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Howard settles down after Sharks' early blitz

by Rick Sadowski
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Jimmy Howard can't say he enjoyed his time in the crease Thursday night, especially when the San Jose Sharks blitzed him for three goals on five shots during a 79-second span when it looked like the Detroit Red Wings might get run out of HP Pavilion.

But the 26-year-old rookie goalie settled down after that, as did his team, and he was instrumental in helping the Red Wings make a game of it before falling 4-3 in the teams' Western Conference semifinal opener.

"They came at us in the first period and they got one, and the next thing you know they got three," Howard said. "They made some good plays around the net. They're dangerous.

"I don't think it was a bad start. They just made some nice plays there. They got the puck to the net. They made some nice passes and some nice shots."

Howard, a Calder Trophy finalist, was coming off a 32-save performance Tuesday when the Red Wings routed Phoenix 6-1 to clinch their opening-round series in seven games.

But he knew the Sharks, with four days' rest following their first-round series win against Colorado, would come out hard and fire plenty of pucks in the early going.

"It's definitely what we expected," said Howard, who finished with 23 saves. "They play a very similar style to us. (Sharks coach) Todd (McLellan) was an assistant coach to (Red Wings coach) Mike (Babcock) for several years and won a Cup, so both teams are very similar.

"Nabby and I have our work cut out for us in this series to try and eliminate the top guys from scoring," Howard added, referring to Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. "It's never easy."

Babcock didn't find much fault with Howard, who had little chance to stop any of the first-period goals.

But Howard probably should have been able to handle the Joe Pavelski goal that gave the Sharks a 4-2 lead 50 seconds into the third period, even though it came during a 5-on-3 power play for San Jose.

Pavelski was at the bottom of the left circle when he whipped the puck between Howard's pads for what proved to be the decisive goal.

"I think Howie would like to have that one back," Babcock said. "We had it all covered off, but that's the way it is sometimes in those situations. You're worried about a pass instead of just doing your part there. But those things happen."

The Red Wings understand they'll need to have a much better start when the series resumes Sunday -- which includes staying out of the penalty box.

"They got a quick jump on us," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "The first one was on a power play and then they got a turnover and made a nice play from behind the net. They scored three quick goals on us and we were kind of back on our heels. We did battle back, but they played a solid game.

"Once we settled down I thought we started playing a lot better, but they had that head start on us and we couldn't catch up."

Babcock expects a bounce back game from his club.

"It was a good game," he said. "We think we have a good team and we think it's going to be a good series. I didn't think we played poorly or that they dominated and tilted the rink. We made a couple mistakes."

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