The Sharks went into the belly of the beast at Joe Louis Arena, and they emerged with a hard fought 4-3 overtime win and a critical 3-0 lead in the WCSF. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau connected for Marleau’s game winning breakaway goal 7:07 into overtime, and both players took a large step towards erasing questions that have been asked all year.
Down 3-1 to start the third period, the Sharks played as they had the entire postseason, they put their heads down and went to work. A faceoff was essentially won by Detroit, but a charging Marleau freed up the puck and Joe Thornton took possession as 4 Wings stood and watched. Thornton curled around behind the net, and fired a seeing eye goal to help the Sharks build momentum for a third period comeback.
“Patty was yelling at me, take it to the net, take it to the net. I took it to the net and shot, and it was just kind of a seeing eye dog shot, and it went in the back of the net,” Joe Thornton said after the game. The puck deflected off of the stick of Pavel Datsyuk in front and beat Jimmy Howard blocker side.
With the lead narrowed to one goal, the Sharks carried the play until an extremely low percentage shot by Logan Couture tied the game at 3-3 six and a half minutes later. Couture fired a shot from the goal line, and the puck found room inside the rookie goaltender. The Sharks hot line of Clowe-Pavelski-Setoguchi generated a point blank scoring chance, but an inopportune Tomas Holmstrom penalty gave the Sharks a late opportunity to end it in regulation on the power play. The Red Wings held firm and did not allow a shot on goal.
The bounces that lead to a difficult start in the Colorado series seem to be bouncing more in San Jose’s direction for the second round. Nicklas Lidstrom’s stick disintegrated and allowed a goal in game 2. Tuesday night with the Red Wings pressing a 3-on-3 rush, Jason Williams fired a point shot from the right boards that sailed over the crossbar. The puck rimmed around the boards and landed near Joe Thornton, who had just stepped on the ice for a late line change. Thornton and Patrick Marleau pressed defenseman Brian Rafalski on a 2-on-1, and Marleau buried a hard one-time pass for his NHL leading 11th game winning playoff goal since 2001.
“We just came off the bench. They missed the net, and it was transition hockey,” Thornton said. “I put a lot of steam on that pass, and there are probably only a couple guys in the locker room that can handle that pass, (Marleau) and Heatley. It was a great play by Patty.” Jimmy Howard aggressively set up far out of his crease to challenge Thornton, and bit on a slight hesitation move before the pass to Patrick Marleau. “Basically Joe used me as a backboard to put it into an empty net,” Patrick Marleau said.
The win gives the Sharks a stranglehold in the series heading into game 4, but from the head coach on down they were preaching hard work and the fact that Detroit should not be taken lightly at any point in the series. “I have been in that other locker room, and I know how much fight is in that team. Our task is going to be tougher for the fourth win that it was for the first three,” San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said of what it will take to close out the series.
Three keys from Detroit radio prior to the game were shutting down Joe Pavelski, winning the special teams battle, and getting traffic in front of Evgeni Nabokov. The Red Wings were successful to a degree in all three areas, but they still lost the game. With the last line change, Detroit head coach Mike Babcock primarly used the top Pavel Datsyuk line against Clowe-Pavelski-Setoguchi, before switching them late to Marleau-Thornton-Heatley when they started to heat up in the third. There was a definite focus on playing the body hard on Pavelski, Franzen had several shoulder-to-shoulder confrontations in the Detroit zone, and he made an effort to maintain inside body position. On one sequence defenseman Niklas Kronwall planted a shoulder into the chest of #8 before he could carry the puck through the crease. In the third Pavel Datsyuk checked Pavelski hard in the corner, and Brad Stuart made a deserpation block on him from a point blank range. The physical play held Pavelski to 1 assist and 1 shot on goal, and possibly contributed to a 6-10 performance from the faceoff circle (38%). Pavelski averaged 3 points and 8 shots on goal in the first two games, and was a combined 20-14 from the dot.
