ANAHEIM -- On Thursday evening, a rickety old contraption pulled up in front of the Anaheim Ducks' dressing room and someone yelled, "Redemption bus, all aboard."
And pretty much every Ducks player, who had been lousy or invisible or yanked or hurt or not even playing in this series, jumped on board.
The redemption bus that carried the Ducks to this strange and somewhat improbable 5-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings wasn't necessarily a thing of beauty. Much like this game, it had its warts, noisy springs and a bit of a foul smell about it. Think "Partridge Family" meets "Christine" and you're close to understanding this conveyance.
But it's not the ride, rather where you go in the playoffs. Fact is, the Ducks shook off the one-game suspension to their best player, Chris Pronger, and then they shook off a series of mental blunders that saw them blow a 3-1 lead to even this Western Conference series at 2. The pivotal fifth game is set for Sunday afternoon in Detroit.
"Well, obviously, it was a huge boost. I'm really expecting that this is going to carry over in the next game, too, you know," said Anaheim's Teemu Selanne. "Obviously, we lost Pronger tonight. You can't replace guy like him. I think I [said] already before, it's going to give a great opportunity to other players to step up, show what they can do. They did great job."
And how about Selanne, who was one of the first to clamber on board the aforementioned redemption mobile?
Surviving without Pronger
Ric Jackman was asked whether it might be tough for Norris Trophy candidate and former league MVP Chris Pronger to get back in the lineup after Jackman scored his first playoff goal after taking Pronger's place in the lineup.
"You'd have to ask [Ducks coach] Randy [Carlyle] that one. I'm pretty sure he's coming back in," Jackman said with a grin.
Speaking of the erstwhile Pronger, Carlyle was asked earlier how he was going to help the defenseman through the suspension.
"I was just wondering who was going to skate him today. We gave that assignment to our video coach because they've got some things going on there," Carlyle said with a grin.
"Can't have four days off, can he, 'til the next game? He's got to go out and work."
" The Ducks' victory ensures that the Detroit Red Wings will have to travel west for a Game 6 for the third straight series. They wrapped up series victories over Calgary and San Jose on the road in those games. But one has to wonder whether the burden of additional West-Coast flights will at some point catch up to them.
The Ducks, by comparison, played Vancouver and Minnesota in the first round and their travel schedule has been relatively easy.
-- Scott Burnside
With zero points through the first three games of this series, Selanne had the kind of breakthrough night leaders have when adversity calls. He set up the second of three first-period goals, a power-play marker by Ric Jackman that just happened to be the Ducks' first goal on the man advantage vs. the Wings.
Then, he added his first goal in five games with just 1:29 left in the first, a goal-scorer's goal, as he swatted a bouncing puck past Dominik Hasek for a 3-1 lead. After the Ducks spit the bit and allowed the patient, punishing Wings to tie the game, Selanne added another power-play assist, this one on Ryan Getzlaf's winner 5:24 into the third period.
"When they don't go in, it's tough. But it's not about me. It's about team. Some nights you can't score, you have to do something else to help the team," Selanne said. "We need everybody, and tonight it was a little bit my turn. Obviously, confidence is everything about this game. I think this was really good boost for myself, too."
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle was naturally pleased to see his long-ago teammate in Winnipeg shake the scoring monkey from his back.
"The pressure that goes with it, he takes it very personal," Carlyle said. "You know, he's a very emotional individual. He doesn't show that probably on his exterior. I know it was burning up inside of him that he wasn't scoring any goals as of late. It was good to see."
There were others who climbed onboard, too.
Todd Marchant assisted on Selanne's goal, his first point since March 31 and just his second since Feb. 10 in what has been an injury-plagued campaign for the veteran. Marchant, who has been moved to the team's top line with Selanne and Andy McDonald with season-ending injury to Chris Kunitz, was also crucial to the winner, digging out the puck and helping to screen Hasek.
Then, there was netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere standing tall after being pulled in the Ducks' 5-0 loss in Game 5. Giguere turned aside a handful of glorious chances during a 46-second 5-on-3 Detroit power-play early in the second period. As if to reinforce he was back, he was likewise sensational in preserving a 3-3 tie during a 1:36 5-on-3 power play early in the third period.
"If you're down 3-1 going to Detroit, you don't even want to think about that," said Giguere, who stopped 36 of 39 shots. "Playoffs is one game at a time. It's only about winning and losing. It doesn't matter what the score is. When you lose a game, it doesn't matter if you play well or not, you just lost a game. You've got to move on and try to win the next one."
Of all the feel-good storylines that percolated through the Ducks' bountiful first period and beyond, none was more compelling than Jackman's first playoff goal in his first playoff game on his first playoff shot.
It was Jackman, a healthy scratch the last three games and out of action with back spasms the previous 10, who was called on to take the roster spot vacated by Pronger.
"I'm more excited about the win," the gap-toothed Jackman said when asked about the goal. "What a fantastic feeling. I was sitting at the end of the games, watching guys come in and it's such a special feeling. I just wanted to be a part of that."
Jackman, the fifth overall pick in the 1996 entry draft, has battled alcohol problems and is now with his sixth NHL franchise. To have stepped into such an intense situation and delivered was the ultimate illustration of the Ducks' ability to pull together in the face of adversity. Not that they didn't do everything in their power to drive redemption right into a brick wall. Most egregious were the two 5-on-3s, the second of which was set up by Rob Niedermayer's cross-check on Daniel Clearly two seconds into the third period.
"It was a dumb penalty by me," acknowledged Niedermayer, who scored an empty-net goal to seal the victory with 1:08 left in the game.
Asked what went through his mind as he went to the box for his third minor penalty of the night, Niedermayer said it's a nerve-wracking time.
"You're just hoping that you didn't cost the team a goal. The first they scored on it. You don't like that feeling at all. It makes for a long two minutes in there," he said.
In all, the Red Wings outshot the Ducks 39-23, had a 31-14 shots edge through two periods and probably deserved to win this game. But that's the funny thing about redemption -- sometimes you get it even when you don't necessarily deserve it.
"You know the team's going to play. You're not playing against Chris Pronger, you're playing against the Ducks," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Just like when we lost our people, significant people for us, you just keep playing. That's what you do. That's what good teams do. So there's no surprise in that."
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.