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Special teams help Sharks beat Wings in opener

by Rick Sadowski
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Playing 48 hours after completing a grueling seven-game series against Phoenix wasn't a problem for the Detroit Red Wings.

"Zero," was the effect, coach Mike Babcock said following the Red Wings' 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion on Thursday night in the teams' Western Conference semifinal series opener.

The same couldn't be said for special-teams play.

While the Sharks were connecting on two of their six power plays, including a Joe Pavelski goal during a two-man advantage early in the third period that proved to be the winner, the Red Wings' usually reliable power play failed to convert on any of five man advantages.

The Red Wings went 8-for-34 against Phoenix and killed 27 of 33 penalties, but they didn't get the job done at either end of the ice on Thursday.

"(The Sharks) were aggressive at their own blue line and played it really  well," said captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who scored three power-play goals against the Coyotes, two in Wednesday's 6-1 series clincher. "We didn't do a good job getting into shooting lanes.

"I felt special teams were the difference tonight. They scored two power-play goals and we couldn't answer on our power play. So that was the difference."

Pavelski, who has been a force with seven goals in San Jose's seven playoff games, scored both power-play goals. He opened the scoring with a one-timer at 9:05 of the first period that beat goalie Jimmy Howard to the stick side, and he whipped the puck between Howard's pads from the bottom of the left circle during the two-man advantage to put Detroit in a 4-2 hole 50 seconds into the third.

Red Wings Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula were sent to the penalty box late in the second period with the Sharks nursing a 3-2 lead.

Franzen was penalized for tripping Devin Setoguchi with 1:03 remaining, even though he was cut on the right cheek by Setoguchi's stick on the play. Ironically, Filppula went off for high-sticking Setoguchi with 6.8 seconds left.

"I guess they called it a trip or interference on Mule," Lidstrom said of Franzen, who seemed stunned by the call. "When the guy fell, his stick came out and hit him. I couldn't tell; that's what the refs told us. When he fell, the stick kind of went over his head and hit Mule in the face."

Babcock said he thought Franzen was clipped first.

"(The officials) felt (Franzen) had tripped and cut him, but he was hit in the face first," Babcock said. "The 5-on-3, it's a penalty, but don't dive and embellish it. If you're from Western Canada, don't do that."

Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart said calls, or non-calls, will happen in a game.

"It's the kind of thing you have to try and battle through at this point in the season," he said.

The Red Wings went on their final power play with 9:13 remaining and a chance to tie the game but could only muster one shot against Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who faced just five third-period shots.

"Special teams were the difference," Stuart said. "We have to find a way to get one on our power play and it's a different game."

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