One day after becoming the undisputed number one goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings, Curtis Joseph was forced to leave the game early due to a slight ankle sprain. Joseph was hit by a falling San Jose Shark in the middle of the first period. He finished the period but was replaced by Manny Legace at the start of the second period.
With Dominik Hasek out for the remainder of the season and Joseph in the locker room, Legace helped the Red Wings hold off the Sharks and stretch their unbeaten streak to six games.
The Red Wings got on the board first, scoring shorthanded with 841 remaining in the first period. Kirk Maltby stole the puck at the Detroit blue line and sent a pass to Kris Draper. Draper was stoned by Sharks’ netminder Vesa Toskala but Maltby put in the rebound and the Red Wings were up by a goal.
The Red Wings extended their lead 7:09 into the second period when Tomas Holmstrom put the puck by Toskala. Henrik Zetterberg carried the puck into the San Jose zone and tried to split the defenders but the puck bounced out to Holmstrom, who wired a shot from the high slot between Toskala’s pads.
San Jose got on the board just 2:19 later when Nils Ekman picked up a long pass at center ice and broke in on Legace all alone. Ekman fired a shot over Legace’s blocker and the score was 2-1.
Detroit regained the two-goal lead with 3:23 remaining in the middle frame. Steve Yzerman took the puck untouched into the high slot and fired a shot through the pads of the unscreened Toskala.
Yzerman scored his second of the night to round out Detroit’s scoring at 8:26 of the third period. While on the power play, Nicklas Lidstrom fired a shot from the left point that Yzerman deflected in the faceoff circle. The puck bounced between Toskala’s pads to put the Red Wings up by three goals.
The Sharks had plenty of chances in the game’s closing minutes but could only score once more. With 7:59 remaining in the game, Wayne Primeau took a pass from center ice at the Detroit blue line and skated in untouched to the goal. He faked out Legace and slid the puck by him to give the Sharks their second goal of the game.
Joseph stopped all of the five shots he faced in the first period while Legace made 17 saves on 19 shots in the second and third periods for Detroit. Toskala stopped 29 of the 33 shots he faced in net for San Jose.
The Red Wings are next in action on Saturday when they host the Colorado Avalanche. Detroit defeated the Avs last in overtime last Thursday.
Joseph’s injury is expected to keep him sidelined for only one or two days. Assistant coach Joe Kocur confirmed that if he had been called upon, Joseph could have returned to the net Wednesday night.