The special teams battle was a more moderate success for Detroit. After giving up 10 power plays in game 2, the Red Wings allowed only 6 in game 3. Not representative of the 2nd least penalized team in the regular season (8.49 PIM/game regular season, 10:05 PIM/game playoffs), but they did hold the Sharks scoreless on all 6 opportunities with the man advantage. The Red Wings were 0-2 on the power play, including a 7-second power play in the first cut short by a Tomas Holmstrom slashing call. Detroit head coach Mike Babcock would not buy in to the belief among media and fans that poor officiating was tilting the series. “When you go through our penalties, maybe the Homer one, I don’t know if you can say there are any others we didn’t deserve,” Babcock said. “The bottom line is that we took the penalties.” Bertuzzi took a lazy hooking call trying to slow down a Dan Boyle rush up ice in the 2nd. With the game tied 3-3 and less than three minutes remaining in regulation, Holmstrom took a disasterous interference call. He pushed Dan Boyle from behind into Evgeni Nabokov when the play was 20-30 feet up ice. Fox Sports Detroit announcers Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond savaged the call, but it was not an intelligent penalty taken at the worst moment in the game. The Red Wings turned in a very solid penalty kill to escape regulation with a 3-3 tie, not allowing a shot on goal.
A vocal, partisan Wings crowd at Joe Louis Arena was critical of referees Marc Joannette and Dan O’Rourke from the outset. They launched into a B-S, B-S chant after three penalties, and went apoplectic when a first period Henrik Zetterbeg goal was waived off due to a distinct kicking motion. Evgeni Nabokov made a brilliant goal line glove save on a Henrik Zetterberg penalty shot, but the Wings scored a second goal that also went to video review minutes later. The puck deflected off Cleary’s skate, but he did not alter direction so it was ruled good.
The contact zone in front of Evgeni Nabokov is where Detroit earns its offensive bread and butter. The Red Wings did have a measure of success Tuesday night, but it was not enough. A behind-the-net drive by Nicklas Lidstrom set up Johan Franzen in the first period, and Franzen banked a pass off the stick of Holmstrom for the opening goal of the game. A high stick by defenseman Dan Boyle hit Kent Huskins on the play, and Huskins had dropped to the ice as Holmstrom scored a point blank one-timer. The real estate in front was hotly contested, Rob Blake and Todd Bertuzzi traded 10 cross checks inside of a few seconds in the first. Boyle picked up the cross checking battle with Bertuzzi in front of the net on his next shift. Blake also battled Holmstrom for position in the second period, but in the third period and overtime Detroit was not getting enough bodies in front of the net. According to the ESPN shot chart the Wings scored only 2 goals on 8 shots inside the faceoff circles. The Sharks scored 2 goals on 6 shots inside the circles, not including Couture’s hard angle goal to tie the game late in the third, and Marleau’s breakaway in OT.
[Update] Post-game comments from San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan:
Tomorrow will be the day we remind them how difficult that last win is. I have been in that other locker room, and I know how much fight is in that team. Our task is going to be tougher for the fourth win that it was for the first three. I don’ think anything is going to change.
When we look at the game, at least from our perspective, we didn’t skate very well in the first period. They were very tenacious, very hungry. They beat us to a lot of loose pucks. Won a lot of battles, and had us on our heels. Nabby’s save on the penalty shot was a big wake up call maybe for us. Then obviously Setoguchi’s goal at the end of the first gave us a chance to stay in the game. Then we found our legs a little bit, we found some line combinations that we liked. We overcame again. It is real important for our team to believe they can do that. It has been a theme of ours. We did it in the first round, and we are doing it again. We are going to need it going forward.
It is a big thing in our locker room, but we believe in those players way more than the outside world does. I don’t know how this evolved, I wasn’t around for all of it. You could see a very determined #19 tonight. On the faceoff, he loses it. He has to go and get it, then scores a wraparound goal. I thought Patrick Marleau played his way into the game. He wasn’t his best early in the game, but later on he really played well and skated. It is a big deal in our locker room, but it is probably a bigger deal for all of you guys in here that talk and write about our game.
We were actually late on a line change. They had their fourth line on the ice, and we got our first line out against them, which we were lucky to do in that situation. The puck came right to Jumbo, they missed the net, and away he went. Obviously a world class passer, he even fooled me. I thought he was going to shoot at that point. Very good job to freeze the goaltender, and then Patrick Marleau went to the net with his stick on the ice. A good combination of passer and receiver, and they got the job done.
