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Sharks top Wings in 6-5 thriller

by Brian Compton
In the end, the show that the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings put on at the HP Pavilion on Saturday night was as good as it gets.

Looking to send a message to the defending Stanley Cup champions, Milan Michalek broke a 4-4 tie with a breakaway goal at 11:18 of the third period, helping the Sharks earn a 6-5 victory in front of 17,496 fans who won't soon forget this one.

The win pushed the Sharks three points ahead of the Red Wings for the overall lead in the Western Conference. San Jose also moved ahead of Boston -- which lost at Washington on Saturday night -- for the No. 1 spot in the NHL.

"If you score six goals, you better win," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Against that team, they have the ability to score seven so it was a nail-biter to the end. Everybody contributed. It was probably a lot of fun for the fans to watch it tonight."

It was a lot more fun for the sellout crowd of 17,496 at the Shark Tank than it was on Thursday night, when the Sharks dropped a 3-2 decision to the Calgary Flames. The loss ended San Jose's run of 31 consecutive games without a regulation defeat on home ice.

"It was definitely a playoff-type atmosphere," said Sharks forward Ryane Clowe, who had a career-high four assists. "I was proud of the guys, especially after a tough loss to Calgary. We did a great job tonight."

In a seesaw affair, Dan Boyle gave the Sharks an early lead when he broke a scoreless tie just 2:59 into the game. But Valtteri Filppula tied the game just over a minute later with his sixth goal of the season. Joe Pavelski then put San Jose back in front when he beat Chris Osgood (35 saves) at 7:22.

"It was a very good hockey game and entertaining for the crowd," Boyle said. "It had a lot of everything. We came out on top, and that's pretty much what we set out to do. We just stuck with it. I'm very proud of the guys."

The teams combined for five goals in the second period, with the Red Wings scoring three of them. Marian Hossa tied the game 2-2 when he tallied his 22nd goal of the season via the power play at 1:34, and Johan Franzen gave Detroit its first lead of the night just 2:57 later.

Christian Ehrhoff tied the game for the Sharks with his first goal since Oct. 18 at 7:56 on a power-play tally, but the score didn't stay 3-3 for very long. Henrik Zetterberg put Detroit back in front at 15:37, only to see San Jose tie it again when Jonathan Cheechoo tallied his first goal since Dec. 29 to make it 4-4 on a power-play tally.

San Jose outshot Detroit 21-12 in the second period -- one of the reasons why Red Wings coach Mike Babcock didn't crucify his goaltender afterwards.

"I haven't been through all the goals to know for sure," Babcock said of Osgood. "You always want one more save out of your goalie on a night when you lose. That's just the way you want it. Both teams showed up, and they were better tonight."

The Sharks were certainly better in the third period, as Michalek and Patrick Marleau scored breakaway goals just 3:06 apart to give San Jose a 6-4 lead. Michalek put San Jose in front when he took the puck away from defenseman Brad Stuart in the neutral zone and skated in before rifling a wrist shot past Osgood for his 11th goal of the season.

"It was a great game tonight," Michalek said. "We want to prove we are the best team in the NHL. We want to beat everybody in this League. I think we proved that tonight. It was a big game for us and it was a lot of fun. Hopefully there's going to be some more of these games."

Marleau then doubled San Jose's lead when he got behind the Detroit defense, took a gorgeous pass from Clowe and fired a shot similar to Michalek's past a defenseless Osgood. It was his 24th goal of the season.

Marleau was particularly pleased with the way his team performed without the services of defensemen Rob Blake and Brad Lukowich, who are out until after the All-Star break due to injuries.

"Some guys had some really good games for us tonight," Marleau said. "Everybody picked it up a bit because we were missing those guys."

Meanwhile, the Wings wondered aloud as to whether or not Marleau was offside on the play.

''It was disappointing, especially being in a big time of the game in a tight game like this. ... It's hard to tell (if Marleau was offside),'' Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. ''I was on the ice. He looked like he had a great step on it.''

Detroit gave the Sharks a scare when Brian Rafalski notched the 400th point of his career and cut the lead to 6-5 with just 1:56 remaining in regulation, blasting a shot from the top of the right circle into the net, but Evgeni Nabokov preserved the victory in the final moments. He finished with 24 saves.

San Jose went 2-for-3 on the power play, while the Wings went 1-for-3.

"It was a pretty good hockey game," Babcock said. "It sure was entertaining. Lots of goals. I thought we did lots of good things."

McLellan, who won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings last season as Babcock's assistant, knows there is still plenty of work left to do before the postseason arrives in April. The teams will meet for the final time during the regular season on Feb. 25 in Detroit.

"Tomorrow, we move on and the Red Wings move on," McLellan said. "I'm sure both teams aren't going to make much out of it. We move forward."

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.   

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