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Redemption is sweet for Brunner

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Damien Brunner reacts to his overtime goal in Game 4 that sends the series back to Anaheim tied at two wins each. (Photo by Dave Reginek)

DETROITDamien Brunner was pretty rough on himself after the Ducks took control of Game 3 on Ryan Getzlaf’s short-handed goal in the third period Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.

“I blamed myself so much,” said Brunner, who had his pocket picked on the play by the Ducks’ captain. “I had a terrible night, and I couldn’t sleep. It was my fault that we didn’t have a chance to come back in the game.”

So his first NHL career playoff winner in overtime Monday night was understandably covered with sweet redemption for the Swiss-born star who was left with a magnificent feeling after his teammates mobbed him during an on-ice celebration.

“It’s a great feeling when you score and the bench gets cleared and everyone jumps,” said Brunner, who’s no stranger to playoff-heroics. “It’s awesome when you’re scoring an OT winner in the playoffs.”

Two years ago, Brunner scored a series-winner in overtime that sent his EV Zug team to the National League semifinals in Switzerland. “But I would say this one tops it,” he said.

Brunner made up for Saturday’s blunder by netting the Game 4 winner that sends the Western Conference quarterfinals series back to Anaheim tied at two wins apiece. Game 5 is Wednesday at Honda Center.

Brunner credits his teammates, particularly rookie defenseman Brendan Smith and center Pavel Datsyuk, for getting him beyond the nightmarish feelings of Game 3.

“Smitty told me that I made the highlights in the morning,” said Brunner, laughing. “Pav made some pretty good jokes, and my friends in Switzerland told me that I should call the league and make sure I get that assist.”

Known for his shenanigans and joking in the locker room and on the team plane, Brunner was receptive when his teammates turned the tables.

“The guys did a great job of keeping my head up and tapping my shoulder,” he said. “It felt really good. It made me feel ready for the next game.”

Brunner’s teammates felt just as good for the 27-year-old, whose four-points are a team-high in the series, though he had the fewest minutes of ice-time Monday, skating 17 shifts in 11:16.

“Damien’s a great guy like that where he’s all for laughs and it’s unbelievable to see how he bounced back,” Smith said. “I razzed him a little bit. I heard Pav was razzing him. It’s great to see him jump back. Look at him. He’s done it and he won the game for us.”

Brunner’s not the only first-timer in the playoffs getting it done for the Red Wings either. There are six players making considerable impacts in their first taste of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Besides Brunner, three other guys have chipped in on the offense, including Gustav Nyquist, who has the series only other OT winner in Game 2 last Thursday.

Smith and Joakim Andersson each had two points in Monday’s win. Smith’s third-period goal snapped a scoreless streak that lasted more than 101-minutes in the series. Jakub Kindl’s assist led to the Wings’ lone goal in the series opener last Tuesday.

Despite mustering 13 shots between them in the series, the rookie line of Nyquist, Andersson and Brunner has definitely exceled, scoring as many goals as the team’s Big Three of Datsyuk (one goal), Johan Franzen (two goals) and Henrik Zetterberg (one point).

“We’re still a lot of young guys on this team,” Nyquist said. “A lot of us haven’t played too much in the playoffs before. As every game goes by, it helps for sure.”

HOCKEYTOWN RATINGS: Monday’s Game 4 was the No. 1 program of the day and the highest rated Red Wings’ game in two years on FOX Sports Detroit. It beat out original prime-time programming on ABC (“Dancing with the Stars”) and NBC (“The Voice”).

Through the first four games of the Western Conference quarterfinal series, FSD is averaging a 9.3 household rating in the Detroit market.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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