I don’t think we as a team we out to convince anybody (that we are a different hockey team). You were asking the questions, we were answering them and telling you. We knew we were a different team. I guess what we have to do is to prove that to the hockey world. We believed that, we believed in each other. But don’t get me wrong, I am talking like this is over. We got a long way to go and a lot to overcome and to work through yet.
(Logan Couture) scored in this building before. He scored his first NHL goal and just throught it at the net. Again tonight he ended up down in the corner. Everybody in the rink thought he was going to pass it, and he snuck one in on him. It is playoff hockey. They scored Homer’s goal like that, through it at the net and it went off a skate. I have said it earlier in the series, I don’t think you are going to see a lot of pretty goals. You are going to see a lot of playoff goals scored by the teams that are still playing.
You could say that (there was luck involved in the late line change leading to the game winning goal). We were fortunate they missed the net on their shot. We were fortunate the puck came right to Joe Thornton, but sometimes you make your breaks. This series has gone our way. Look at Lidstrom with the broken stick in game (2). They missed the net and we get a 2-on-1. You have got to keep playing and eventually hope the breaks go your way.
It is just happening (outshooting them 42-25, outscoring them 5-1 in third period). Detroit scares you a little bit. We know if we don’t play, if we don’t compete hard for the full 60, we aren’t winning. We have to keep pushing, manage the game properly. To come back two games in a row in the third period, I don’t think we can count on that a third time. We have to be better earlier in the game.
They didn’t have to win this one, they have to win the next one. That is when it becomes a must-win. My ties with Detroit, I have great memories, I have very good friendships here, but we are two years away from being here, Jay Woodcroft and myself. We moved on. We have the Sharks family we are taking care of now. Our responsibilities and alliances lie there. It does feel good to win in this building, we have had a tough time playing here. That next one is going to be difficult.
[Update2] Updated the Versus ratings post for games 1 and 2 of the SJ-DET series, added ratings for each game and a comment by Versus EVP of Programming, Production and Business Operations Marc Fein on the most watched Conference Semifinal game in 10 years.
[Update3] Comcast Sportsnet California ratings for SJ-DET game 3:
Comcast SportsNet California’s telecast of last night’s (Tuesday, May 4) San Jose Sharks-Detroit Red Wings game three of the Western Conference Semifinal series delivered an average 4.11 television household rating An average of over 102,000 households were watching in the San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose television market. The game drew a peak audience of over 176,000 households (7.06 rating).
[Update4] Interesting video panel at TheHockeyNews.com where Ryan Dixon, Ryan Kennedy and John Grigg discuss the Sharks success against Detroit in game 3. After proclaiming earlier in the series that the Sharks “would not be taken for real” unless they could win on the road at Joe Louis Arena, now they are touting the young Sharks defense as a strong factor in the 3-0 series lead. In the first two games the Wings targeted the third pairing of Huskins-Demers, forcing a coverage mistake that lead to a goal in game 1, and pressuring Huskins and Demers several times to play the puck quickly in game 2. The “bend don’t break” analysis is spot on. Marc-Edouard Vlasic had his best stat line of the series in game 3: 1 assist, +3, 24:45 toi, 2 shots and 2 blocked shots. Full disclosure on the panel: Kennedy writes the usual bleatings of the East Coast and Canadian media, the NHL would be better with a Red Wings comeback. Ryan Dixon also recently penned a column “won’t get fooled again” with regards to picking the Sharks in the playoffs, and dropped a Susan Lucci reference.
San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak notes that Evgeni Nabokov’s spectacular glove save on Henrik Zetterberg’s penalty shot was #3 on ESPN’s top 10 plays of the day. He also reported Logan Couture, Evgeni Nabokov and rinkside TSN reporter Ray Ferarro all believed the hand on the puck call was missed by the officials.
Mlive’s George Malik covers the Detroit and mainstream media reaction after game 3, many a variation on the Sharks battling playoff doubters and Detroit battling a string of biased officiating. Kevin Allen of the USA Today cuts succinctly to the bottom line, “Only two teams in NHL history — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders— have come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.” Detroit has its work cut out for them to try to become team number 3.
[Update5] Longtime Sharkspage favorite Scott Ferrall breaks down “Jumbotron’s” goal and assist for NHL.com, and notes that Patrick Marleau’s 39 career playoff goals are reason to “keep the rockstars together” in San Jose.