NHL Playoffs: San Jose Sharks Go Down Fighting in Game 4 vs. Detroit Red Wings

Tom SchreierCorrespondent IMay 6, 2011

DETROIT - MAY 6: Ryane Clowe #29 of the San Jose Sharks tries to get a shot off in the first period against Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2011 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Take a deep breath, San Jose Sharks fans.

The Sharks did not roll over after going down 3-0 in the first period, and forced the Detroit Red Wings to win Game 4 by curbing the scoring after the first period and tying up the game in the third.

Ryane Clowe should be given credit for salvaging the game.

He assisted on all three goals and sent a message to the Wings at the end of the game with his physical altercation with agitator Justin Abdelkader.

The Sharks have not become complacent with an early series lead, and will fight to end the series in San Jose.

Clowe’s first assist came with less than two minutes in the first period, when he set up Logan Couture’s tip-in goal.

The Sharks easily could have entered the locker room down 3-0. Even with Couture’s late goal, the team has been outscored 13-4 in the first period of each postseason game it has played so far.

Couture’s goal turned the momentum in the Sharks' favor for the beginning of the second period, where they have played their best hockey this postseason.

"It gave us a little bit of momentum," said Couture. "We didn't play the way we wanted to in the first."

This is a game that could have easily gotten out of hand. Had the Sharks started the period down 3-0, the Wings were realistically one goal away from putting a nail in the coffin.

Yes, the team could have mounted a comeback like it did against LA. However, it is unlikely that that would happen again, and the Wings have the capability and motivation to rout the Sharks in front of their home crowd just like they did last year.

"It was obviously a disappointing start," said Clowe. "We've just gotta try to get our line going and get us back in our game a little bit."

Instead, the Sharks played a strong second period.

Dan Boyle netted the penultimate Sharks goal, which was assisted by Clowe 13 minutes into the period, meaning that Couture’s goal did not pay immediate dividends, but the team looked in control of the game coming out of the locker room.

"He's been great for us all year," said Boyle of Clowe. "He's good on both sides of the puck, he's physical."

Clowe would come through again in the third period.

With his aggressive play behind the net, he earned an open look at Dany Heatley, who was standing alone in front of Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard. With the time and space allotted to him—created, in part, by Clowe’s play behind the net—Heatley was able to put the rubber behind Howard with relative ease.

"It was a good shift," said Heatley. "[Clowe's] been in on a lot of our goals in the playoffs."

Clowe currently leads the team with 12 points in the playoffs.

By tying the game up, the Sharks made the Wings win the game…instead of allowing Detroit to settle back and let the clock run out.

Daren Helm did just that in the third period and the Sharks couldn’t produce with an empty net. But once again, Clowe came through with probably his most important action of the night.

Fighting at the end of games—especially a one-on-one bout—is often frowned upon. However, Abdelkader has been a thorn in the Sharks’ side all night and this game was the most physical of all four contests.

By setting the tone for Game 5 with his fight, Clowe did what his team had been doing all night: Letting the Wings know that the Sharks will be the most physical team in the Tank on Sunday.

The series will end in San Jose.

Tom Schreier is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the San Jose Sharks.