmy Howard hadn’t been sick, things would be different.
But the reality is after the Boston Bruins came back for a 3-2 overtime win in Game 4, the Wings are on the brink of elimination, down 3-1 in the series, which heads back to Boston for Game 5 Saturday.
Henrik Zetterberg, who had back surgery Feb. 21 and exactly one full practice on a real line, made a miraculous recovery, returning to the lineup Thursday.
New dads Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk scored in the first and second to give the Wings a 2-0 lead.
But that lead went the way of many two-goal leads this postseason — right out the window.
The Wings, sparked by Zetterberg in the first, outshot the Bruins 15-5 and led 1-0.
"I thought they got better as the game went on," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought we had a real good push at the start. I thought (Boston goalie Tuukka) Rask was good, we could have been up more after one but we weren’t."
The battle-tested Bruins regrouped for the second and third, tying the game on goals by Torey Krug (Michigan State) and Milan Lucic.
In overtime, it was all Boston, as the team outshot the Wings 12-3.
So it was no surprise that the game-winner went off of Danny DeKeyser’s leg and into the net with 6:28 remaining.
Jarome Iginla got credit for it, his first of the series.
"It was actually a deflection before that," Wings goaltender Jonas Gustavsson said. "It was going on the left side, so I leaned to the left side, touched something and switched direction to my right side and hit a leg or something and went in.
"That’s a playoff goal. You put pucks to the net and try to get rebounds, deflections, screen goalies. Hopefully we can get that goal the next game."
Gustavsson found out 5-10 minutes after the warmup that he would make his first career playoff start as Howard had the flu and was unable to play.
"I feel like there’s always a little nerves when you go out there, especially big games but I like that feeling," Gustavsson said. "That’s a feeling that you’re prepared, you’re ready. If you don’t feel that you’re not in the zone and you try to make something positive out of a feeling like that. So I got excited going out there, hear the fans in this building. It was a lot of fun and a big experience for me."
Babcock said Gustavsson did what he was supposed to do.
"The goalie gave us a chance to hang around in the third and overtime when the game was tilted," Babcock said. "We weren’t able to do anything with it."
One major problem the Wings had was face-offs.
The Bruins won 54 percent of those, many of them key ones in the Wings’ zone.
"The faceoff circle killed us," Babcock said. "They ate us alive there. Our kids, (Riley) Sheahan and Glennie (Luke Glendening), they get eaten up in that area a little bit. They end up with the puck a lot and we end up playing D zone coverage the most."
Sheahan won 7-of-16 while Glendening won 1-of-9. By contrast, veterans Datsyuk (11-of-18) and Helm (8-of-13) had better percentages.
Again, if Zetterberg’s game was at its usual peak, he would have taken many of those critical face-offs.
"I’ve played a lot better before and I just want to get better, too," Zetterberg said. "I felt good in the first and halfway through the second. Then I started having really short shifts but that’s the way it is. I had to have this first game and hopefully the disk gets better and better."
Truthfully, Zetterberg will have plenty of time to heal as the Wings’ playoff run looks like it will be a short one.
In the long run, the young Wings will benefit from this experience and will be more prepared to handle the rigors of the playoffs.
For now, they’re just looking ahead to the next game, which could be their last of the season.
"We’re going into Boston to win one game," Kronwall said. "That’s gotta be our mindset. Clean up the areas that we have to clean up and just go for it. We’ve got nothing to lose."