DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings’ youngsters learned a valuable lesson in Game 4 against the Anaheim Ducks.
No matter how bad your mistake, as long as the series is still going, you have a chance to redeem yourself.
In Game 3, rookie Damien Brunner had his pocket picked by Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, who scored a shorthanded goal that gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead en route to a 4-0 victory.
That was a tough pill for Brunner to swallow.
So it was quite the storybook ending to Game 4 for Brunner, who picked up Gustav Nyquist’s rebound and put it past Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller at 15:10 of overtime, giving the Wings a 3-2 victory and 2-2 series tie heading back to Anaheim.
“It was obviously my mistake (in Game 3) that we didn’t have a chance to come back because we fell apart after that mistake,” a much happier Brunner said in the dressing room after Game 4. “It was a terrible night. I couldn’t sleep at all, but the guys did a great job the next morning cheering me up a little bit.
“That’s what you appreciate. It’s my first year in the NHL. You make a mistake like that, you blame yourself the most. It doesn’t go away. The guys picked it up for me. It was awesome.”
The guys didn’t just try to cheer him up; they had to make fun of him, too.
Said Brunner: “I first come in and Smitty (Brendan Smith) made a funny joke. He said, ‘Congrats, you made the highlights.’
“Then Pav (Pavel Datsyuk) made a couple jokes, and I got a couple text messages from my friends back home that I should call the league and make sure I get the assist. You got to laugh about it.”
Nyquist, who scored the OT winner in Game 2, took the initial shot on the winning goal Monday, after a great outlet pass from Joakim Andersson, and certainly didn’t mind that Brunner had the last laugh.
“I just tried to look for a rebound, and when I turned around, Brunner had a big smile on his face, so it was good to see,” Nyquist said.
There’s nothing like playoff hockey. You can talk about it all you want and practice as much as possible, but nothing replaces playoff experience.
“I think it’s the more you play, the better you get,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “You will do mistakes, but you just gotta flush it out and come back and play a good game next one.”
Smith knows that feeling as well. He and Kyle Quincey were fumbling around when Matt Beleskey got several chances to put the puck past Jimmy Howard and finally did to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead in the first period.
But Smith atoned for that with his first career playoff goal, at 1:18 of the second, tying the game at 1.
“When everybody says, ‘It’s playoff hockey,’ you don’t really know until you’re in it,” Smith said. “All you guys can say, ‘Oh, it’s playoff hockey,’ but it’s unbelievable how much it jumps up. You see guys blocking shots everywhere, myself included.
“It’s just the will to win, the competition level. You look around, everybody’s so competitive to win.”
The more experience the young players get, the better they’ll play and the more trust they’ll earn from the coaches.
In fact, the players on the ice when Brunner scored were Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff.
Now the youngsters have their next important lesson — having a short memory for the good things, as well.
“Playoffs, you learn very fast that it’s an emotional roller coaster,” Howard said. “The momentum shifts nonstop.
“You got to learn to ride the wave, never get too high and never get too low. Enjoy the wins, but enjoy them really fast and move on.”