Four lines contribute to another shutout win

USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in as many nights, the Sharks shut out a team ahead of them in the standings. This time, their opponent was actually good at hockey.

Ray Shero might have saved the Sharks' season.

Obviously that's hyperbole but the trade of Douglas Murray to the Pittsburgh Penguins coupled with the coaching decisions to relegate Michal Handzus and Adam Burish to the press box have worked about as well as anyone could have reasonably expected. A Sharks team that struggled with their transition game and were devoid of positive contributions from their bottom-six forwards for large stretches of 2013 has, at least for two nights in a row, fixed those issues.

As in their 4-0 win over Anaheim the night prior, a four-line attack, goals by Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns (speaking of coaching decisions) and a shutout from Antti Niemi proved to be a winning recipe as the Sharks defeated the Red Wings 2-0 and, in the process, clawed their way to seventh place in the Western Conference standings.

At the tail end of a first period that featured scoring opportunities from each of the Sharks' offensive lines and some patented Pavel Datsyuk dazzle, Joe Pavelski won a puck battle behind the Red Wings' net against the man who served as his opposite number for much of the night in Henrik Zetterberg and dished the puck into the crease where the Sharks benefited from some long-awaited shooting regression courtesy Niklas Kronwall's left skate.

Few teams in the NHL shut everything down with a one-goal lead to the extent that the Sharks do and while they predictably yielded territory to Detroit in the second period, they were largely able to deny them quality looks at the net and produced some offense of their own via counterattack. That kept them afloat until a defensive-zone turnover by rookie Wings defenseman Brian Lashoff two minutes and change into the third period allowed Joe Thornton to set up Brent Burns for the defenseman/forward's fifth goal since assuming the latter position.

FTF Three Stars

1st Star: Antti Niemi
2nd Star: Joe Pavelski
3rd Star: Brad Stuart

The new-look Sharks will lose a hockey game. Maybe even on Saturday when they host the Coyotes. But the important part is that the process has been there over this three-game winning streak to a greater degree than it ever has for San Jose this season, even when they rattled off that mirage of a perfect start. As long as this lineup stays largely intact, it's unlikely that significantly changes. Go Sharks.

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