DETROIT – It’s about four minutes before overtime. It’s the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And in the back corner of the San Jose Sharks’ dressing room, Devin Setoguchi(notes) and Logan Couture(notes) aren’t just joking around about who’s going to score the winning goal, they’re talking about how they’re going to celebrate it.
“You better get it before I do,” Setoguchi said, according to his recollection, “because I’ve already got my celebration ready to go.”
“So do I,” Couture shot back.
“Well, I’m going to pull the Ronaldo double-knee.”
“That was mine!”
“Well, I’ll try to beat you to it then.”
Pressure? What pressure? This was fun, and why wouldn’t it be? The Sharks already were 4-0 in overtime in these playoffs. Setoguchi already had an OT winner and already had two goals Wednesday night. And these guys had every reason to be confident against the Detroit Red Wings.
Sure enough, 9:21 into overtime, Setoguchi blasted a shot into the back of the net, twirled his right arm like a windmill and slid across the ice on both knees as his teammates mobbed him. The Sharks had a 4-3 victory, a 3-0 series lead and a 5-0 record in OT thanks to Setoguchi’s hat trick.
Joe Louis Arena was silent, except for one girl’s high-pitched scream. It was like something out of a horror movie – a movie the Wings and their fans have seen before. On the exact same day last year – May 4 – Patrick Marleau(notes) scored 7:07 into overtime at the Joe to give the Sharks a 4-3 victory and 3-0 series lead.
But no fluke. The Sharks won last year’s series in five. That means they have beaten the Wings seven times in the last eight playoff games between them.
Each of those seven victories was by one goal, so you can say it’s close. But close doesn’t mean much in the playoffs when almost every game is close. As Wings coach Mike Babcock said: “When you win a series and you win four one-goal games, you don’t think it’s that tight. You just find a way to win.”
The Sharks have. The Wings haven’t. Do the Sharks have the Wings’ number? The best Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall(notes) could say was, “I don’t want to think so.” Translation: I think so, but I don’t want to admit it.
At this point, it’s hard not to think Sharks coach Todd McLellan, a former assistant of Babcock’s in Detroit, just knows how to beat his old boss. It’s hard not to think the Sharks are deeper, stronger, better, more confident and maybe charmed for once as they try to advance to their first Stanley Cup final.
But this was the Wings’ best game of the series. They got a classic crushing Kronwall hit on Dany Heatley(notes) – Knonwall stepping up along the boards in the offensive zone, planting a shoulder into Heatley’s chest and forcing Heatley to sit out for a while. They got two sweet passes from Henrik Zetterberg(notes) that set up power-play goals by Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) and Pavel Datsyuk(notes) – one between the legs, another between two defenders. Although they gave up two power-play goals to Setoguchi, too, they carried the play much of the night, including much of overtime.
The Sharks trailed in the third period, 3-2. But they had been here before. They had beaten Detroit before.
“It’s in the back of your mind all the time, that you can win the game,” Setoguchi said. “We have guys in the room that have been in that position from last year, and you’re less nervous, you’re more calm, you’ve got more poise.”
Boyle scored with 4:08 left in regulation. Tie game. Overtime. Again, been there, done that. While Setoguchi and Couture were going back and forth about how they would celebrate if they scored, others were relaxed.
“We know we’ve got a lot of guys in this room who are capable of ending the game,” Thornton said, “and I think that gives us a calmness, a confidence that we’re going to get it done.”
It wasn’t all calm. Setoguchi took his second holding penalty of the game in overtime, when he made the mistake of allowing the Wings’ Todd Bertuzzi(notes) to grab his arm, flop to the ice and take them both down. He said he didn’t really think in the box. He just kept repeating in his head: “Don’t score. Don’t score. Don’t score. Don’t score.”
But the Wings didn’t score. And then Thornton curled up the wall and passed the puck to the top of the right circle. And then Setoguchi blasted it past it past winger Patrick Eaves(notes) and Howard’s right pad. And then came the Ronaldo double-knee and a comment from Couture.
“He said I stole his celebration,” Setoguchi said, smiling.
Oh, well. The way the Sharks are going, there’s always next time.