If it’s late night at home in Detroit, if it’s October, if the Wings are scoring on penalty kills as easily as on power plays, it must be Game One of the regular season, and we must be in San Jose. In a game strangely reminiscent of last year’s season opener in San Jose, the Red Wings got Dave Lewis off to a good start in his tenure as head coach with a 6-3 victory over the Sharks.
The Red Wings could have gotten into penalty trouble in the first period, as the Sharks were awarded four consecutive power plays, including a high-sticking double minor to Max Kuznetsov. Fortunately for Detroit, Kirk Maltby was on the penalty kill. Maltby scored two shorthanded goals on the Sharks’ first two power plays. His first resulted from a badly placed pass from Jeff Jillson to Mike Rathje in the San Jose zone. Maltby intercepted the puck, skated towards the net, and put the puck high over goalie Mikka Kiprusoff.
Maltby’s second shorthanded goal came from an interception by Kris Draper in the Red Wings’ zone. Draper got the puck and took off up the right wing side, with Maltby keeping up on the left and only one San Jose defenseman to get in the way. Draper passed across to Maltby. Maltby looked as if he would pass back, but instead drew the defender and the goalie towards him before putting the puck into the net again.
The Sharks got on the board with a goal by Vincent Damphousse while they were at five-on-three. With Chris Chelios and Brendan Shanahan both in the box, the three skaters and Curtis Joseph did well for most of their time, but just before the five-on-three would have ended, Damphousse picked up a rebound of a Mike Ricci shot and fired a quick shot which slid between Joseph’s leg pads.
Tomas Holmstrom gave the Wings their own power play goal before the period was over. Pavel Datsyuk won the draw in the Sharks’ zone, Nick Lidstrom received the pass and took a shot from the blue line, and Holmstrom, at the front of the net as usual, tipped the puck to redirect it past Kiprusoff.
The scoring continued in the second period, although the penalties let up. Fedorov got away on a one-on-one, used the Sharks’ defenseman as a screen, and zinged a wrist shot between the skater’s legs and right through Kiprusoff, just 30 seconds into the period. Damphousse brought San Jose back within two points ten minutes later by being in exactly the right place to receive Owen Nolan’s cross-crease pass and slap it past Joseph before the goaltender could slide back across the net. Fedorov was allowed to break loose on another one-on-one, this time against Rathje. The shot deflected off Rathje’s stick, fluttered high into the air, and dropped right over Kiprusoff’s shoulder. Finally, Lidstrom scored his second goal on a three-on-one rush. He picked up the rebound from his first shot and tapped it past Kiprusoff.
The Sharks started the third period on a power play, from an interference call on Jiri Fischer from the end of the second period, and with a new goalie in net. Rookie backup Vesa Toskala came in to replace the beleaguered Kiprusoff. Rathje scored on a one-time shot from a pass by Damphousse almost right away, but the Sharks were unable to follow up the momentum from their third goal, and the game ended 6-3. Toskala was tested by the Wings, most notably by Datsyuk and by Brett Hull, but he held up to the challenge and stopped all twelve of the shots he faced in the period.
The Red Wings will continue their West Coast road trip by heading further south to face the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.
The usual starting goalie for the Sharks, Evgeni Nabokov, did not play tonight because he has not yet signed a contract for this season…. The Red Wings extended their winning streak in season openers to four seasons, currently the longest streak in the NHL.