The Detroit Red Wings aren't putting up goals the way they used to. That doesn't mean they're not finding ways to win.
Detroit won its third in a row as Henrik Zetterberg scored the Wings' lone regulation goal and added the clincher in the shootout for a 2-1 victory over San Jose on Thursday night, ending the Sharks' winning streak at six games.
Between free-agent departures and injuries to top-six forwards John Franzen and Valtteri Filppula, the Wings don't have the firepower of previous seasons. But they've won three in a row with defense and goaltending -- Chris Osgood stopped 33 shots through 65 minutes and made two more saves in the shootout.
"We have a veteran core here that understands … we're not winning the way we did in the past," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "With the group we have right now and the injuries we have, this is how we have to play."
Zetterberg banged in the rebound of Nicklas Lidstrom's point shot early in the third period to get the Wings even at 1-1. After Pavel Datsyuk put the Wings ahead by scoring on the first shot of the shootout, Zetterberg made a spectacular backhand-to-forehand deke in the third round before beating Evgeni Nabokov with a high flip to end the game.
Nabokov stopped 35 shots for the Sharks, who had won 3-2 in a shootout at Columbus on Wednesday. Osgood allowed only a goal by Logan Couture late in the second period, and stopped Dan Boyle and Ryane Clowe in the shootout.
"Ozzie's got to be feeling really good about himself," Babcock said of his starting goaltender, who's allowed just two goals in winning three in a row. "We're playing well in front of him, but he's playing well."
Detroit improved to 28-4-1 against San Jose at Joe Louis Arena. The Sharks went home with a 2-0-1 record on a three-game trip that includes wins at Carolina and Columbus.
"We fought hard for the one point, and we got five out of six on the road," Boyle said. "We would have taken that before the road trip started."
The teams banged away at each other for the opening 20 minutes, generating lots of hits and physical play but only one power play -- to San Jose when Justin Abdelkader was called for tripping at 15:07 -- and few scoring chances. San Jose outshot Detroit 11-7.
Detroit got its first man advantage 11:22 into the second period when Boyle was called for tripping Osgood. San Jose killed the penalty, and grabbed the lead just 69 seconds after Boyle returned.
Defenseman Joe Callahan, one of a handful of minor-league call-ups by the injury-riddled Sharks, triggered a quick break that left three Wings racing to catch up with the play. Callahan led a 3-on-2 into the Wings zone, drew the defense to him and dished to Couture, a rookie whose wrist shot from just below the right faceoff dot went between Osgood's legs at 14:41 for his first NHL goal.
Nabokov kept the Sharks in front with 3:42 left in the period when he robbed defenseman Brad Stuart from the slot. But the goaltender's giveaway a couple of minutes later forced Manny Malhotra to take down Detroit's Patrick Eaves at 18:17, giving the Wings their second power play. However, the Wings couldn't manage a shot on goal before the end of the period, which saw Detroit outshoot San Jose 8-7.
After Detroit killed off an early San Jose power play, Brian Rafalski had a great chance to tie the game from the slot less than four minutes into the third period, but fired wide from about 15 feet away in the slot. But the Wings kept pressing the play and were rewarded when Nabokov stopped Lidstrom's blast from the left point with his pad. But the play wasn't blown dead, and Zetterberg slid the puck from underneath the goaltender's right pad and into the net at 5:38.
"The puck was laying there, I just hoped the referees didn't blow the whistle," Zetterberg said. "I came late from a change and no one saw me coming in there."
The Wings dominated play for the rest of regulation but were unable to beat Nabokov again. Detroit also had the better of the chances in overtime, outshooting San Jose 5-3.
"They have a good team. We have a good team, and I thought our guys battled," said Babcock.
The Wings' coach is hoping his team can keep things together until the injured players return and some of the youngsters grow into their roles.
"Our goal is to be in a spot where we feel good about ourselves after 20 games," he said. "At the start, it's well-documented that we didn't get the points we played well enough to get. We just have to keep trying to get better, and if we do that, we'll have a chance to be a good team."
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