It had been six weeks and two days since Henrik Zetterberg was sidelined with a broken leg, but he slipped right back into the lineup as if he'd never been gone. Zetterberg had a goal and two assists, and Curtis Joseph had another strong showing to lift the Red Wings over the San Jose Sharks, 3-2 in overtime.
The Sharks are a strong defensive team, and the Red Wings had some trouble breaking through their trap to create quality scoring chances against goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Zetterberg opened the scoring, but he wasn't able to do so until the first period was almost gone. Niklas Kronwall took a hard shot from the blue line. The puck deflected, but Brendan Shanahan, who was screening the goalie, was able to kick the puck onto his stick blade and backhand a pass to Zetterberg. Nabokov was focused on Shanahan, giving Zetterberg a wide open net to score into.
The Red Wings ran into penalty trouble in the second period. Jiri Fischer was sent out for holding the stick, followed by Mathieu Schneider for high sticking. Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, and Kirk Maltby killed off fifty seconds of five-on-three power play. Joseph was outstanding again, holding off a mad scramble of Sharks in front of his net until Fischer could leave the box to help relieve the pressure.
With four men on the ice, Detroit took advantage of a break to try to create a scoring chance the other way, but Fischer crashed right into Nabokov, and was sent right back to the box for goaltender interference, giving the Sharks another 35 seconds of two man advantage. This time, Marco Sturm was in close to the goal crease and managed to force the rebound of a Mike Ricci shot into the net.
San Jose moved into the lead early in the third. Wayne Primeau shook off two defenders to move behind the net and center a pass to Scott Thornton. Thornton's first shot was kicked away by Joseph, but Joseph wasn't able to get to the rebound shot in time.
The Sharks took their one-goal lead and shut the game down. They forechecked only halfheartedly, preferring to keep four of their skaters lined up to pick off the puck and ice it before Detroit could set up a potential scoring play. The Wings' bench pulled Joseph out for a sixth skater with just over a minute to go. Thirty seconds later, Detroit got their best break of the game. Nils Ekman was sent to the penalty box for high-sticking.
The Red Wings kept Joseph on the bench, giving them six skaters against four. With just 19 seconds before the buzzer, the Two Kids and the Old Goat tied up the game. Zetterberg passed the puck from behind the net to Brett Hull near the left circle. Hull threaded a pass across to Pavel Datsyuk in the slot, and Datsyuk wristed the shot over Nabokov.
The Sharks weren't able to play the trap successfully in overtime, with only four skaters allowed per side, so the Red Wings were able to dominate the play. Zetterberg set up the game winning goal by bringing the puck deep into the San Jose zone, dragging it around a few defenders, and making a perfect pass across to Shanahan at the left circle. Shanahan took a hard shot on net which deflected off Nabokov and into the net.
Shots on net were even at 28 apiece. The Red Wings will next see action on Friday night, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks.
Notes: Steve Yzerman said he might be ready to play later this week, either Friday against Chicago or Saturday at Nashville.... Datsyuk's 19th goal ties him with Columbus's Rick Nash for the NHL's goal scoring lead and with Washington's Robert Lang for the lead in points.
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