The Red Wings learned tonight that the San Jose Sharks’ rise to the top of the Pacific Division is no fluke. Detroit certainly wasn’t without scoring chances, but San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov played a fine game, allowing his teammates to make some timely goals and take a 2-1 win.
The Red Wings started the first period with a surprising amount of energy, considering that they are probably badly jet-lagged from their six hour flight and change of time zones. Nabokov had to be very sharp throughout the first, especially when the Wings got a power play with Alyn McCauley in the box for high sticking.
At the other end of the ice, the Sharks started out more cautiously, choosing their shots against Curtis Joseph carefully. When they did get a shot away, it was more often than not a good scoring chance, and Joseph had to be quick.
Todd Harvey, noted more for his grinding defensive play than his offensive prowess, opened the scoring with a skillful goal with 2:12 left in the first. He skated the puck in a tight circle around the net. Players were scrambling in front: Sharks trying to position themselves for a rebound and Wings trying to get the Sharks out of the way. Harvey circled out in front of the whole tangle and put the puck high.
The teams slowed the game up a little for the second period. San Jose went into more of a defensive mode, making sure to be the first ones to get to loose pucks in their own end so that Detroit would have a tough time setting up any plays.
Niko Dimitrakos increased the Sharks’ lead with just under five minutes remaining in the period. He took a nice pass from Wayne Primeau, then one timed a wrist shot just over Joseph’s glove. Joseph, screened by Henrik Zetterberg, didn’t have much of a chance to see or stop the shot.
Steve Yzerman spoiled Nabokov’s shutout bid and got the Red Wings back in the game midway through the third period. Ray Whitney centered the puck from the right boards. Yzerman skated up through the slot to take the pass and put a quick shot low to Nabokov’s right before the goalie could slide over.
The Red Wings pressed much harder for another goal after that, especially in the last minute when Joseph had been pulled for an extra skater, but Nabokov was more solid than ever.
Detroit outshot San Jose by a count of 35 to 24. The Red Wings will continue their West Coast trip with a stop in Anaheim to face the Mighty Ducks on Wednesday night.