Facing yet another must-win game to continue their season, the Detroit Red Wings turned in a championship-calibre effort to force Game Seven against San Jose.
Through the first two periods of Game Six, the Red Wings dominated the play, outshooting the Sharks 32-13, but couldn't solve San Jose netminder Antti Niemi.
Midway through the third, with San Jose leading 1-0, the Red Wings mounted their attacks with more urgency and it paid off.
Valtteri Filppula isn't one of the big names on the Red Wings' roster, and he hadn't scored a point in this series, but he created the opportunity that led to the Wings' first goal, driving into the offensive zone before hitting Niklas Kronwall coming late off the point.
Then, less than two minutes later, Filppula finished off a sublime backhand saucer pass from Pavel Datsyuk to score what would be the game-winner.
Going into Game Six, both teams had to deal with significant holes in their respective lineups. The Sharks' Ryane Clowe and the Red Wings' Johan Franzen were unable to go due to injuries.
Ben Eager stepped into the San Jose lineup and played just 4:25, while the Wings also scratched veteran Kris Draper, inserting Mike Modano and Jiri Hudler into the lineup. Modano played 9:01, went 6-of-9 on faceoffs and had three shots on goal, while Hudler played 10:22 and took a minus on San Jose's lone goal.
Detroit went with a very balanced approach on the blueline, with no defenceman playing less than Jonathan Ericsson's 18:18 and none more than Nicklas Lidstrom's 21:29, little more than a three-minute difference between No. 1 and No. 6.
For San Jose, the defence pairing of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jason Demers was on for Detroit's first two goals, the duo taking a minus-2 for their efforts.
The series is now even at three games apiece, and the Sharks head home hoping to avoid completing an ignominious collapse. In losing the last three games, the Sharks have gone 0-for-10 on the power play, so that needs to change.
While San Jose had a three-game lead in the series, it was played much more evenly to that point than the wins and losses would suggest -- the Sharks needed overtime twice -- and the ice surface has leveled more since.
Through six games, the Sharks are outshooting the Red Wings 216-207, so it's fitting that this highly entertaining series will require seven games.
Now it's up to the Sharks to disprove all the doubters that will cite perennial playoff disappointments, while the Red Wings have already shown the heart of a champion; their rally making for an exceptional series no matter which way Game Seven tilts.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.