Going into Game 2 of the series between San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings, the questions about how will the Red Wings adjust their game following the loss in Game 1 were still remaining. One would think that the extended two days break would work to their advantage.
But when the puck was dropped at the HP Pavilion, the way both teams came out of the gate was not that different from Game 1. In the first 10 minutes of the game, the Sharks were outshooting the Red Wings 11-2, and the attacks on Howard kept coming in waves one after another. The only difference tonight was that it was Detroit who defied the logic, and scored first. Pavel Datsyuk picked up the speed in the neutral zone, and as he crossed the blue line, he had two Sharks defenseman in front of him. Instead of raising his head to see who else may be nearby to help, Datsyuk fired a bullet of a wrist shot that surprised everybody, including Nabokov, and Detroit took the lead in the game.
This kind of turn of events did not discourage the Sharks and they did not change anything . Shortly after they went on a power play, and at this point in the playoffs, no one was shocked it was Joe Pavelski who tied the game with a big shot from the blue line that went past Howard.
But Pavelski's line wasn't done just yet. 90 seconds later Pavelski skated into the offensive zone, turned around to keep the puck, and a moment later sent it towards the net where Ryane Clowe was waiting for a pass. We saw him score beautiful goals in the past, although his specialty is ugly goals. But none of them was as pretty as was this one. With his back facing Detroit's goal, Clowe shot the puck between the legs to open the Sharks first lead in the game.
With the fans at HP Pavilion still loud after the Sharks' second goal, Detroit found a way to respond rather quickly. As Heatley went into the box on a penalty, Thomas Holmstrom did what he does best. As Franzen shot the puck from the blue line, the big Swedish butt was planted in front of Nabokov, untouched by fellow Swede Douglas Murray and the puck went into the net off Holmstrom's body.
As the game progressed, Detroit started to take over the puck possession.They took the lead on another similar goal when Holmstrom was battled for space in front of Nabokov with Rob Blake, and Nicklas Lidstrom scored his 50th playoffs career goal. The relentless cycle in San Jose's zone by the players wearing white returned, and for a moment there, it seemed that nothing was going to stop Detroit from capitalizing on that and increasing their lead. With Douglas Murray sitting in the box early in the 3rd period, Pavel Datsyuk had a chance to make the game 4-2, as he shot the puck from the faceoff circle area inside the Sharks zone. But his fellow Russian Evgeni Nabokov made yet another huge save for the Sharks in this offseason.
This turned out to be the key turning point in the game. Detroit went on to take two penalties within 40 seconds of each other to give the Sharks an extended 5-on-3 power play. No surprise once again - it was Joe Pavelski who tied the game at 3-3, but any of the four Sharks surrounding Howard could have scored that goal. What's more important is that Pavelski won both of the faceoffs in Detroit's zone on that 5-on-3 power play to give the Sharks a chance to storm Howard's goal. In fact, besides scoring two more goals for the Sharks and an assist, Pavelski was 11-3 on faceoffs, and led the team in shots, with 11 on goal and an additional 9 (!) missed shots on goal.
Another important move made by Todd McLellan in this game came in the 3rd period, as he reunited Patrick Marleau with Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley on the HTML line. The reunion of the line paid off. It was time for the other Joe to shine. With seven minutes remaining in the game, Dany Heatley picked up the puck in the neutral zone and took off, as all the Big Three charged towards Howard on a 3-on-1 breakaway. In the regular season, we would expect Heatley to share the puck with one of his linemates, and he could have, since Thornton was in front of the open net on the far side of the goal. But this is playoffs time, and Heatley fired the puck towards the net. Howard made the block, but the rebound fell right in front of Thornton, who wasted no time to sneak it past Howard, and score what turned out to be the game winning goal.
Up to this point, I did not touch on the subject that is going to dominate the game recaps outside of San Jose tonight and tomorrow - the subject of officiating. The scoreboard shows that Detroit took 10 penalties versus 4 by San Jose, something they have not done for over three years in playoffs. Two of those penalties resulted in goals by the Sharks. While most writers would take an easy route, and simply say that the officiating was slanted in the Sharks favor, there is no way I can deny that the mistakes went both ways. Somehow the officials saw a boarding penalty in a play by Patrick Marleau after 2nd period ended, when the replay showed that Marleau probably didn't even touch the Red Wings player. The same could be said about Heatley's penalty, as Stewart pushed him into Howard from behind, but it was Heatley who was shown the way to the penalty box.
Do I agree with all the penalties called on Detroit today? Probably not. Can I ignore the fact that the Red Wings penalty kill allowed two goals yet again in this playoffs? Or the fact that the game winning goal by Joe Thornton was scored on an even strength? I can't.
Either way, the Sharks are in a comfortable position headed to Detroit. It's the first time since the Oilers series in 2006 they won two in a row to open the series, and it's the first time the Red Wings lost the first two games in playoffs since they were swept by the Ducks in the first round of 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Sharks have now won five games in a row. On top of that, with 9 goals Joe Pavelski tied a previous record held by Patrick Marleau for the most goals in a single post season, and he's in a prime position to break that record as the series continues on Tuesday.
Speaking to TSN in a post game interview, Patrick Marleau acknowledged that despite a two-game lead in the series, the Sharks still have a long battle ahead, and this much is true. We'll likely see a very different kind of execution from Detroit as they play in front of their fans.
But it'll sure be nice to wake up tomorrow, and start a new week knowing the Sharks are leading the series over Detroit two-to-nothing.