Partially lost in the specter of Johan Franzen's first-period hat trick last night in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals for the Detroit Red Wings was the performance of goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Howard rebounded nicely from a disappointing effort in Tuesday night's 4-3 overtime loss in Game 3, when two lapses by the rookie resulted in two goals for the San Jose Sharks.
Howard stopped 28 of 29 shots he faced last night, losing his shutout bid with 48.5 seconds left in the second period on Dany Heatley's rocket from between the circles during a two-man advantage.
The second period was also when Howard faced his biggest test, turning away all but one of the 15 shots the Sharks put on net.
Howard proved tough in the first period too, when San Jose outshot the Wings 11-9.
"Obviously he played well early when he had to and made some big saves for us," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "That's what you need from your goaltender. You're not going to win during playoff time without good goaltending, and we got that tonight."
STUART INJURED: Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart suffered what was classified as a "lower body injury" during the first period and did not return.
A starter at defenseman, Stuart was on the ice for five shifts and played just 2:39 before exiting.
In 10 playoff games this season, Stuart has registered two goals and four assists and is plus-six.
There was no update on his condition.
3-0 DEFICIT: Only two teams in NHL history have come back to win a seven-game series after falling behind 3-0 - the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders.
"That's how hard it is to do," Babcock said before last night's game. "It's every 33 years or so, so you got to be due. I figure it's our turn."
The Wings have gone down 3-0 10 times in their franchise history, but have never been able to recover from that kind of deficit.
They were on the wrong side of history in 1942, however, when the Maple Leafs trailed the Wings 3-0 in the Stanley Cup finals only to come back and win four straight.
FIVE FOR FIGHTING: Just as The Wave gained steam in the crowd at Joe Louis Arena midway through the third period, Detroit's Justin Abdelkader and San Jose's Scott Nichol dropped the gloves and squared off.
Abdelkader took exception with Nichol's cross-check and quickly took Nichol to the ice with several punches to the head.
"The game got out of hand and the scoring got out of hand, and they got a little frustrated," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.
"Things like that happen when you're in the playoffs, but I don't expect anything to carry over to the next game."
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