The Red Wings slipped back to second seed in the Western Conference standings with a 3-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
The game got off to a slow start for Detroit, while the Sharks came out to play with a great deal of energy. The Red Wings had to kill off 1:47 of a five-on-three penalty when both Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Lidstrom were sent out for high sticking in quick succession. Chris Chelios, Kirk Maltby, and Kris Draper did an excellent job protecting Curtis Joseph. Maltby and Draper aggressively challenged any San Jose skater who had the puck, and Chelios stayed low to help Joseph defend the net.
The Red Wings' best scoring chance of the first period came just as the five-on-three ended. They used the momentum they had gained through the successful penalty kill to head up ice and challenge young goaltender Vesa Toskala. Toskala made the necessary saves, and the Sharks regained control.
Patrick Marleau put the Sharks on the scoreboard midway through the first period. Kyle MacLaren forced a turnover at center ice, and missed defensive coverages by the Red Wings allowed Marleau to skate in on Joseph on an almost-breakaway. Marleau put the shot in high for the goal.
The Sharks did a good job through the second period of breaking up the Red Wings' passing plays and keeping them from setting up many good scoring chances against Toskala. San Jose increased the lead to two near the end of the second. The puck was shot deep into the Red Wings' zone. It bounced off a stanchion and right to the stick of Adam Graves. Graves made a good pass to Mark Smith, who stuffed the puck into the net.
Detroit made a decent attempt to come back in the third period, but Toskala was always in just the perfect position to stop the first shots, and he didn't allow any rebounds to slip free. The Red Wings' bench pulled Joseph out of the net with 2:01 left to play. The six skaters attempted to score on Toskala, but the Sharks managed to clear the puck out of the zone, and Lynn Loyns tipped a shot by Alyn McCauley into the empty net.
The final count of shots on net was 25-17 in Detroit's favor. The Red Wings' next game will be Saturday afternoon against the St. Louis Blues.
Notes: It was announced during the game that earlier today, Brett Hull signed a one-year, $5 million contract extension with Detroit. If he had scored a total of 35 this season (he has 33 now), he would have automatically received a $4.5 million one-year extension, but apparently the Red Wings decided not to wait. And why should they? How can you have a Two Kids and an Old Goat Line without Detroit's favorite Old Goat?
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