In that second period, Babcock's team outshot the top-seeded Sharks 14-3 and wound up on three (unsuccessful) power plays. Nevertheless, it was 1-1 after two periods, and the Red Wings had had no luck in any of the tight games of their Western Conference semifinals with San Jose. They'd thrown the Sharks off their clog-the-middle, push-outside, don't-let-Franzen-get-the-puck-in-front plan a bit in the middle period, though, and that made for a ray of hope.
"We felt if we could hold them the first 10 minutes we'd have a good chance of winning, and then we're tied going into the third," Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said.
As the Wings know too well after this series, though, close can be too close.
Sharks winger Patrick Marleau ripped a shot from the right slot past Jimmy Howard almost seven minutes into the final period and the Red Wings couldn't recover. Yes, they outscored San Jose despite losing in five games, but that was on the strength of their one win, a 7-1 blowout in Game 4.
Otherwise, the Sharks had just a slight edge in four of the games. And for a Red Wings team that at one point during the season appeared to be in danger of having its long string of playoff appearances come to an end, there was no shame in that. San Jose was the top team in the West, the series was tight even if it didn't go the distance.
"We played a good game but when they had their chances, they were a little bit more crisp than we were," Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg said. "They won fair and square, but you could say we were in every game."
And for the Sharks, defeating the Red Wings -- consecutive Stanley Cup finalists, multiple Cup winners -- was a franchise high point. There is no lack of respect for Detroit in San Jose.
"This is satisfying, because they been the best hockey team in the league the last five years," Sharks center Joe Thornton said after the game. "They've been dominating. They've been great the last 20 years, actually."
Can the Sharks now emulate the Red Wings and go on to what would be their first-ever Stanley Cup Finals? They always have their doubters after years of frustrating postseasons, but they impressed the defending conference champs.
"The Sharks have been a very good team the past few years and they play smart," Zetterberg said. "Every time you make the playoffs you learn more and more and eventually you start playing better in the playoffs. They are playing smarter and they are playing more like a team."
What is next for the Red Wings, given their earliest ouster in four years? After a late post-Olympics push to make the playoffs, Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk said he thought all the playoff travel (back and forth to Phoenix in the first round, San Jose in the second) had caught up the team. So they'll get to rest.
Then they get to worry about whether Lidstrom, 40, will return. He hasn't addressed the possibility of retirement publicly, but the popular sentiment in Detroit is that he has another year in him. There's no doubt that the club, and the city, would like the future Hall of Famer to give it one final go, and failing to make it to the Finals could provide that incentive.
The team also could lose another Hall of Famer; retired captain Steve Yzerman, now in Detroit's front office, is a primary candidate to be Tampa Bay's general manager. But if he decides against that, it's clear that he will wind up with other excellent opportunities in other cities and he'll eventually depart, given that Ken Holland is soon to get an extension and won't be leaving for some time.