The San Jose Sharks took on their Western Conference rival, the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night in what is always a thrilling matchup.
These teams are No. 1 and No. 2 in the league in shots on goal per game so a lot of action was expected. The Sharks have had the upper hand recently by eliminating them from the playoffs the past two years. Therefore, Detroit is out for revenge.
Any time these two teams meet the game is meaningful. Even though it is only the middle of November this game could have implications on the playoff seeding.
The Sharks came out flat and it looked like the five days off that they had was affecting them. Detroit controlled the entire first period as they were all over the Sharks early and got a power play goal by Niklas Kronwall with two and a half minutes remaining to go up 1-0.
The Sharks would have been lucky to end the first down by one after being out-shot 17-6, but were thrilled when Joe Pavelski scored a shorthanded goal with 12 seconds left to go into the break tied at 1-1.
The Red Wings found their momentum again in the second until the Sharks scored on their 11th shot of the game thanks to an outstanding play from the captain Joe Thornton.
The Wings were attacking and would have had a clear shot to the net but Thornton made a tremendous play to poke the puck away, which led to a two on one with Logan Couture bringing the puck up the left side.
Couture made a nice pass to a wide open Thornton on the right and he went upstairs to beat Howard ,who went low to block the shot. This is the type of two-way play I talked about in the article I recently wrote, “5 Reasons This is the Year the San Jose Sharks Will Finally Win the Stanley Cup” http://bleacherreport.com/articles/942830-5-reasons-why-this-is-the-year-the-sharks-will-finally-win-the-stanley-cup.
Three minutes later the Sharks got on the scoreboard again with their 13th shot of the game to go up 3-1 thanks to a goal from the fourth line. The goal was set up by Brad Winchester, who made a strong play in the corner to keep the puck in the zone. The puck made its way to Andrew Desjardins who shot wide but Marc-Edouard Vlasic jumped in from the blue line to pick it up and wrap it in for his second goal of the year.
All the momentum was with the Sharks at this point as they took control of the game. They had great rhythm and were rolling over all four lines in quick shifts with every line playing great.
The Sharks were swarming and kept getting scoring opportunities. With just under two minutes left in the period Jamie McGinn barely missed a goal when his shot snuck by Howard and went into the corner. Although the play did not end there, as Vlasic jumped in to set up a wide open Torrey Mitchell to go up 4-1. It was his second goal of the year and the assist from Vlasic was his fourth point of the game, a career high.
The Red Wings made a goalie change as Ty Conklin came in to start the third period. Down by three the Wings had to be aggressive and they were, creating some good chances and were all over the Sharks. But Antti Niemi came up with a few nice saves to keep them up by three goals. The defense was helping Niemi out by not allowing many second or third chances.
Halfway through the period the Sharks fourth line scored its second goal of the night when Andrew Murray set up Brad Winchester with a nice pass off the boards. Once Winchester received the puck he drove towards the net and put it in between the right arm and leg of Conklin, giving him his first goal as a San Jose Shark. That was the Sharks fifth goal of the night, each one being scored by a different player.
The Red Wings responded with another power play goal after a beautiful save by Niemi bounced to the stick of Daniel Cleary. They came into the game zero for their last 16 chances but it sure did not look like they were having problems in that aspect of their game.
The three stars for the game were: Brad Winchester (third), Joe Thornton (second), and with a career night of a goal and three assists, Marc-Edouard Vlasic (first).
Niemi played great and it seems like he has found his groove. After missing the preseason and a few games to start the season he has not played like the Sharks have wanted him to. Going into the game he was 6-1-1 with a 1.97 GAA against the Red Wings and he kept that solid play up, putting up one of his best games of the season and keeping the Sharks in the game when they were under pressure.
It was a nice team effort by the Sharks and a big win for them.
The Sharks finished their six-game home stand with a record of 4-1-1. They play the next two games on the road, starting with the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, November 19th.