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Leadership, experience pave Wings' way

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
ROMULUS, Mich. – Moments after stepping off the airplane from their return flight from San Jose Monday afternoon, Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom talked about his team’s 27-year-old goaltender.

Jimmy Howard stopped 39 shots in the Wings’ season-saving Game 5 win Sunday night, and Lidstrom said that was the reason they have the opportunity to play in a third straight elimination game on Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena.

“We didn’t play as well as we had to against a good team like the Sharks in the first two periods,” Lidstrom said, “and he made some big saves and kept us in the game. We really rallied around him in the third period.”

However, Howard was giving all the credit to the veterans in the Wings’ locker room for getting them back into the Western Conference semifinals series – most notably to his 41-year-old captain.

“There’s a calmness,” Howard said. “There’s a lot of experience in our dressing room, when your leaders have been through a lot, you look to them and when you see Nick’s face and how calm he is, it just trickles down.”

As the young goalie and veteran captain showed, it’s tough to pick just one player for who has been leading the Wings’ comeback.

While Howard has recorded a .922 save percentage, Lidstrom is second in team scoring, with eight points. The only player with more points is Pavel Datsyuk, who had three assists in Game 5 despite being a game-time decision because of an undisclosed injury.

Meanwhile, Henrik Zetterberg has been averaging over a point per game since missing the entire first round from a knee injury.

Wings coach Mike Babcock said that the Euro Twins played an important role in the comeback victory.

“I thought Zetterberg was great all night long,” Babcock said, “but I thought Pavel really got involved in the third period, and it was great to see it happen.”

No matter who gets the credit, the Wings have managed to make their second-round match-up a series once again. After consecutive 4-3 victories, the Wings now trail the Sharks by only one game in this best-of-seven series.

Lidstrom said his team’s tenacity was on full display during the third period of Sunday’s comeback win, where the Wings erased a two-goal deficit with goals from Jonathan Ericsson, Danny Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom.

“I think we showed that we’re not giving up,” Lidstrom said. “We’re digging in and clawing, and doing whatever we can to score goals or stay in the series, and that’s really what showed up in the third period last night.”

If the Red Wings are to win the next two games and steal this series from the Sharks, they will become only the fourth team in NHL history to advance after digging and 0-3 hole. The 1942 Maple Leafs, 1975 Islanders and 2010 Flyers are the only clubs to accomplish the feat.

The Wings leaders have already shifted their attention to Tuesday’s home game, with Babcock citing that they must take the same approach as they have for the last two wins.

“I think we said the same thing after our Game 3 loss, ‘We have to win a game,’ ” Babcock said. “That’s what we have to do again tomorrow. We’re excited to be coming back. We had a real good third period the other night; we’ve had a lot of good games. I think we should have won Game 3, and they could have easily won Game 5, so I think we all kind of deserve what we got, and here we are.”

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