DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings would've preferred to turn their early three-goal lead on Friday night into a blowout of the San Jose Sharks.
They would've preferred to cruise for the last two periods, rather than coughing up that lead and needing a goal by Darren Helm with 1:33 left in the third period to finally put away the Sharks at Joe Louis Arena in Game 4 of a Western Conference Semifinal series.
Instead, the Red Wings earned something they needed in addition to a win to stave off elimination after dropping the first three games of the series.
This time, it was about proving they could beat San Jose in a close game -- something the Sharks have been doing a lot against them lately.
"I thought it was important, especially the way they came back in the game and tied it up," said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who scored twice in the first period to up his goal total to four in this series. "We stuck with our gameplan and we were really desperate late in the game, too, whether it was getting the puck in deep or hanging onto it and taking a lot of shots late in the game. It was nice to finally get rewarded the way we did."
Well, aside from the obvious -- an extension of the series to Game 5 on Sunday at San Jose's HP Pavilion -- the Red Wings also answered some questions about playing the Sharks in the postseason of late.
It was Detroit's first one-goal win against San Jose in the last 10 postseason meetings between the two -- after San Jose ran its streak of one-goal playoff victories against Detroit to eight Wednesday, dating back to Game 3 of their 2007 series. The Red Wings wouldn't fully admit it, but they needed Game 4 of this series to play out the way it did, if for no other reason than to muzzle those who claimed they couldn't outlast the Sharks in a close game.
Those eight one-goal postseason wins against the Wings set a League record -- which was previously seven by the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Montreal Canadiens between 1947 and 1959. No wonder the look on goalie Jimmy Howard's face was one of sheer relief.
"Winning a tight one?" Howard said, when asked if blowing the big lead could actually be therapeutic. "Yeah, why not? Now we just need to use this and get ourselves going again here on Sunday. We're going to keep being in the same situations and we have to fight and claw for every inch out there -- it's just live to see another day."
Speaking of which, the Red Wings are already deep into their "one-game-at-a-time" approach -- so much so they didn't even want to talk about the lift that would surely come from a Game 6 back in Detroit.
"That would give us a big boost, but we're just focusing on (Game 5)," Lidstrom said. "We can't be thinking too far ahead."
As it turned out, what helped finally get them through it was a similar motivation as the Chicago Blackhawks had in the quarterfinal round to force a Game 7 after falling behind 3-0 to the Vancouver Canucks.
Simply put, they're playing for pride now.
"Some guys may not be back, this might be one of our last chances to have a really good team, so yeah you want to win and play hard for everybody in here," Helm said. "It's about the logo on your chest. There's a lot of pride in this dressing room. Guys knew it was a desperate situation and they didn't want to be embarrassed by being swept."
Now for the next trick -- making the Sharks work harder than they did a year ago to finish this series.
"That's what we're hoping for," Lidstrom said. "We're hoping we can come out with another good, solid game. It's going to be a tougher game in their building."
Now, at least, they go into it knowing they've got a chance if it's close.