DETROIT (CP) - A lucky tie, a blue suit and Pavel Datsyuk's late goal did it for the Detroit Red Wings.
Coach Mike Babcock asked McGill University in Montreal, where he played hockey for the Redmen in the 1980s, to send him a school tie, so he could wear it behind the bench Saturday, and his team rallied from a two-goal deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks 3-2.
"The Redmen came through," said a smiling Babcock, fingering the maroon silk emblazoned with the school coat of arms in white.
Babcock also switched to a blue suit, leaving the black one he wore during his team's 2-0 Game 1 loss in his closet, at the urging of cousin Lauren McNabb of Toronto.
"You've got to listen," said Babcock.
Datsyuk got a rebound and smoothly slid the puck into the open side of the San Jose net with 1:24 remaining and Evgeni Nabokov lying helpless in the crease.
"It was so quick - bam," said Datsyuk.
The NHL Western Conference semifinal, knotted at one win each, resumes Monday night in San Jose (10 p.m. ET).
Goals by Jonathan Cheechoo and Joe Thornton in the first five minutes suggested a San Jose rout, but the Red Wings battled back on goals by Henrik Zetterberg late in the first period and by Daniel Cleary, who served up a short-handed sizzler 1:23 into the third.
A giveaway by Christian Ehrhoff led to Cleary's goal, and San Jose coach Ron Wilson said "dumb mistakes we made in the third period" cost his club the game.
"You can't make those mistakes in a playoff game," said Wilson.
He didn't like anything about the Datsyuk goal either.
"When you've got veterans on the ice, you expect a lot more out of them," said Wilson.
A shot by Kyle McLaren opened the scoring 36 seconds after the opening faceoff. His soft blue-line shot touched Cheechoo's stick and changed direction only slightly, but enough to handcuff Dominik Hasek.
Thornton made it 2-0 at 4:17 thanks to a Hasek blunder. The 42-year-old Czech went behind his net to get the puck and slid it right to San Jose's Milan Michalek in the corner. A quick relay out front and the puck was in the vacated net for Thornton's first goal and ninth post-season point.
"It was an ugly start," said Babcock. "Let's be honest."
Cleary said the deficit didn't demoralize his team. "It's not the Red Army over there," he said of the Sharks.
It took Detroit 13 minutes to get a shot on Nabokov. On its third shot, an attempted pass out of a corner by Zetterberg, the puck struck McLaren in front of the net and caromed between Nabokov's right leg and the post at 17:30.
The goal spurred the Red Wings. After being outshot 9-3 in the first period, they held San Jose without a shot on Hasek for the first 13 minutes of the second and had a 9-4 advantage in the period. But it was still 2-1 after 40 minutes.
Through 40 minutes, this had to rate as one of the poorest games of the post-season in any series. San Jose was doing the same thing it did in its 2-0 Game 1 victory, shifting into neutral after getting a lead, while Detroit's offence continued to sputter.
The Red Wings would have to find a higher gear in the third period or risk heading west down two games.
"We knew it was a big period and that we had to come out and play good," said Zetterberg.
It was Cleary who found the gear shift.
Kirk Maltby got the puck on the Ehrhoff giveaway and passed to his linemate in the middle of the zone. Cleary slapped a shot that sent the puck off a kneeling Nabokov's left shoulder and on into the net for a short-handed goal that tied it.
Cleary shot high for a reason.
"The goalies in this league, a lot of them use the butterfly technique, like Nabokov," said Cleary. "When you're out far like that, you know he's going to have everything on the bottom covered so I just tried to get it up."
The goal brought three octopi flying onto the ice.
"We might have a better player in the playoffs and, if we do, I don't know who it is," said Babcock. "Cleary has been fantastic physically - puck control, penalty killing - and just excellent for us."
"He is a character guy and, when you see character people do well, you feel very happy for them. It looks good on them."
Then Datsyuk won it.
There were two penalties assessed in the third period, both to Detroit, and the penalty killers and Hasek came up big with the game on the line.
"He made a great save on Cheechoo," said Cleary. "It was a hell of a save and won us the game."
The save helped Hasek forget about his earlier blunder.
"In the third, we killed those penalties and also scored a (short-handed) goal and I think that was the key to the game," said Hasek. "That was a very exciting win."
The Red Wings outshot the Sharks 10-6 in the third period and 22-19 overall.
"We really wanted it," said Cleary. "We had to have it and we got it."
"I was just happy we got it over with in regulation."
The Sharks understood they'd blown a great chance to go up 2-0 in the series.
"We gave the turnovers and they capitalized," said captain Patrick Marleau. "We did it to ourselves."
The Sharks went 0-for-6 and Detroit was 0-for-3 on power plays.
"It's a tough building and they play well here and we got a split so we're happy with that," said Sharks forward Mike Grier. "We just know that we're going home where we have played well and I think we all know we can play a little bit better."
Added Bill Guerin: "We never expected an easy series."
Notes: San Jose's 13-11 edge in blocked shots was nothing near their 18-1 domination in that category in Game 1 . . . Hits were 23-23 . . . Red Wings won 34 and lost 25 faceoffs (58 per cent) . . . The average size of San Jose players is six-two and 214 pounds, while the Red Wings average six feet and 198 . . . San Jose reinserted Mark Bell and deleted Joe Pavelski. Bell had missed the previous four games with a groin injury. He skated on a line with Patrick Marleau and Bill Guerin . . . Detroit remained without F Tomas Holmstrom (left eye) and D Brett Lebda (left ankle) . . . Detroit D Chris Chelios appeared in his 236th playoff game, tying Mark Messier for second place on the all-time list. Only Patrick Roy (247) played more . . . Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom turned 37 Saturday . . . Fin fact: Sharks F Ryane Clowe is from the Newfoundland community of Mount Pearl and says that if he wasn't in hockey he'd be working on his dad's fishing boat . . . This date in Stanley Cup history, April 28, 1996: a sold-out crowd at Winnipeg Arena said goodbye to the Jets following a 4-1 loss to Detroit in Game 6 of a first-round series; it marked the final game for the team before moving to Phoenix and becoming the Coyotes.