(Reuters) – Patrick Marleau scored seven minutes into overtime to complete a stirring 4-3 comeback victory for the San Jose Sharks over Detroit on Tuesday, pushing the Red Wings to the brink of Stanley Cup elimination.
The victory gives the Sharks a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western conference semi-final and a chance to sweep the series with a Game Four win on Thursday.
“The reality is we have dug a huge hole for ourselves here,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told reporters. “There is no sense worrying about anything besides our next game.
“We’ll come in here tomorrow and get our minds right. It’s a tough pill to swallow but we’ll go home, regroup and get back at it tomorrow.”
The aging Joe Louis Arena had been a fortress for the Red Wings and a house of horrors for the Sharks, who had won just five times in 35 regular-season visits to “the Joe” and were just 3-6 in playoff trips to the Motor City.
The Wings, who have reached the Stanley Cup finals the last two seasons, will have to quickly rediscover some of that Motown magic if they are to make it three straight.
Only twice have teams ever clawed their way back from 3-0 deficits, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders in 1975.
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, a former Red Wings assistant, will not have to be reminded how tough it is to come out on top at the Joe, which will take over from Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena as the NHL’s oldest arena when the Igloo shuts its doors for good at the end of this season.
“Tomorrow will be the day when we remind them how difficult that last game is,” said McLellan. “I’ve been in the other locker room and I know how much fight is in that team.
“Our task is going to be tougher for that fourth win than it has been for the first three. We know that.”
The good vibes at the Joe had looked ready to continue as the Red Wings took a 3-1 lead into the final period.
But the win suddenly disappeared when Joe Thornton and Logan Couture scored to force overtime and Marleau capped the comeback redirecting a laser feed from Thornton past a diving Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard.
A raucous capacity crowd wearing Wings red was left on the edge of their seats through a wild opening period that featured two disputed goals, a penalty shot and Detroit taking a 2-1 lead.
Henrik Zetterberg appeared to give Detroit the early advantage when the puck ricocheted off his skate past Evgeni Nabokov as he charged toward the Sharks net.
But after a lengthy video review, officials waved off the goal ruling Zetterberg had kicked the puck into the net.
Three minutes later video judges at NHL headquarters in Toronto were again pressed into action when Red Wings Tomas Holmstrom scored another disputed goal that went in off his skate.
This time judges ruled the goal good but controversy continued when Detroit was awarded a penalty shot.
Nabokov denied Zetterberg but there was no disputing Detroit’s second goal, Dan Cleary taking a feed from Drew Miller and whipping it past Nabokov.
The Sharks would pull one back with just four seconds remaining in the frame on a goal from Devin Setoguchi but the Red Wings restored their two-goal cushion early in the second on Zetterberg’s seventh of the playoffs.
(Editing by Alastair Himmer)