A week ago yesterday, Sharks forward Joe Pavelski was named to the American Olympic team. Since then, as if to drive home the already-evident point that he belongs there, he's scored five goals in five games with the latest two coming in tonight's 4-1 San Jose triumph over the Red Wings. With twenty-seven seconds remaining, Pavelski nearly completed the hat trick but missed wide on a picture-perfect dish by Tommy Wingels. He'll have to settle for getting to the 20-goal mark for the fourth time in five seasons (the one exception being the lockout-shortened campaign) and another Sharks win that pulls the team to within nine points of the surging Anaheim Ducks.
While the second period had been a sticking point for the Sharks earlier in the year, it was the frame in which they did the bulk of their damage tonight. They dominated the Wings for those twenty minutes to the tune of a 14-8 showing on the shot clock (a 12-2 margin through Pavelski's second goal) and a 3-0 edge on the scoreboard. Andrew Desjardins got the party started, chipping a puck past Jakub Kindl in the neutral zone before firing a bad-angle shot that improbably beat Jimmy Howard. Pavelski would extend the Sharks lead by batting in the rebound of a Brad Stuart point shot that resulted from yet another Globetrotter-esque shift by the team's top line against Henrik Zetterberg. A Dan Boyle wrist shot from the right circle on a subsequent power play would give San Jose all the insurance they needed.
One of the bigger storylines of the night was the reinsertion of Tommy Wingels and Tyler Kennedy into the lineup, neither of whom had played since the home-and-home series with Anaheim that closed out 2013. Understandably, neither player made much of an impact although Kennedy drew his 15th penalty of the season and "fought" Kyle Quincey while Wingels seemed to finally get his skating legs under him by the third period and made some nice offensive plays once those materialized. He also got involved in a scrum with Todd Bertuzzi that resulted in Marc-Edouard Vlasic opening up a gash on Bertuzzi's face, legitimating the Sharks' unofficial motto "If you fuck with Tommy Wingels, you will bleed from the head."
The chippiness escalated from there on out, with Dan Cleary elbowing Scott Hannan at the 58-minute mark and the two dropping the gloves to prove that, although the Wings might be in the Eastern Conference now, this rivalry isn't dead and buried just yet. At least until this generation of players on both sides who participated in the epic playoff battles between these teams retire, Sharks wins against Detroit will always be something special. Tonight was no exception.
- Another two-assist game for Jumbo Joe. He also generated eight offensive zone entries five-on-five, six coming while he retained control of the puck, and the Sharks outshot the Wings (including misses and blocks) 14-6 with him on the ice five-aside. Apart from that, he didn't do much. In all seriousness, a great bounce-back game after he and Brent Burns were fairly ineffective on both sides of the puck in Nashville.
- Conversely, Patrick Marleau really seemed to struggle as a center after playing a very good game (albeit on the wing for most of it) against the Predators. It started in the faceoff dot, as he won just 33% of his draws, and extended from there on out as Marleau finished without a shot on goal for just the second time this season (ironically, both of those games have come against Detroit).
- James Sheppard was a surprise scratch which doesn't make all that much sense to me unless he's nursing an injury we don't know about. Meanwhile, Mike Brown had a fairly dismal game, posting the worst shot differential on the team despite starting just one shift in the defensive zone and failing to engage Tomas Tatar as the Detroit winger slipped by a stick-less Vlasic to score the Wings' only goal.
- Speaking of Tatar, it was mildly amusing to watch the Sharks grow progressively more aware of his on-ice presence and adjust their coverage accordingly as this game went on. He's yet another immensely talented European youngster to emerge from the Red Wings system and has really gotten a chance to show his stuff with all the injuries Detroit has sustained this season.