Patrick O'Sullivan and Nikolai Khabibulin saved the Edmonton Oilers from what would have been an incredibly painful loss.
O'Sullivan scored the only goal of the shootout and Khabibulin stopped all three Detroit shooters as the Oilers beat the Red Wings 6-5 on Thursday night -- after blowing a pair of four-goal leads.
The Wings, who overcame a two-goal deficit and scored four third-period goals in a 5-4 win at Vancouver on Tuesday, trailed 5-1 at 9:05 of the second period after Shawn Horcoff's power-play goal. But they got a fluky goal by Henrik Zetterberg before the end of the period, then forced overtime on third-period goals by Jonathan Ericsson, Todd Bertuzzi and Patrick Eaves while outshooting the Oilers 20-6 in the final 20 minutes.
"We showed a lot of backbone," Eaves said after scoring his first goal as a Red Wing. "We took it to them in the third period. We got our point. We'll take that."
But O'Sullivan gave the Oilers the win when he beat Howard in the third round, hitting the left post and the middle bar in the net. Khabibulin, who made 45 saves through 65 minutes of play, then stopped Zetterberg for the win.
"We made it exciting," a relieved Edmonton coach Pat Quinn said. "I know the fans had some fun. Anyway, we got a win. That's a good thing."
Detroit has at least one point in each of its last 12 meetings with the Oilers, though Edmonton has won five of those games in shootouts.
O'Sullivan said the Oilers sat back too much after taking their big leads.
"You've got to try to stay on the offensive," he said. "If you sit back and give all those talented players on their team time, that's going to work against you. That's what happened to us. I hope we learn from it."
Wings coach Mike Babcock was delighted with the comeback, but not with the circumstances that put his team in such a big hole in the first place.
"If you look at digging yourself a hole like we were in, it was a heck of a comeback," he said. "Good character -- we found a way to do it and get ourselves a point on the road. The question is obviously preparation. You have to look at the coach and what's going on in the room. To come out and turn the puck over like we did and shoot ourselves in the foot like that is absolutely unacceptable.
"Any time you get reminded or slapped like we did, you have to look at everything you're doing."
The Wings, already without forward Johan Franzen with knee surgery, lost another key piece when center Valtteri Filppula broke his wrist in the second period. Babcock said Filppula will miss "eight weeks or so."
"It's a huge loss," said Eaves, who took some of the ice time that became available after Filppula went down.
As they did on Tuesday, the Wings gave the home team a running start. J.F. Jacques whacked a rebound past Howard 42 seconds into the game, Dustin Penner deflected a shot out of the air with the shaft of his stick at 9:09 to make it 2-0 and Ales Hemsky picked the top far corner from the lower left circle at 12:24 for a power-play goal and a 3-0 lead -- heady stuff for a team that had scored just twice in its last three games.
It became 4-0 just 58 seconds into the second period when Hemsky picked up a pass that deflected off Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski, raced the length of the ice and beat Howard with a low shot.
"We put ourselves in a bad position," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Rookie Darren Helm, a playoff hero the past two springs and owns six postseason goals, scored for the first time in the regular season at 6:15 with a blast from the top of the right circle that beat Khabibulin. Horcoff, who's struggled to score all season, nudged home a loose puck in the crease for a power-play goal less than three minutes later to restore the four-goal margin.
But the Wings, who outshot Edmonton 15-12 in the first period and had their share of opportunities in the second, launched a comeback by getting a fortunate bounce. Zetterberg's bad-angled shot from the lower left circle banked off Edmonton defenseman Taylor Chorney and into the net at 12:50 to cut the margin to 5-2.
Perhaps inspired by the fluke goal, the Wings came out flying in the third, controlling the play and hemming the Oilers in their own zone for shifts at a time.
Kris Draper's diagonal backpass found Ericsson at the top of the left circle for a blast that beat Khabibulin over the glove through traffic at 6:22. Bertuzzi made it a one-goal game at 7:47, barging into the slot to beat Khabibulin with a wrist shot, and after Howard kept the deficit at one goal by stopping Gilbert Brule after a giveaway, Eaves tied it at 12:53 with a shot from the right circle that went through Theo Peckham's legs and past Khabibulin.
The Wings nearly won it in regulation with their 20th and final shot of the third period, but Khabibulin made an excellent stop on Lidstrom's shot through traffic in the final seconds.
Despite the comeback, in the end, the Wings went home unhappy with the point they didn't get.
"We weren't ready to go," Babcock said, "and in the end, it cost us a point."
--John Kreiser, NHL.com