Sharks win fourth in a row with 4-2 win over the Red Wings
Over the last three seasons San Jose and Detroit have played each other to a stalemate in terms of shots on net, scoring chances, and possession time. Each and every game has been like a symphony written by a seesaw, with momentum swinging back and forth as the two teams trade scoring chances up and down the ice. But whether by design, sheer luck, or a little something people like to call "finding a way to win", the Sharks have managed to come out on top more often than not.
They did it again tonight.
Ryane Clowe, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Thornton all scored for the Sharks tonight in Joe Louis Arena as the Sharks fought through an excellent game by Jimmy Howard and a first period goal from Henrik Zetterberg to get the win. Martin Havlat, who had a pair of assists tonight and continued to make Sharks GM Doug Wilson look like a genius for acquiring him this offseason, became the only player in Sharks history besides Joe Thornton to begin his career in San Jose with an assist streak of four games.
After pummeling Jimmy Howard on the first power play of the game, San Jose got pushed onto their heels a bit by the Wings. Henrik Zetterberg popped one into the net after a shot by Nicklas Lidstrom careened off the lively Joe Louis Arena backboards to his stick, giving the Wings a 1-0 lead, and a second marker from Tomas Holmstrom was short-lived as it was waived off following a marginal goalie interference call.
The Sharks would respond with two goals in the second period, as Havlat made a beautiful entry into the zone, kicked the puck out wide, and pounced on the loose puck to send a delicate pass to Ryane Clowe who roofed it past the outstretched blocker of Howard. Five minutes later Patrick Marleau would flash the speed that has propelled him into the game's elite, blowing past ex-Sharks defenseman Ian White and showcasing a nice set of hands to chip the puck off the ice into the top of the net to give San Jose the lead.
It wouldn't last long however, as the Wings would take advantage on the power play. After receiving a pass from Nicklas Lidstrom at the top of the circles, Pavel Datsyuk drove up the middle of the ice and sent an innocent looking wrist shot towards the Sharks net. Nothing is quite so innocent when you have a behind that gets more publicity than Shakira's, as Tomas Holmstrom proved once again why he's the most dangerous net-front presence in the entire League. Holmstrom got a piece of the shot and sent it past Niemi to knot it at two.
But San Jose would answer, and answer quickly. After the puck found its way into the neutral zone, Joe Pavelski would send a tape to tape pass to the stick of Joe Thornton breaking into the zone. It was almost too similar to the play against Boston last Saturday, but with the roles reversed and a breakaway in hand, Thornton made it count by wristing a puck through Howard's five hole to give the Sharks a 3-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
San Jose clamped down defensively in the third period, stifling the Wings offense for a large part of the frame while still continuing to generate chances in the offensive zone. It was nearly a perfect road game defensively, as San Jose took care of the second chance opportunities and let Niemi do the rest.
It doesn't take a recap to illuminate how excellent Havlat was tonight, but his stat line should be able to tell the tale perfectly-- six shots on net, two assists (one on Thornton's empty netter), some excellent defensive plays in his own end, and countless other shifty little plays in the neutral and offensive zone that created something out of nothing were par for the course for him tonight. The Sharks top six was effective all night but none was better than San Jose's second line with Havlat leading the charge-- the chemistry he's been developing with Couture and Clowe seems to be growing with each game.
San Jose's bottom two lines were essentially a non-factor tonight, as Brad Winchester picked up his fourth penalty of the season on a tripping call and McLellan shortened up his bench in the third period. This is a common occurrence against the Wings, where both teams will start rolling three lines instead of four at around the midway point, but you have to wonder why Winchester (who has had a disappointing start to the year) saw ice time in the third period over the likes of Jamie McGinn and Benn Ferriero.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns turned in another solid performance on the backend, a standard feature on this road trip as well, and chipped in with six blocked shots combined. Boyle-Murray logged plenty of ice time and continued to see the tough situations defensively, a product of the trust McLellan has placed in them early this year. Braun-White was quietly effective as well, as both turned in one of their better defensive performances of the season despite not playing alongside one another in a game situation. It will be interesting to see how long Demers sits on the sideline, but with the six game road trip coming to a close, that time could be finished soon-- the Sharks currently have eight defenseman on the roster. It's hard to mess with anything when you have a good thing going, but a poor four game sample from Demers shouldn't be enough to keep him in the press box all year.
The Sharks head into New York to face John Tavares and the New York Islanders tomorrow night. The way they locked down the lead in the third period tonight was an excellent thing to see, as well as the standout play of their high profile wingers. San Jose didn't play poorly to start the year, but made some big mistakes that ended up in their net-- by and large those mistakes have been cleaned up on this road trip, which has generated the results we are seeing now.
Tonight was yet another win against the Detroit Red Wings, a team that has held sway over San Jose for the majority of the franchise's history. But most importantly it came in Joe Louis Arena, a place that has begun to feel less and less like a death trap and more and more like a chance to make a statement.
4-0-0 on a roadtrip after losing three games in a row?
That'll do Sharks.