San Jose Rock City- Patrick Marleau’s game winning goal in the shootout period along with clutch plays from Logan Couture and team teal goalie Antti Niemi in the game’s most critical moments lead the Sharks a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. The victory for the Sharks snaps a brief two game skid and comes off the heals of one of their worst performances of the season in Columbus two nights earlier. The Sharks also picked up two very important points in the Western Conference Standings as well in a race where every point counts. At the end of play Thursday evening, the Sharks are now down to their final eight final games as this shortened season is quickly winding down to its’ final two and a half weeks. The Sharks overall played much better against the Red Wings and seemed to have a far greater sense of urgency and purpose throughout the evening.
Early Opportunity Cashed In- With the Red Wings on an early power play after Tommy Wingles was whistled for boarding it would be team teal that would get the early jump thanks to errant puck handing by Detroit. Joe Pavelski got ahold of a loose puck near Center Ice thanks to a Red Wings turnover. Pavelski carrying the rubber biscuit up ice was flanked by Marleau to his left. Pavelski once across the blue line fed the puck to Marleau, who in turn would drill a 15 foot wrister past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. The Sharks would go on to outshoot the Red Wings 11-5 in the opening period and kept Detroit’s scoring chances to a minimum after their early failed power play. Howard meanwhile would rebound from the early Sharks goal to make 10 saves including a scalding slap shot from Jason Demers as well as point blank opportunities from Andrew Desjardins and Couture. The shot from Couture came as he was almost lying on his backside. The puck was actually partly blocked by Henrik Zetterberg before going over the net. Niemi meanwhile shut down the few Red Wings scoring opportunities he faced including a point blank shot from Justin Abdelkader.
Niemi Gets Busy- The litmus test for Niemi picked up a considerable pace in the second period as he found himself quite busy early, often and for the rest of the evening. The Red Wings kept the pressure mounting as the middle period went on forcing Niemi to be the last line of defense for team teal. For the period given that the Red Wings were throwing everything at the net short of the kitchen sink, the Sharks net minder earned his paycheck for the evening here and throughout . Niemi’s most impressive save of the evening game when he made a diving stop of Cory Emmerson’s shot on goal that appeared to have gone in at first look. However the Red Wings eventually would find an answer to solve the team teal net minder as they won a battle for the puck along the Sharks defensive end boards almost halfway through the period.
Johan Franzen won a race to the puck against defenseman Justin Braun and was able to take the rubber biscuit behind the Sharks goal. Franzen found Abdelkader in front of the team teal goal a fed him the puck. Abdelkader would then wrist the rubber biscuit under Niemi five hole to tie the game. The Sharks would have two opportunities to retake the lead on power play opportunities only to come up short both times. Coupled with a failed power play chance in the first period the Sharks were 0 for 3 with the man advantage through two periods. Jimmy Howard meanwhile frustrated the Sharks more as he twice stoned Patrick Marleau on odd man rush opportunities.
Motor City Finish- The Sharks found themselves in difficulty rather quickly in the third period as Brent Burns would was called for holding. While sitting in the box Burns watched as the Red Wings would beat the Sharks penalty killing unit. Jakub Kindl took a perfect feed pass from Zetterberg and drilled a wrister past an off balanced Niemi to give Detroit a 2-1 lead. The Sharks however would then get an opportunity they would covet to get back into the game when the Red Wings’ Brendan Smith drew a holding penalty of his own a few seconds later. After stopping an initial shot on goal from Marleau, the Sharks would win the next face off and go to work. Dan Boyle from the blue line after getting the puck passed back to him from Marleau, would drill a slap shot towards the Red Wings’ goal. Howard made the save but the rebound came back out to Joe Thornton. Howard would make his second straight save on Thornton’s shot, but could not locate the puck which again bounced away from him. The first man to the loose rubber biscuit was Couture who backhanded the puck and top shelved it over Howard to tie the game a 2-2.
The remainder of the third period was an exchange of scoring opportunities that would ultimately extend into an overtime period. The story of the game after Couture’s game tying goal was both Niemi and Howard who did all they could to keep their teams in the running for at least a point in the conference standings. The Sharks would outshoot the Red Wings 12-11 in the third and overtime periods.
Shootout Success- The Red Wings opened the skills portion of the evenings festivities with team stalwart Pavel Datsyuk beating Niemi with a nifty wrister . Frankly, for Niemi to make a save on Datsyuk’s try would have required him to problem do something that would have landed him on injured reserve. Very few goalies would have been able to stop Datsyuk’s try. Up next was the Sharks’ Logan Couture who was able to wrist a shot beating Howard five hole to tie the shootout. In the second round Niemi would make a solid save on Damien Brunner while Howard would stone Pavelski. In the third round, Gustav Nyquist would try a spin-o-rama attempt on Niemi which at best backfired as the Sharks net minder was not fooled. Then it was Marleau’s turn, and he made the most of this opportunity as he wristed a 10 footer that beat Howard for the win.
Shark Bytes- The three stars of the game were 3) Logan Couture-Sharks; 2) Jimmy Howard- Red Wings, and 1) Patrick Marleau-Sharks. The Sharks for the game outshot the Red Wings 30-29. Joe Thornton had over 20 minutes ice time Thursday evening after having barely over 10 in Tuesday’s loss at Columbus. The Sharks power play goal in the third period snapped an 0 for 10 dry spell with the man advantage. This was Sharks’ defenseman Brad Stuart’s first game back at Joe Louis Arena since signing with team teal last off season. Stuart played for the Red Wings from 2008-2012, winning a Stanley Cup in his first season there. The win was just the Sharks seventh on the road in 19 games away from the Shark Tank this truncated season. The distance from Columbus, Ohio to Detroit is 205 miles. The Sharks performance Thursday Night was thousands of miles better than it was Tuesday. Starting in the 2013-14 season, the Sharks will only see the Red Wings twice a season as Detroit gets moved to the Eastern Conference under the NHL’s realignment plan.
Next Sharks Game- The third game of this four game road venture continues Saturday night in the Lone Star State as the Sharks take on the Dallas Stars in a rematch of last Saturday’s game at the Shark Tank. The Sharks are 0-1-1 against Dallas this season, including a 5-4 shootout loss April 7th. The Sharks will need to find the same consistency that served them well in Detroit Thursday evening as the games are winding down and points in the standings are becoming more at a premium. Puck drop in Dallas is 5pm PDT/7pm CDT.
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