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2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Detroit Keeps Punching for Game 6

Once in a 3-0 hole to the San Jose Sharks, the Detroit Red Wings have made things very interesting with two straight wins.
Once in a 3-0 hole to the San Jose Sharks, the Detroit Red Wings have made things very interesting with two straight wins.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Pete SpitlerContributor IMay 10, 2011

I should have known better.

When the San Jose Sharks took a 3-1 lead over the Detroit Red Wings 54 seconds into the third period of Game 5 on Sunday, I switched the channel.

After all, through four games Detroit had looked old, slow and tired at times against a San Jose team that appeared to finally get "it" in terms of what it takes to get playoff glory.

On Sunday, that same movie was playing again as the Sharks had a 22-9 edge in shots on goal at one point.

Curiously, the Red Wings always seem to play better playoff hockey when I don't watch them. Which kind of dilutes the point of being a hockey fan at this time of the year. And sure enough, 10 minutes later, I checked the score online.

Tied at three with around eight minutes left in regulation. Despite being grossly outplayed, Detroit scored two goals in less than two minutes to turn the game, and perhaps the series, a complete 180 degrees.

To put it further in perspective, the Red Wings had six shots on goal in the third period and half of them got past Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi.

That's an incredible shooting percentage in any league and Detroit has Pavel Datsyuk (three assists and a plus-2) and goaltender Jimmy Howard (39 saves) to thank for forcing Tuesday's Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

I should have known better.

The reputation of the great Detroit teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s was that you could outplay them and still lose to them. The Red Wings were that skilled and that smart in making any opponent's lead unsafe and that philosophy was displayed front and center on Sunday.

This series is Rocky vs. Drago in the modern era. You have the physically superior (in terms of shots on goal and scoring chances) Sharks team trying to find a way to put to bed a Detroit franchise that has been the class of the NHL for 20 years.

Drago punched and punched hard the first three games. Rocky has started to punch back. Rocky knew every time he hit Drago it had to make a dent and Detroit dented San Jose pretty good on Sunday.

It's coming up on the sixth round Tuesday and the first tentacles of doubt are starting to creep in the Sharks' minds.

"He's like a piece of iron," Drago said in one of Rocky IV's memorable movie quotes. And the Red Wings' iron will showed through at HP Pavilion.

As long as Detroit keeps punching, Game 6 will become Game 7 and then all bets are off after that.

I should have known better.

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