DETROIT — They are playing as though it is 2009 all over again.
Four years later, it is going to come down to a seventh game, again, to decide the issue between the Ducks and the Red Wings.
They landed in the same place when Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg scored 1:04 into overtime with a slap shot outside the left circle near the wall, beating a screened Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, giving the Red Wings a 4-3 victory over the Ducks in Game 6. Zetterberg scored twice and his linemate Pavel Datsyuk scored once as they combined for six points Friday night.
Unlike the wild roller-coaster series of 2009, which Detroit won, the deciding game will be in Anaheim, not at Joe Louis Arena, on Sunday at 7 p.m. Incredibly, four of the six games in this Western Conference quarterfinal have gone to overtime with the Red Wings winning three times.
"We said all along, the shorter we could make the series, advantage us," Detroit Coach Mike Babcock said. "You can't make it any shorter than this."
It can't get shorter. Or much more dramatic.
"Every OT that we've played in, the goals have been really quick," said Ducks rookie forward Emerson Etem, who scored once and added an assist. "Say if it does go to OT in Game 7, we're going to have to realize that. We're going to expect it to be a close Game 7."
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau felt that his team was playing not to lose, instead of playing to win, at the start of the game and later in overtime. He had to call a timeout 58 seconds into overtime after Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler iced the puck and Boudreau wanted to give center Saku Koivu a rest before the ensuing faceoff.
That plan went for naught as the goal came just after Koivu lost the faceoff in the left circle to Datsyuk. "He [Zetterberg] just did a good shot and it went in," Koivu said. "Not much you can say to that. They got the faceoff, moved it to the wall and shot it from there. It's always tough to lose in overtime. It doesn't matter how the game goes."
Boudreau sensed trouble before Zetterberg scored.
"We looked very tentative on that first shift before the goal," Boudreau said. "Very tentative. The icing — we had a guy in the middle of the ice — it was a panic icing, I think. But maybe we'll learn from our mistakes and we've still got one more to go."
Overtime was required because of a furious, frantic 51-second burst of hockey as the Ducks scored twice to force overtime, rallying from a two-goal deficit late in the third period.
Etem scored with 3:28 remaining and Bobby Ryan scored with 2:37 left in regulation to tie it, 3-3.
Etem's goal, which pulled the Ducks within a goal, came off a major gaffe by Detroit forward Val Filppula, who gifted one to the Ducks, flicking the puck behind the net, assuming a Red Wings defenseman was there. Instead, it was Etem.
Two of the Ducks' goals came on odd plays. Their first one was an own goal in the second period by Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith, which was credited to Anaheim forward Kyle Palmieri.
The other was Etem's goal as he jumped on the loose puck left behind by Filppula and jammed it in at the right post.
Until Etem's goal started the late comeback, all that was left was wondering when the next celebratory octopus would get tossed on the ice. Suddenly, the Red Wings became unglued, in much the same way they did in the third period of Game 2 in Anaheim. But Hiller was dismayed that it took so long for the Ducks to make an impact.
"There's no turning back," he said. "You want to win, you have to win. We've got to play that way and not wait until something happens. We have to come out and play our game. When we do that, we've shown we can pretty much dominate any team. We don't do it on a consistent enough basis.
"I don't know [why] it always needs to be that we have to be two goals down to kind of like finally start playing."