-- The look on Jimmy Howard
's face in the Detroit Red Wings
' locker room said it all.
It wasn't the stunned expression that he wore exactly a year ago as a rookie goalie, after the San Jose Sharks
beat him 4-3 in overtime to put the Red Wings down 3-0 in their Western Conference Semifinal series. That one fit his postseason experience level.
The look he wore on Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena, following another 4-3 OT loss to the Sharks that again put the Wings down 3-0 in a West semifinal, was different: This one was more pained and his words were filled with more disgust than disillusion.
After allowing the game-winner by Devin Setoguchi
at 9:21 of overtime, Howard was surrounded by cameras and microphones as he stewed at his locker. He quietly answered some questions and spit out other with an acidic tone.
"I thought we deserved to win," Howard said. "Point blank, I thought we deserved to win. It's playoff hockey. It happens. What can I say? It's tough."
It's also hard to stomach for a team that was convinced it would take this game and make it a new series after dropping the first two games in San Jose – both by 2-1 margins with Game 1 also an overtime loss.
Going back to last season's conference semifinal loss to the Sharks, San Jose has won seven of the last eight postseason games between the two – all by one goal and three in overtime.
On the one hand, it's domination. On the other hand, it's just a bounce here or a rebound there between being a completely different scenario.
"It just shows how fine of a line it is between both teams and it could go either way," said Howard, who got his glove on Dan Boyle
's game-tying goal with 4:08 left in the third but couldn't hold it. "They're just finding a way to win."
Just as frustrating as Boyle's goal was the game-winner by Setoguchi, who had a hat trick and placed the Wings precariously in the Sharks' jaws for a second-straight postseason – all in one fell swoop.
Setoguchi fired it off the rush from the right circle shortly after San Jose's Antti Niemi
came up big at the other end to help kill off a Detroit power play in OT.
"Knuckled," Howard said of the puck. "It flipped up on his stick when he shot it and it came in flipping end over end. Those are tough to read."
Also tough to swallow, especially when they end games like this on a sour note. The Red Wings outplayed the Sharks for most of this game, once again held a lead late in the third period and then watched it all slip through their fingers in a matter of minutes.
"It's pretty much déjà vu from last year," Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart
said. "We had the lead in the third in Game 3 and end up giving it up and losing in overtime. It's the same hole. All you can do is go one game at a time now. That's all you can do. It's a must-win game Friday night and then it becomes another must-win game, and that's how you look at it."
Last year, Game 4 turned out to be a one-game therapeutic reprieve from a tough, grinding series for the Red Wings – they blasted the Sharks 7-1. It's the only postseason game in the past two years between the two teams that was decided by more than one goal.
Detroit can take some measure of confidence in knowing that, but on the same token still wonder why San Jose keeps finding these ways to win the nail-biters.
This time, the Red Wings outshot San Jose 41-38, won the hits battle 36-20, got good results out of splitting up Pavel Datsyuk
(1 goal) and Henrik Zetterberg
(2 assists) -- and still the Sharks found a way to steal another key game.
"We got away with one," San Jose coach Todd McLellan
said. "We'll have to be better. They have proven to us that they are not going away. They did it last year and they sent a very stern message to us in Game 4. We'll have to be much better than we were a year ago."
Howard's face was all you needed to see to come to the same conclusion. Mixed in with the bitterness of another stinging loss was also a heap of resolve.
"Why not us?" Howard shot back, when asked what kind of approach the Wings needed to take for Game 4 on Friday. "That's the mentality I think we have to have is, 'Why not?' Just work for one. You got to work for your bounces. We've got to continue to keep going and hopefully the tide will turn, because right now they continue to work and work and work and they're finding a way."