SAN JOSE, Calif.
-- Joe Pavelski
put himself in some elite company on Sunday night.
With two more goals in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, the San Jose Sharks
center became the first player to enjoy three consecutive multi-goal games since former Pittsburgh Penguins
captain Mario Lemieux
accomplished the feat in 1992.
Pavelski, who had 25 goals during the regular season, has scored nine times in his team's first eight games this postseason. It's arguably the biggest reason why the Sharks are headed to Detroit with a 2-0 series lead following their second straight 4-3 win against the Red Wings at HP Pavilion.
"Obviously, he's in the zone right now," San Jose coach Todd McLellan
said. "Anything he touches seems to go in the net. (He had) 11 shots on goal. He feels very comfortable. But he's earned that right. He works very hard every shift. Pav is a catalyst right now."
Pavelski, a seventh-round draft choice in 2003, erased a 1-0 deficit when he scored on the power play 9:01 into the first period. Playing the point on the man advantage, the Wisconsin native ripped a slap shot from the point past Wings goalie Jimmy Howard
. The roar from the capacity crowd of 17,562 was deafening as Pavelski was announced as the goal scorer, as he continues to gain rock-star status in the Bay Area.
"This is what you think about when you're lying in bed a lot of times and you can't sleep," Pavelski said. "You want to score points and you don't know if they're going to keep coming like that. You can't really worry about that. When somebody tells you that you shouldn't be doing it, that's when you're going to stop. It's just shift by shift right now. Hopefully we can keep scoring."
Pavelski continued his incredible output just 91 seconds later, when he sent a slick pass from along the left wall to the goal mouth, where Ryane Clowe
collected the puck and backhanded it past Howard to give San Jose a 2-1 lead.
"I think he was hungry coming into these playoffs," said Clowe, who along with Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi
forms the Sharks' second line. "He's stepped up, for sure."
With his team desperately needing a goal in the third period, Pavelski stepped up again. Trailing by one, the Sharks notched the equalizer when Pavelski crashed the net and poked a loose puck in the crease past Howard to make it 3-3. It was his second power-play goal of the night.
"I saw it was on the goal line," Pavelski said. "You're just going there and you're watching it bounce. I think I got a little piece of it. You've got to score on special teams when you get the chances, especially now. It definitely got the crowd going again."
Pavelski's output this postseason certainly defies logic. Sure, he's a talented player with a bright career ahead of him. But the first since Lemieux in '92 to enjoy three straight multi-goal games? The first since former Colorado Avalanche
captain Joe Sakic
in '96 to notch three points in three straight contests? (By the way, both of those players went on to win the Stanley Cup in those respective years.)
How do you explain what is going on?
"Who knows what it is?" Pavelski said. "Confidence always helps. It's good to see pucks going in the net. It's good to work hard and get rewarded. It feels good to chip in."
It probably feels better to make everyone around you better. That's what Pavelski is doing this postseason.
"He's making things happen for himself and his line," Sharks forward Manny Malhotra
said. "When you can get him in those key spots, you want him to have the puck."
With two wins in the bag already, it's hard to imagine the Sharks not advancing to the Western Conference Finals if they continue to receive this type of production from their U.S. Olympian. But Pavelski refuses to look past Tuesday night, when Game 3 of this series will take place at Joe Louis Arena.
"You've got to win four … it's still a long ways to go," No. 8 said. "We realize we're a long ways away. It's a hard climb and there's some great opponents out there, especially the one on the other side right now. You can't take a break. You know they're not going to."
Spoken like a true leader.
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL