Sharks Enjoy “Spoiler” Role

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.

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?

Sharks Chomp Down

The first multiple-goal game of Jason Williams‘ young NHL career was not enough to make up for the Red Wings’ defensive mistakes or the determination and skill of the San Jose offense, and the Red Wings went down to the Sharks 6-3, while the theme from “Jaws” blared over the speakers in the Shark Tank.

The Red Wings started out with more jump to their offensive game, but got into penalty trouble early on when they got caught with too many men on the ice. The Sharks’ power play passed effectively and got the puck to Mike Ricci behind the net. Ricci passed it out front to Patrick Marleau, who put the puck into the net high over Manny Legace.

Detroit continued to pressure offensively, and Legace made some big saves to cover his team’s defensive lapses. The Red Wings scored their first goal on their fourth power play attempt late in the first period during a hooking penalty to Gary Suter. Sergei Fedorov passed the puck from the left point up to Brendan Shanahan behind the goal line, and Shanahan passed it back to Jason Williams at the left faceoff dot. Williams took a quick wrist shot and put it into the net past goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, whose view of the puck was blocked by Tomas Holmstrom.

San Jose regained the lead early in the second period on another power play goal, this one on a penalty to Uwe Krupp. Owen Nolan got the puck as it bounced off the boards, then fired quickly on net, using Mathieu Dandenault as a screen to keep Legace from seeing the shot before the puck was in the net.

The Sharks scored again within a few minutes. A bad turnover by the Red Wings gave Nolan a breakaway. Legace stopped the first shot, but Nolan was able to pick up his own rebound and bank it into the net off the leg of his teammate, Vincent Damphousse.

Williams put Detroit back within one goal shortly thereafter. Kirk Maltby held the puck in at the blue line, then fired on net. Darren McCarty redirected the puck to slide underneath Nabokov, and Williams tapped it in for that extra speed it needed to cross the goal line.

The rest of the second period was all Sharks. Marleau scored two more times before the period was over, first by knocking a rebound from Marco Sturm’s shot out of the air and into the net, and then by intercepting a pass by Jiri Slegr and going in on Legace all alone.

The Wings did score once more, midway through the third period. Nabokov had been given a penalty for roughing Holmstrom (the penalty was served by Marleau), and Holmstrom was the one to make him pay for it. Igor Larionov shot the puck from the blue line, and Holmstrom deflected it into the net.

A fight started by Scott Thornton against Sean Avery and joined by the other skaters on the ice led to a double penalty to Avery and a single penalty to Bryan Marchment, leaving the Red Wings shorthanded and taking away their chance to come back from their two-goal deficit. Teemu Selanne took the puck into the left wing corner and passed down and across just as he was being hit. Mike Rathje, coming up the right wing side, got Selanne’s pass and put it off the crossbar and into the net past the beleaguered Legace.

The shots on goal were thirty-four to thirty-two in Detroit’s favor. The Red Wings will return home and have a few days off before facing the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.

The Sharks’ victory tonight moves them past the Colorado Avalanche into second place in the Western Conference standings”¦. Luc Robitaille and Chris Chelios were both healthy scratches for this game”¦. Steve Yzerman is expected to return to the lineup Wednesday night against Chicago.