San Jose, CA—The San Jose Sharks can breathe a little easier.
Devin Setoguchi, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau scored goals and the Sharks avoided an historic collapse by beating the Detroit Red Wings, 3-2, in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals on Thursday.
After losing three straight games in the series, the Sharks survived some anxious moments at the end of this one, moving on to face Vancouver in the conference finals.
Antti Niemi had 38 saves, gloving a Pavel Datsyuk slap shot in the final minute, and San Jose avoided becoming the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead in the playoffs.
Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk scored for the Red Wings, who faced a pair of two-goal deficits in the game but never let the Sharks get comfortable in their own building.
After Marleau scored to make it 3-1 in the third period, Datsyuk netted a sharp-angle backhand just 1:46 later to make it a one-goal game again.
Jimmy Howard made 27 saves, but Detroit failed to join the 1942 Maple Leafs, 1975 Islanders and last year's Flyers as the only teams to rally from a 3-0 postseason deficit.
Instead, they joined this season's Chicago Blackhawks among the teams who rallied to force a Game 7, only to fall short. Chicago fell behind 3-0 in its first-round series against Vancouver, then lost Game 7 in overtime.
The Red Wings played without forward Johan Franzen for the second straight game and lost forwards Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary to injuries during the game.
San Jose will visit top-seeded Vancouver for Game 1 of the conference finals on Sunday.
Fighting off unwanted history became a little easier for the second-seeded Sharks after they struck for two goals in the first period, including one in the final minute after a turnover by the normally sure-handed Zetterberg.
Setoguchi made it 1-0 on a power play 12:20 into the game, scoring on a lasered one-timer from the left side after a cross-slot pass from Joe Thornton behind the net.
Thornton led a Sharks break moments later, deftly slipping a pass to Dany Heatley for a shot that was stopped by Howard, who covered the puck before it crossed the goal line.
As time winded down in the period, Couture hounded Zetterberg with a stick check near the Detroit net and picked off his soft pass, gliding into the right circle for a wrist shot that beat Howard to the near side for a 2-0 lead with 59 seconds remaining.
Zetterberg atoned for his turnover, skating in from the left circle and scoring on a backhand at 13:10 of the second period to draw the third-seeded Red Wings within 2-1.
Detroit got a power play 7:33 into the third period when San Jose was called for too many men on the ice, but Niklas Kronwall was whistled for slashing 74 seconds later to erase it.
Marleau cleaned up a loose puck to give the Sharks a 3-1 lead with 7:47 remaining in the game. Dan Boyle found Setoguchi with a cross-ice pass in the left circle and Setoguchi skated in for a shot that was stopped by Howard, but he let the puck flutter through to the other side where Marleau was waiting.
Jubilation inside HP Pavilion turned to hushed anxiety when Datsyuk scored just 1:46 later to get the Red Wings within 3-2.
He was working against Thornton and Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray on the low right side when he ripped a backhand past Murray that somehow beat Niemi, hitting off the far post from a tight angle.
Niemi gloved a Datsyuk slap shot from the left side with under 30 seconds left as the Sharks survived the Red Wings' extra attacker for the final 1:24 after they pulled Howard.
San Jose forward Ryane Clowe played almost 20 minutes after missing Game 6's 3-1 loss with an upper body injury...Bertuzzi played just five shifts before leaving with an upper-body injury, while Clearly left in the second period after colliding with teammate Jiri Hudler in the second...The Red Wings were the eighth team in NHL history to force a Game 7 after being down 0-3...San Jose ousted Detroit in five games in last year's semifinals.