DETROIT -- When the San Jose Sharks completed a rally from a three-goal deficit early in the third period, it looked like the Red Wings were on the verge of being swept out of the playoffs.
The Sharks were pushing furiously for the go-ahead goal, getting quality chance after quality chance that had to be turned away by goaltender Jimmy Howard.
But in the final five minutes of the third period, the pride of the Red Wings started to show. Desperation seeped from every shot, every pass and every save until eventually Darren Helm made sure the Red Wings would live to fight another day.
Patrick Eaves fired a perfect pass to a streaking Helm, who buried the puck into a mostly vacated net with 1:27 remaining in regulation to give the Red Wings a 4-3 victory on Friday night in Game 4 of their Western Conference Semifinal series.
The Sharks will try to close out the Red Wings in a fifth game for the second season in a row when the teams meet Sunday night at HP Pavilion in San Jose.
"I just told myself tonight, whatever happens, just keep battling because you never know what can happen," said Howard, who stopped Patrick Marleau from point-blank range seconds after Helm's goal. "Don't quit. And what can I say about the guys who played in front of me? Those guys did an absolutely tremendous job. Even though they came back, guys stuck with it, stayed patient and found a way."
Nicklas Lidstrom, who scored his third and fourth goals of this series during the first period, felt the Red Wings' perfect start was a necessity for staving off elimination.
"I thought we played with a little bit more desperation," Lidstrom said. "Even though they climbed back into the game during that third period, we stayed within our game plan and were able to pull it off there in the end."
The 41-year-old Lidstrom, who potentially could be playing in his final season in the NHL, said he didn't have any words of inspiration for teammates before the game, but there was some discussion among players as a group before the puck dropped on Game 4.
"As a team, we said we had to get out there and play with confidence," Lidstrom said. "We know we can play well, we just have to get out there and do it. We said a lot of things in here, but now it's time to go out there and do it. I think we did that as a group."
Whatever it was motivating the Red Wings, it showed during the first period.
In a series that has been playing out as a repeat of last year's matchup, Bertuzzi opened the scoring, just like he did in Game 4 last season. He carried the puck down the right side before spinning away from the net and backhanding a shot that got past Antti Niemi's catching glove to make it 1-0 at 6:22 of the first period.
Bertuzzi's goal to open last year's Game 4 was scored 42 seconds earlier than this year's.
"It was great to see how he controlled the puck and got it on net," said Lidstrom, who would turn what was a candidate for goal of the second round into the second-prettiest goal of the night later in the period. "He had a guy on him that he spun away from. It was great to see him make a play like that."
Lidstrom scored at 11:09 to make it 2-0. He pounced on a long rebound of a Cleary shot and ripped it through Niemi. Bertuzzi picked up an assist on the goal.
With 1:59 remaining in the first period and the Wings on a power play, Lidstrom showed why the aging process doesn't seem to apply to him.
Henrik Zetterberg fired a hard pass from the left corner to Lidstrom as he cut through the slot. All in one continuous motion, Lidstrom stopped the pass with his shin pad and batted it out of mid-air and into the net to make it 3-0.
"I was coming in from the point and Hank was making the pass and trying to lift it over (the defender's) stick," Lidstrom said. "I think he got a little too much on it. I was just trying to get my shin pads on it so it would bounce in front of me. It popped up in the air and I just took a whack at it."
The Sharks responded 15 seconds later when Logan Couture scored from a bad angle. His shot from the left corner squeezed through the blocker arm and body of Howard and crept over the goal line to make it a 3-1 game after 20 minutes.
Dan Boyle pulled the Sharks to within a goal after a terrific cross-ice pass from Kyle Wellwood, who had two assists in the game. He whipped the puck through the slot to Boyle, who roofed the puck over Howard at 13:44 of the second period.
Heatley completed the comeback at 1:14 of the third period when the Red Wings lost him in front of Howard. Ryane Clowe picked up his third assist of the game by getting the puck to Heatley, who snapped a shot to the stick side of Howard to make it 3-3. Clowe is tied for second in postseason scoring with 12 points.
After four one-goal games, Lidstrom feels the Red Wings will need to be better if they want to bring the series back to Joe Louis Arena for a Game 6.
"Every game has been a battle. It's been so close," Lidstrom said. "You make a couple mistakes and both teams have capitalized on it. That's been the case so far. As a team, we have to tighten up a lot more defensively and not give them those clear-cut chances we have been. "
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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