By Allan Muir
Henrik Zetterberg picked a perfect time to break out of a series-long slump.
Detroit’s captain scored his second goal of the game 1:04 into overtime as the Red Wings clawed their way back from a nearly epic collapse to beat Anaheim 4-3 and set up what should be a thrilling Game 7 on Sunday at the Honda Center.
If not for Zetterberg’s late-game heroics, Game 6 might have gone down as one of the most painful losses in recent Red Wings history.
Detroit held a 3-1 lead late in the third period when Valtteri Filppula committed a brutal turnover, a classic no-look drop pass that put the puck directly on the stick of Emerson Etem, who promptly buried it behind Jimmy Howard. That made it 3-2, with 3:28 to play. Tense, but not fatal…until Corey Perry sent a cross-crease pass to Bobby Ryan, who buried the gift and tied the game just 51 seconds later.
The Wings got on the board in the first when Pavel Datsyuk scored a classic Datsyukian goal, beating Jonas Hiller with a backhand after Justin Abdelkader — back from his two-game suspension — won a puck battle deep in Anaheim’s end. Kyle Palmieri tied it up in the second when Detroit’s Brendan Smith inadvertently buried his rebound into his own net.
Detroit got the next two — Zetterberg on the power play and Dan Cleary on a tip-in — while the Ducks carried the the play with nothing to show for it … until Filppula’s gift.
That Filppula play symbolized much of what has gone wrong for the Wings during this series, where too many youthful mistakes have ended up in the net behind Howard. But Filppula isn’t a kid. And it’s not the first time he’s made a play this senseless and watched as it cost his team big. The forward is headed for unrestricted free agency this summer. This is the sort of moment that could see the Wings wish him the best on his way out the door.
On the plus side, the Cleary goal illustrated Detroit’s commitment to planting butts in Jonas Hiller’s crease. They know they made it too easy on him earlier in the series, so this is a significant development. If they can establish a heavy traffic pattern early in Game 7, they have a shot to take the series.
The Ducks have to take some solace in their ability to come back at the end, and in the strong game from Perry, who has underdelivered in the series. They outshot Detroit 30-15 in the second and third periods as they controlled play, but were outshot 3-0 in overtime. The urgency that should have carried over from the dramatic end to regulation didn’t, leaving them flat to start the frame. They need to find that energy and come out strong if they hope to clinch at home.