Throughout their franchise history, Detroit has lost the first three games of a best-of-seven series on five occasions. They have never rebounded to win one of the series.
The Wings now face a 0-3 hole in their Western Conference semifinals series after Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks at Joe Louis Arena.
The last time the Wings were in this position was the 2003 Western Conference quarterfinals, when Anaheim – led by then-coach Mike Babcock – swept the Wings en route to their first Stanley Cup finals appearance.
The other times the Wings failed to overcome 3-0 deficits were to losses to Montreal in the 1958 Stanley Cup semifinals; Chicago in the 1970 East Division quarterfinals, and the 1992 Norris Division semifinals; and New Jersey in the 1995 Stanley Cup finals.
On Thursday, Babcock will be in a position that he’s not accustom – trying to avoid a playoff-ending loss.
“The reality is, we’ve dug a huge hole for ourselves here,” the Red Wings coach said. “There’s no sense worrying about anything but our next game. We’ll come in here tomorrow and get our minds right. They’re human, they have to be disappointed right now, we had a chance to win this game tonight … and it got away from us. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we’ll go home and get regrouped and get back at it.”
In Game 3, the Wings had a 3-1 lead going into the third period, only to see goals from Joe Thornton and Logan Couture force overtime. There, Patrick Marleau capitalized on an over-aggressive play by the Wings’ defense , which sent the Sharks on a two-on-one break with Thornton to earn the win.
“Things were going fine in overtime,” Babcock said. “We were coming on a rush up ice, we shot it wide, our fourth group was out there, they were changing behind the play which should have been an advantage to us, and it went right to them, and we ended up caught out there. That’s the game.”
Now the Wings will try to draw on their experience of prior playoff runs to overcome their biggest challenge yet. Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom
said his team needs to avoid looking past Thursday’s Game 4.
“We have to come out and show a lot of desperation here at home to push a Game 5 in San Jose,” Lidstrom said. “That’s all we can do, really. I thought we did play well in the first couple periods, and I don’t know if they pushed us back or if we just tried to protect the lead, but we didn’t play as well as we have to in the third period and that’s when they scored a couple goals on us.”
Wings rookie goalie Jimmy Howard
said he will have to “battle back”, which is something he has learned to do in his first NHL season.
“I’ve been doing it all year,” Howard said. “I just need to come in here tomorrow and have a good practice and leave here in the right mind frame.”
San Jose coach Todd McLellan, a former Wings’ assistant coach, said he is well-aware of what his old team is capable of doing.
“I’ve been in that other locker room,” McLellan said. “I know how much fight’s in that team, so our task is going to be tougher for the fourth win than the first three. We know that, I don’t think anything’s going to change.”
When asked why he thought the series wasn’t over yet, Howard responded with a short, simple sentence: “Because they have to win one more.”