DETROIT -- Coming back from a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-7 series is a daunting task for any team, including the defending Stanley Cup champions.
That's why the Detroit Red Wings showed up at the Honda Center last Thursday night and played with the type of desperation necessary to even the series, which they did with a 6-3 win against the Anaheim Ducks.
It was much of the same in Game 5 on Sunday. With a chance to head out west with a 3-2 series lead, the Red Wings came out flying and fired 14 shots on goal in the first period. While Jonas Hiller stopped them all, Detroit kept coming at the Ducks and eventually pulled out a 4-1 victory.
Now, it's the Ducks who must play with desperation on Tuesday night, when their season will be on the line. Obviously, the Red Wings are expecting Anaheim to bring a much better effort in Game 6. Fortunately, they have the experience to think that way.
"The key is we've been here before," Detroit forward Dan Cleary said. "We've had teams with their backs against the wall. This is a championship team we're playing that knows what it takes to win. They're going to bring their A-plus game (on Tuesday), and we've got to match that."
The first 10 minutes will be a true test for the Red Wings, as the Ducks will attempt to feed off what will surely be a raucous crowd in Southern California. It will take discipline and some solid defensive play to overcome it.
"They're going to come out and be hard early, and it's going to be a loud building," Cleary said. "We can't be on our heels. We've got to push back when they push. We've got to pressure their defense and play a good road game."
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom agreed.
"They're going to come out with a more desperate effort," Lidstrom said. "They've got to throw everything at us, and it's something we have to be prepared for."
Detroit also enters the Honda Center knowing it can win there, evidenced by its convincing victory in Game 4. However, despite the fact that the Wings outplayed the Ducks for the majority of Game 5, it was a 2-1 contest on Sunday until Darren Helm scored with just 3:08 to play. Henrik Zetterberg iced the victory with an empty-net tally in the final minute.
"It gives you more confidence going into their building one more time," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought we controlled the game territorially, but they were one shot away. They were one shot away from maybe getting it to overtime."
But the Wings' depth was just too much to overcome on Sunday. A pair of fourth-liners played huge roles in the victory, as Helm scored the big goal late and rookie Justin Abdelkader -- who replaced the injured Tomas Kopecky in the lineup and appeared in his first NHL playoff game -- had an assist and a game-high nine hits.
"Obviously it's been real important for us," Babcock said of his team's depth. "They've played such a big role and now with Kopecky out, the coaches just have to trust Abdelkader more and he'll play more. They look like real good players. They've been fantastic and they've made a huge difference to our team. When you add those guys and the pace they're playing at, it makes a big difference."
Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org.