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Sharks' special teams make the difference in Game 7

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent

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Sharks' special teams make the difference in Game 7
There wasn’t much separating San Jose and Detroit, and the Sharks’ superb play on special teams made the difference in Game 7.
SAN JOSE, Calif.  -- There wasn't much separating the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks in their Western Conference Semifinal series that came down to a seventh and deciding game Thursday night at HP Pavilion.

Wings coach Mike Babcock pointed to special teams as a factor that ultimately tilted the balance in San Jose's favor.

Detroit went 0-for-4 on the power play Thursday night and scored four power-play goals in the series. The Sharks went 1-for-3 and finished with five power-play goals.

"Didn't get 'er done for us in the end," Babcock said after Thursday night's 3-2 loss. "They scored one more power-play goal in the series than we did – and tonight it was enough to win the game for them.

"So when you look at it, they won the specialty teams battle tonight. We had some opportunities but not good enough, and we had an opportunity down the stretch when the game was on the line and didn't' get it done."

The Red Wings had killed 10 straight penalties as they battled back to win three straight against the Sharks and force a Game 7. But on Thursday night at HP Pavilion, Detroit's penalty-killers were beaten for the game's first goal.

Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson was called for holding Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell along the boards in the Detroit zone. The Sharks immediately started applying pressure, and they didn't let up until Devin Setoguchi buried a shot from the left circle 12:20 into the game, putting San Jose up 1-0.

Defenseman Dan Boyle got the play started with a pass to Joe Thornton behind the Red Wings' net, to Jimmy Howard's left. Thornton then zipped a pass past three Red Wings to Setoguchi, who one-timed a bullet past Howard.

The Red Wings had plenty of chances to answer with a power-play goal of their own, but they could never penetrate the Sharks' penalty-killers or solve goaltender Antti Niemi.

"Yeah, it hurt us," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "They scored the first goal to be ahead 1-0 on their power play, and we didn't respond. Late in the game we had some better power plays, we had some chances, but early on we didn't execute well at all."

The Red Wings began their fourth power play with 5:03 left in the game, trailing 3-2, after Mitchell was penalized for slashing. But they came up empty again.

"We had a few chances tonight but couldn't get it done," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "You have to do that, especially in playoffs and close games like this. We should be able to create more than we did."
Quote of the Day

He's been one of our top players all year. Tonight he was by far our best player. There wasn't anybody in the same universe as him.

— Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz on goalie Braden Holtby, who made 33 saves to shut out the Edmonton Oilers 1-0
World Cup of Hockey 2016