DETROIT – It wasn’t for the lack of trying, but Henrik Zetterberg finally scored not one goal, but two, in the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Anaheim Ducks.
“You want to be on the scoresheet,” Zetterberg said. “All you can do is continue to work hard, keep putting pucks on the net and hopefully one or two will sneak by the goalie.”
The captain wasn’t about to let the frustration of not scoring cloud the importance of playing in an elimination game with the Ducks leading the series three games to two.
Zetterberg collected three points, including his first playoff goal this spring, beating Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller with a third-period slap shot that gave Detroit a 2-1 lead in Game 6. However, his power-play goal didn’t standup as the game-winner, and neither did Daniel Cleary’s tip-in moments later, as the Ducks marched back with a pair of goals that sent the game into overtime at 3-3.
For the first time in franchise history the Red Wings were headed to a fourth overtime game in a single playoff series. But the extra session didn’t last long when Zetterberg potted his second slap shot into the back of the Ducks’ net just 64-seconds in to complete the 4-3 victory.
“I think we felt we played too good to lose this one,” Zetterberg said. “It's a tough ending in regulation there but we did a lot of good things, been in overtime before, so just try to go out and play – kind of go back and play the way we did and it was nice to see that go in at the start.”
A lot had been made of Zetterberg’s scoring drought in the playoffs. Entering Friday’s game at Joe Louis Arena, he had gone second straight postseason games without scoring a goal.
Finally, on shot No. 23, the captain beat Hiller with a slap shot from the top of the left circle. The power-play goal ended his drought and gave the Wings a 2-1 lead at 6:19 of the third period.
“Those two were kind of ugly ones, but that’s what you need in the playoffs,” said Zetterberg, who also assisted on Pavel Datsyuk’s magnificent first-period goal. “We started to feel the frustration when the puck doesn’t go in, but at the same time we’ve been doing a lot of good things on our line. We just keep at it, keep shooting the pucks, maybe over shot it a little bit more and the pucks will go in eventually. Today, I don’t think they were two of my hardest shots, but they found a way to go in.”
Still, Zetterberg had a chance to end the game in the final minute of regulation. He came off the bench, raced into the offensive zone where he picked off a Ryan Getzlaf pass. As a Ducks’ defenseman rode Zetterberg to the ice, the captain whipped a back-hander that beat Hiller, but caromed off the right post.
It was good that the Red Wings’ best players were their best players Friday night.
“I think that he’s been one of the best players in this whole series,” rookie forward Gustav Nyquist said. “He’s one of the best players in the world, so for us to be good we need him to be good, and he was great tonight. I think him and Pavel were outstanding.”
Now anything can happen in a decisive Game 7, which is Sunday at 10 p.m. EDT in Anaheim.
“I think everyone is excited and we’re just happy to force a Game 7,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “Anything can happen in a Game 7. We have a lot of experience, a lot of guys who have been through Game 7s and I think you can kind of say that our last four games were kind of Game 7s, win or go home. So I think we’re ready for it. We’re excited for our opportunity to hop back on that plane and head back West.”
THREE STARS: 3, Jonas Hiller, ANA (25 saves, L); 2, Jimmy Howard, DET (34 saves, W); 1, Henrik Zetterberg, DET (two goals, 1 assist).
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose