Detroit — They were up. They were down.
But they were up at the end when it counts.
The Red Wings extended their unusual 2013 season Friday with a 4-3, sudden death win against the Anaheim Ducks to send the first-round series back to Anaheim.
Their captain, Henrik Zetterberg, led them, along with his linemate Pavel Datsyuk. Goaltender Jimmy Howard also was strong.
The Wings should have won easily. But, up 3-1, they let the Ducks score two, one which they literally handed to them.
Hey, stuff happens! Especially when one is young.
Henrik Zetterberg had not been held without a goal in his previous 19 playoff series.
Make it 20.
With the score tied 1-1 after six minutes of the third period, the Ducks had put enormous pressure on the Red Wings and had been the most aggressive team since the end of the first, pouring shot after shot on the Red Wings net and dominating play geographically.
But "Hank" brought his hammer.
After 40 seconds of a power play, Mikael Samuelsson got the puck to Datsyuk, who set up Zetterberg perfectly. And Zetterberg let her rip. It was one of those wonderful shots in which the stick has tons of "whippage," as Mickey Redmond says.
The Wings were up 2-1.
Much would happen before the end of the period and the game would end up tied and in overtime.
But just 1:04 in, Datsyuk won a faceoff and somewhat clumsily got it back to Niklas Kronwall, who put it on the sideboards for Zetterberg.
Again, with the "whippage."
It was as if Duck goalie Jonas Hiller never saw it.
Zetterberg would later say the goals were not two of his hardest shots, and he would call them both ugly goals. But they were hard enough and pretty enough for 20,066 at Joe Louis Arena, and it is a sport free of speedometers and style points, regardless.
"The longer you play the better chance you get, point-wise, not just compete-wise," said Mike Babcock, who has praised Zetterberg's play and playmaking, despite his lack of goals.
"He obviously scored some important goals for us, tonight — a power play goal and the winner."
Datsyuk on fast forward
He was everywhere.
Datsyuk hit the ice flying. He has played an awful lot of minutes this year, including many more on the penalty kill than in most recent seasons.
He is allowed to experience fatigue, and some games it shows.
Game 6 was not one of those games.
Datsyuk salvaged the Red Wings' first good start in a while with a Datsyukian Deke that absolutely froze a good player, Ryan Getzlaf. Datsyuk crossed through the slot on the back hand, pumped and hesitated, continued and fired.
It was behind Hiller.
Datsyuk also was 60 percent on faceoffs and won the biggest draw of the game in overtime on the Zetterberg goal.
Babcock said before the fifth game in Anaheim that the Red Wings would need huge efforts from Zetterberg and Datsyuk.
They provided it, two days later.
It forces a Game 7, when they must provide it again.
The Red Wings talked about the need to get off to a good start after a flat first 10 minutes against the Ducks in Game 5 in Anaheim.
They were much more forceful to the task from the get-go on Friday.
Their skating speed and vigor was obvious from the opening shifts. They outplayed the Ducks for most of the first period, and eventually outshot them 11-7.
The puck was much quicker out of their zone and through center ice into the Ducks end. They were quick enough there to win some battles.
They took a 1-0 lead, on Datsyuk's goal.
Yielding the initiative
However, failing to follow-up on a good start can negate the effort, and the Red Wings were guilty of yielding the initiative in the second period and then, again — big time — in the third.
Howard bailed them out a few times. But he could not stop a bizarre goal, which Brendan Smith might see in his dreams all summer.
First, the Ducks came out all over the Red Wings in the second period, outshooting them 7-1 in the first several minutes. Howard made save after save.
But the eighth shot struck the goal post behind him, ricocheted out and hit Smith, who was in hot pursuit of the play and looking to clear a rebound or to be positioned in the crease, and it went in.
Smith had no way of avoiding it. Howard had no way of stopping it.
After the Wings went up 3-1 in the third, the Ducks got two quick goals with little resistance from the Wings, except for Howard.
Emerson Etem scored the second Ducks goal when Valtteri Filppula backhanded a pass directly to him from behind the Red Wings net.
Bobby Ryan scored the third with a lot of Wings standing around, watching the show instead of contributing to some decent defensive structure.
"We got off kilter there a few times," Babcock said.
When they went up 4-1 in Game 2, the Wings stopped playing. When they went up 3-1 in Game 6, they stopped playing.
At some point, especially for a young team with comparatively little playoff experience, those mistakes become lessons learned.
Eight ball, corner pocket
Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Cleary put the Wings up 3-1, in a way most odd. And it looked at the time as if it would stand..
In his first game back after a two-game suspension for a hit to the head of Toni Lydman in Game 3, Abdelkader played well, leading the Wings with four hits through two periods and mounting some offensive threats.
Then, with 11:30 gone in the third and the score 3-1 after Zetterberg's first goal, Abdelkader fired what looked like a fairly harmless shot from the left side board toward the net.
Unseen until NHL off-ice officials in Toronto reviewed it was a bounce off Cleary, before it struck the post behind Jonas Hiller, bounced out, hit Hiller and went in.
Double bank shot.
Cleary was in the lineup, but hurt after a nasty check that resulted in a boarding penalty in Game 5.