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Sharks win opener by beating Wings 2-1 in OT

by Dave Lozo
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Another playoff game, another overtime victory for the San Jose Sharks.

Benn Ferriero, making his NHL playoff debut on his 24th birthday, scored at 7:03 of the extra period to give the Sharks a 2-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night at HP Pavilion in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinal series.

The Sharks have five wins this postseason, four of which have come in overtime.  

"For whatever reason, we're just getting the bounces in overtime right now," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton, who scored the series-clinching goal in overtime against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. "I think when you go into overtime, it's a character thing. Guys step up. It's a good sign for this team."

There was potential for the Sharks' perfect overtime record to receive a blemish after they failed to score on a four-minute power play. Detroit's Justin Abdelkader was given a four-minute high-sticking penalty after he accidentally clipped Sharks defenseman Niclas Wallin, who rubbed his chin and revealed he was still bleeding to reporters after the game.

The Red Wings killed the penalty, but couldn't get the puck out of the zone. Sharks Calder Trophy candidate Logan Couture recovered two loose pucks and eventually fed one to Ferriero at the left circle. His harmless shot turned into the winner when it deflected off the shaft of the stick of Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart and through the legs of goaltender Jimmy Howard for the winner.

"In overtime in the playoffs, lucky things can happen, and that's what happened," Ferriero said. "I got a lucky bounce and it ended up in the back of the net."

Ferriero had just 5:33 of ice time in the game, but he was given a shift in overtime by coach Todd McLellan because of the extended power play that drained the Sharks' regular forwards.

The native of Boston made the most of his eighth shift of the game.

"We were trying to throw pucks to his feet all night long," Ferriero said of Howard. "I turned out of the corner, threw it to the net and took a good bounce and ended up in the back of the net."

For 2 ½ periods, it looked like Howard was going to be the hero. He made 27 saves through two periods and 44 overall, not looking the slightest bit rusty despite not playing since the Red Wings completed their first-round sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes on April 20.

“He was really good back there,” said Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who scored midway through the first period to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. “He shows a lot of confidence and we really feed off him.”

One of his best stops came on Joe Pavelski in the second period, a glove save after Pavelski got behind the defense for a shot from the top of the crease.

However, Pavelski got his revenge midway through the third period.

With the Sharks on a power play that was set up by Pavelski drawing a boarding call against Todd Bertuzzi, Thornton ripped a shot from a few feet inside the blue line that Howard couldn't control. Pavelski drove the net and batted the rebound out of midair and past Howard to tie the score at 1-1 with 9:30 left in regulation.

"Just shoot," Thornton jokingly said, referring to criticism during his career that he passes too much. "Good things can happen."

"He was pretty darn good," McLellan said of Pavelski. "Everything about Pav's game we liked tonight. He was a very key piece of tonight's win."

Almost lost in the shuffle of the Sharks' victory was the performance of Antti Niemi, who wasn't nearly as busy as Howard but had to face his fair of share of quality chances.

Niemi faced just one shot in overtime, but stopped three shots in the two minutes following Pavelski's trying goal.

"I thought Nemo settled in well," McLellan said. "There were a lot of pucks clanging around in feet around the net, and he found it. It's nice for him to only have one against and nice for him to get the win. I'm sure his confidence will grow from there."

The Sharks won't have much time to bask in the glow of this one. Game 2 is scheduled for a noon start (Pacific time) on Sunday (NBC, TSN, RDS). It will be the first time the Sharks have played a game that early all season, but McLellan feels his team has been unintentionally preparing for this game all season.

"The good thing about that game is we practice at 11 or 12 every day," McLellan said, "so our bodies and our minds are prepared to show up and think hockey and play hockey at that time. Leadership will be important. Coaches will have to prepare the team properly. But we're both going to play the game at noon, and we got to play the game regardless of what time it's at."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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