Heatley, Thornton, end drought to combine for a goal. Team effort clips Wings.
By Ryan Ariel Simon
The boy once known as ‘little Joe’ is quickly becoming a man.
In front of a raucous San Jose Shark Tank crowd of 17,562, former University of Wisconsin Badger star Joe Pavelski came up huge again with two timely goals, and the Sharks took advantage of a fast start Thursday, April 29 to win the first game of a best of seven series against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Sharks continued their demon exercising tour against a familiar foe from seasons, past by heeding the advice of former Red Wing Assistant, now Shark Head Coach Todd McClellan.
They went to the net hard, and cycled the puck strong down low producing immediate results.
Following a six-day rest in-between their bruising first round series defeat of the speedy young upstart Colorado Avalanche, the Sharks came out firing on all cylinders during the first period to score three goals in 1:19.
They got away from their game a little bit in a mucky second period, which saw the Red Wings pull to 3-2.
Both teams clogged the middle of the ice as the pace slowed significantly, favoring a tired Detroit team who just closed out their first round series Wednesday night against another young upstart team in the Phoenix Coyotes.
Shark goalkeeper Evgeni Nabokov didn’t have to be spectacular, but he was there when he needed to be by swallowing rebounds, and coming up with a couple of timely saves.
Injured Shark right-winger Dany Heatley got on the scoreboard for the first time this post-season, burying a pass behind the net from Shark center Joe Thornton while their usual linemate Patrick Marleau sat out due to a high (flue induced) fever.
‘Jumbo Joe’ Thornton played with snarl, causing a scrum when he gave Detroit Goalie Jimmy Howard a snow shower, and displayed some of the dominance he is known for during the regular season.
San Jose took advantage of a chippy end to the second period that gave them a five-on-three power-play to begin the third.
'The Big Pavelski' buried a snap shot through Howard’s five hole with the goalie playing deep in his net.
Pavelski, the game’s first-star and an Olympic Team USA silver medalist, also drew several penalties, added an assist, and led all skaters with five shots and over 23 minutes of ice time.
San Jose defensemen Dan Boyle also continued his reliable offensive contribution, totaling three assists and receiving a second-star selection.
The Red Wings would did not go quietly into the night however.
By mirroring the home team’s strategy, they pulled within a goal twice as Red Wing star centre Pavel Datsyuk gave a strong effort, singlehandedly setting up two Detroit goals.
Red Wing winger Johan Franzen, who has a point in all eight of Detroit’s playoff games, continued his strong postseason play.
In a workmanlike third period for the Sharks, they peppered Howard, outshooting the Wings 12-5.
McClellan’s team never took their foot off the gas; they successfully emulated Detroit’s style by skating hard all third period to put away the Wings.
Shark role players like center Manny Malhotra, who played his trademark hard hat game with strong work along the boards, and a tenacious forecheck, pinned the Red Wings deep in their zone with less than a minute left in the game.
Fans and journalists alike have been waiting for the killer instinct and tenacity the Sharks showed tonight. They never allowed the Wings to build any sustained rhythm or settle in to their trademark puck possession style.
“Beings successful on hits and faceoffs worked in the first series so we have to keep playing the same way,” said Heatley.
“All four lines usually play the same way,” added Heatley, referring to the total team effort.
The Sharks led all night in the categories of hits, takeaways, and face-offs.
Part of tonight’s success was a power-play that went 0-10 during the regular season against Detroit.
San Jose hero ‘Big’ Joe Pavelski had one word to describe why. “Intensity,” he said.
The Sharks will need a lot more where that came from if they are going to win three more games.