Sharks recover from flat first period, win 5-2 at the Joe

After a 3-1 loss in which they looked sloppy and lethargic, the Sharks came into Joe Louis Arena and handed the Western Conference leaders only their second regulation loss at home.

That's not to say there wasn't a fair amount of lethargy on San Jose's part, though. 

The Sharks didn't inspire much confidence early, falling into a familiar 1-0 hole on Detroit's first power play chance seven minutes into the game. At that point, Todd McLellan appeared to have had enough. Just 13 seconds later, the coach made a deft call, taking an early time out and lighting a fire under his team.

It worked.

The Sharks responded by chasing pucks, applying pressure, getting to the net and being an all around tough team to play against. The results didn't come immediately; after the Sharks tied the game on a shorthanded goal by Joe Thornton, the Red Wings got another past Niemi on the power play. However, the Sharks weren't ready to sit back and take another drubbing at the hands at Detroit. The Sharks survived two additional penalties in the period, keeping the game close. It was apparent that it was the Sharks' night to shine on the road. 

The second period on was all San Jose, with Niclas Wallin, Dany Heatley and Logan Couture all scoring goals (Wallin's goal and Couture's goal was only eight seconds apart). Their attack was consistent and ferocious, as they outshot Detroit 12-6. 

It was more of the same in the third, the Sharks outshot the wings 14-5 and added another goal thanks to the hard work of Logan Couture and his line. Couture deflected the puck in with his skate after a centering feed from Clowe, sealing a decisive and important game for the team in teal.

Although the game didn't start as the coaching staff would have liked, I think the team should take some confidence from this game. The turnaround showed the team that they can play with anyone, and beat anyone, if they commit to playing the type of hockey that they need to play to win games.

Having Niclas Wallin (who scored) and Jason Demers back didn't hurt, either. Although the Sharks could still afford to add another defensemen before the trade deadline, the unit as a whole looked competent in their own zone as mistakes were minimized (albeit after the terrible first). Rookie Justin Braun, who was asked to play heavy minutes while the Sharks suffered injuries on the back end, looked much less vulnerable in limited minutes. In fact, he looked rather solid opposite Jason Demers on the Sharks' second power play unit. 

I prefer the Sharks rolling seven defensemen, if only to limit Dan Boyle's minutes. I think the strategy worked rather well tonight. Although his minutes are probably down because of the score, Boyle played just 24:43, getting some much deserved rest.

It wasn't all defense tonight. The rejuvenated lines looked great; Couture, Ryane Clowe and Benn Ferriero continue to impress, and the Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Torrey Mitchell line looked solid as well. Antti Niemi wasn't bad either, as he continued his career dominance against the Wings. Although Antero Niittymaki should get the start against his former team in Philadelphia, Niemi has done a fair job of wrestling the starting job away from his Finnish ystävä (that's friend in Finn-speak).

All in all, this was a great win for the team, and knowing the Sharks, they'll buil... they'll take this game and...

Well, they haven't really been able to build on their wins so well this season. However, I think a comeback win against Detroit, at the Joe, will be different. This is an important road trip for the team, and this was a big game. 

Here's to optimism.

 

Go Sharks.

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