DETROIT -- No one knows if this season will be the swan song for Nicklas Lidstrom, but goaltender Jimmy Howard thinks the 41-year-old defenseman could play forever.
"I bet you he could," Howard said. "He's just so smart out there. He's the smartest hockey player I've ever played with, bar none. He just never puts himself in a compromising position. He's just a tremendous hockey player."
There was speculation that if the Red Wings didn't stave off elimination in Game 4 against the San Jose Sharks, it might have been Lidstrom's final NHL game. Instead, it was Lidstrom leading the way in the Red Wings' 4-3 victory that ensured he'd get at least one more game this season, and maybe in his career.
Lidstrom scored two goals in the first period -- he has four in the series -- and one of them was of the world-class variety that players in their primes would have a hard time scoring. He controlled a rocket of a pass from Henrik Zetterberg with his shin pad and popped it up about waist-high, where he then knocked it out of the air and into the net to make it 3-0.
"You guys were talking about retirement," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said to reporters after the game. "I think he answered that pretty good."
It was an inspired performance from Lidstrom, who showed no signs he was ready to call it a career. Instead, he had one of his more memorable performances ever in the postseason, which is saying a lot considering everything he's accomplished during his Hall-of-Fame career.
Along with the two goals, he had six shots, was plus-2 (he's now plus-6 in the playoffs after catching flak for being a minus-player for the first time in his career during the regular season) and blocked one shot. If Lidstrom does choose to retire in the offseason, it won't be because he can't play at a high level anymore. The 2011 Norris Trophy nominee has shown he can still get it done at his advanced age.
"I don't know. We'll see about that after the season," Lidstrom said. "I feel good. My ice time is probably down a little bit from past seasons, so I feel good."
Lidstrom made the most of his 22:42 on Friday. The Red Wings undoubtedly hope he'll do the same thing Sunday night during Game 5 -- and for another 82 games next season.
"There's no question who our leader is and he showed it once again," forward Patrick Eaves said. "He's one of those special players. We all shake our head at what he does."
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